The week that Was: Indian Startup News Overview (22nd May- 27th May)
This weekend, the Indian startup ecosystem performed admirably. The growing investor confidence in Indian startups is overwhelming, and it can be seen gaining traction at various stages of a startup's growth, including seed stage funding. Early-stage investments in potential startups are accelerating the entrepreneurial ecosystem and are viewed as promising investment options by a wide range of investor communities, including high net worth individuals (HNIs) and ultra-high net worth individuals. There is a large talent pool available for entrepreneurs and now India has recognised the need for academic institutions to develop innovation and incubation centres for its large student population in order to foster innovation and a entrepreneurial mindset.
The week saw a round of funding for all startups, with Aether Energy raising $128 billion from an Indian government sovereign fund and Vivirti Capital raising funds from TVS Capital. The Indian startup ecosystem was exceptional this week.
Electric scooter maker Ather Energy said it has raised $128 million led by National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF), the Indian government’s sovereign wealth fund, and existing investor Hero MotoCorp. Hero MotoCorp had announced an investment of Rs 420 crore (about $54 million) in Ather in January. Tarun Mehta, cofounder and CEO of Ather Energy, told ETtech that the funds will be used to expand its manufacturing facilities, invest in research and development and its charging infrastructure, and grow its retail network. “The largest chunk of investment will go into investing in capacity – not just our own capacity but also that of the supply chain so that it can scale quickly,” he said. “Overall our components are fairly unique, so we have to make sure that our suppliers can invest for us. So a fair bit of capacity will go towards that.” Mehta did not disclose Ather’s valuation. Its competitor Ola Electric is valued at over $5 billion.
“Ather is considerably undervalued still… People are starting to discover real value gradually….In a way I take responsibility for that. As founders, around Covid-19 or just before Covid we got so focused on operations and fixing the nuts and bolts of this business that we decided we did not want to raise more capital,” he said. “But now we feel like we have underfunded the business. I don't completely regret it because some of the starvation has brought in ridiculous efficiencies and very high-quality decisions.” The deal also marks Ather’s first funding from an institutional investor since Tiger Global in 2015. The company is gearing up for an IPO.
Byju’s, India’s most valuable startup, is in talks with lenders to raise more than $1 billion in acquisition financing as the online education provider looks to expand its business rapidly, people familiar with the matter said. The Bengaluru-based market leader is in talks with banks, including Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase & Co., for the funding to acquire another edtech company, the people said, asking not to be named as the information is not public. They didn’t disclose details of the acquisition target and said that the terms of the transaction and the funding are yet to be finalized.
Byju’s, led by former teacher Byju Raveendran, has been on a shopping binge in the US and elsewhere in recent years and bought out startups offering coding lessons, professional learning courses, and test prep classes for competitive Indian exams. The startup was valued at $22 billion with fund raising this year and is working on its initial public offering plans, Bloomberg reported earlier this year.Representatives for Byju’s and JPMorgan declined to comment about the financing. Morgan Stanley representative didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
WizeHire, an easy-to-use online recruiting system for small businesses, has raised $30 million in Series B funding led by Tiger Global with participation from prior investors Amplo and Mercury. This round brings WizeHire’s total funding to $37.5 million and its valuation to $250 million. Small businesses are facing a hiring crisis. According to the latest NFIB Jobs Report, 92% of small and midsize businesses (SMBs) reported that having trouble finding qualified talent was their number one challenge. Staffing firms are expensive, applicant tracking systems are built for HR experts, and job boards are time-consuming to manage for a busy business owner.
WizeHire gives business owners an applicant tracking system, expert advice from dedicated hiring coaches, and recruiting resources like job ad templates and personality assessments to pre-screen candidates that save them time and money to hire the right candidates. The hiring platform incorporates data-driven insights into every stage of the hiring process to help small business owners make more informed decisions about when to hire, what compensation to set for jobs, and who to interview based on the unique needs for the role.
Human resource tech startup Hono on Wednesday said it has raised $5 million in a funding round led by Aakash Chaudhry, managing director of Aakash+Byju’s. Chaudhry has made a $4 million personal investment, which is his first outside of the education sector. According to a press release, Hono raised the remaining funds ($1 million) from Hemant Sultania, Amit Khanna of Amaya Ventures, and Harsh Gupta of Udayat Group.
Hono has over 300 clients including IndiGo Airlines, Spencer’s Retail, Kanmo Group, Dainik Bhaskar, Al Fardan Group, NBC Bearings, HDFC Bank, Medicover, Aakash+Byju’s. Hono, according to its release, has over 1 million employees on its AI-backed platform and has achieved growth of 2X during FY22. It now intends to scale up the business and sales vertical, and double client numbers, aiming at supporting 5 million people on the HONO platform in the current FY23. Hono is looking to use the funds to expand its operations across India, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia, to increase its market footprint and strengthen its product offering.
Vivriti Capital, a fast-growing mid-market lender on Wednesday said it has raised an additional $30 million from TVS Shriram Growth Fund 3, a home-grown private equity fund managed by TVS Capital. The Chennai-based company had already raised $55 million in the first close of its Series C funding in March 2022, from existing investors Lightrock and Creation Investments. The funds will be allocated between Vivriti Capital and its subsidiary Vivriti Asset Management, which manages closed-ended debt funds investing in mid-sized corporates.
“The Indian performing credit space has displayed great potential, especially in the months following the pandemic. The latest round of funding will enable us to deepen our engagement with our clients as well as invest in technology and product development,” Vineet Sukumar, founder and CEO, Vivriti Capital and Vivriti Asset Management said in a statement. The Chennai-based company said the purpose of the equity raise is to focus on the mid-market debt space bringing global and domestic investors to mid-sized enterprises at scale. The funds will be utilised for business expansion, as well as technology for customer acquisition, product delivery and portfolio management.