2015 was a masaledar year for Indian startups. It was a year when VCs, rounds of funding and exits crept into common usage. It was a year when startup entrepreneurs landed on rich lists and made headlines for being sacked from their own startups at least twice. It was a year where astronomical amounts of capital were invested. There were alternating ups and downs of growth, layoffs, and many insiders and outsiders, alike, felt we had an overheated market in the second half of 2015.
But no matter what you have to say about the antics of startup founders, it was a year in which startups touched every aspect of our lives. 2015 was a year filled with widespread recognition and debate about technology-led-startups in India.
Even though the word ‘bubble’ was mentioned by many a pundit, my view is the opposite. We are only at the beginning of a decade-long upsurge in the growth, relevance, and impact of startups on the life of every Indian. So here is my pick of 10 companies that will lead the charge of innovation, and mainstream impact in 2016.
1. PayTM – Not just a wallet
What started off as a phone plan recharge company is going to be omnipresent in 2016. From a strong push in retail payments and e-commerce to becoming a new-age bank – PayTM is on track to becoming one of India’s most prevalent homegrown consumer technology companies.
2. Bankbazaar – “When banks compete, You win”
That is the slogan of a company called LendingTree in the United States. In essence, though, that is exactly what Bankbazaar enables its users with. From home loans to fixed deposits, to credit cards, Bankbazaar is one place to evaluate financial products available to consumers. 2016 will be the year when a significant percentage of users will begin their journey on Bankbazaar and similar sites.
3. Shuttle/Ola Rooms – the new way to Sleep and hang around
The daily commute for most Indians hasn’t evolved in a long time. While taxi apps like Uber and Ola have brought on the first stage of change, we are about to witness another paradigm shift in commuting.
Startups like Shuttl, CityFlo, and incumbents like Ola (with Ola Shuttle) operate charter buses on dynamic routes with 15 to 20 passengers. At a time when pollution, traffic congestion, and safety are a top priority for India – shuttle services enabled with smart technology are going to take off in a big way in 2016. These providers will impact millions of daily riders this year, and on to next year.
4. Urbanclap – trustworthy local services
‘Who is a good plumber in my neighborhood?’, ‘Where can I go to learn squash?’ Common questions like these have long been answered by friends or family members, or by JustDial of course. But that is the old way. With the proliferation of smartphones, one company is leading the charge in re-imagining the answer to that question. Urbanclap is a whole new interface to find trustworthy local services, with a full stack approach on detailed listings, pricing information, user reviews, and appointment booking capabilities. Urbanclap is our pick for the company that becomes a household name when it comes to getting stuff done at home.
5. Grofers – the corner store in your pocket
When Grofers was just launching, a simple tweet to the founder made sure that Starbucks had been added to the platform in the next 24 hours. I’m happy to report that the platform has grown by leaps and bounds since then. The idea is simple but executed very well, even though there is nothing smashingly innovative about it. The team takes up markets and expansion in a very measured but still ambitious manner. I think 2016 will be a year of big decisions for them as they define their core business. Why I think they have a lot of potential is because they’ve actually created a new need to shop for something anytime you want it rather than waiting to go to the market. Moreover, they are clear they want to only cater to the “upper middle class” and have no plans of going mass anytime soon.