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start-up superstars

Zomato is changing the way people explore restaurants

Zomato is changing the way people explore restaurants

Working at a management consultancy ‘Bain & Co.’ in New Delhi, Deepinder Goyal and Pankaj Chaddah decided to find a solution to those long hours at the company food court! With a test run of scanned menu on the company site, they decided to tap into this idea and not long after, ‘Foddiebay.com’ came into existence!

They slowly began conquering cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata. To avoid the clash with eBay, they came up with ‘Zomato’.

Due to the extensive utility of the platform and heavy traffic on the site, Deepinder and Pankaj thought of building a mobile application for the site, leading to the need for finances. Sanjeev Bikhchandani of Naukri.com, saw potential in this idea and decided to invest. In 2010, he provided a seed funding of US $ 1 million through his company ‘Info Edge (India)’.

As reported by Buzz.iloveindia.com for the next couple of rounds of funding, Zomato bagged in over US $ 6 million and by the end of 2010, Info Edge invested a whopping US $10 million giving them almost 50% stake in the company. Other investors in Zomato include Sequoia Capital, Vy Capital and Temasek.

The business model of the platform is based on the website bringing in most of the monetary benefits. With 62.5 million registered users, Zomato is a well connected platform for foodies from across the globe. Taking advantage of this huge database, one of the revenue streams comes from getting big restaurants to advertise on their site. They also generated revenue by tieing up with multiple food festivals/culinary events and selling exclusive tickets for the same. The company even solicit advice to clients, thereby adding it another revenue source to their business model.

With the growth of Zomato, the company has reached the second place in the list of top Indian startups of 2016. As reported by the CEO in Buzz.iloveindia.com, with the last round of funding, the networth of the company reached a total of US $ 660 million. International mergers with ‘Menu-mania’, ‘Lunchtime.cz’, ‘Uberspoon’ and ‘Obedovat.sk’ helped the company grow and make a name for themselves in the international market as well.

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Kunal Shah on the incredible journey of digital wallet and payments company FreeCharge

Kunal Shah on the incredible journey of digital wallet and payments company FreeCharge

Mobile telecom has grown over the years and like any startup with a disruptive idea, digital payments platform Freecharge has managed to understand the need of the hour & make their name in this online ecosphere.

Founded in 2010, FreeCharge is a leading digital payments platform in India. Customers across the country today use the digital platform to make prepaid, postpaid, DTH, metro recharge and utility bill payments for numerous service providers.

Co-founders Kunal Shah and Sandeep Tandon worked at Paisaback, which back then was all about cash back promotions for organized retailers. While working there, the duo noticed that over 95% of the mobile store transactions were centred on recharging. Siezing the oppurtunity, they decided to capitalize on making the most of online recharges especially when it could be made free. That’s when ‘Freecharge’ was born.

Speaking to Ourownstartup, Co-Founder Kunal Shah said, “I noticed that 90-95% of the bills were for recharge. My thought was that if this particular product was made free and that was used towards incentivizing a purchase somewhere else, it could result in creating a footfall somewhere else.”


Based out of Mumbai, currently FreeCharge is controlled by Accelyst Solutions Pvt. Ltd., Sequoia Capital, Belgium Sofina and others. But to get here, Freecharge had quite a journey. They first raised funds from Tondon group for an undisclosed amount, but this funding helped them generate cash from the business.

With this model in place, the company then secured Series A funding of INR 200 million from Sequio Capital. This funding helped then generate a revenue of INR 6 million a day, resulting in them being named the most promising technology startups of 2011 by Pluggd.in.

In their second round of funding, in 2014, they managed to source $33 million from Sequio Capital, Safina and Ru-net . This was one of the biggest funds raised by an Indian Tech startup that year!

Over the years, Freecharge raised $80 million in funding from Tybourne Capital management & Valiant Capital management. This funding was utilized in the expansion of team & innovation.

Realising quite early on that their technology platform wasn’t matching upto their marketing scale, Kunal Shah stepped in and hired Alok Goel, COO of redbus.in, as the CEO of Freecharge. From this point, aggressive hiring began, driving their focus to m-commerce. They launched their new website in 2014, which led to the transactions being increased by 50%.

Freecharge & Snapdeal

With $90 million in the bank account, Freecharge CEO Kunal Shah then met up with co-founder of Snapdeal Kunal Bahal, which led us to see one of the biggest merger and acquisitions deal of all time in India!

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How online taxi aggregator Ola took the country
by a storm

Online cab aggregator Ola, which now resides in Bangalore, is known to be one of the fastest growing businesses in India, out-beating its competitors Uber & Meru. In conversation with Estartups, Bhavish Aggarwal, Co-founder and CEO of OlaCabs talks about his journey as an entrepreneur and how Ola is now the talk of the town.

Life before OLA

After completing his Bachelor’s in Technology from IIT, Bhavish began his career as an intern at Microsoft Research India and later got reinstated as assistant researcher. While at Microsoft, he filed two patents and even got three papers published in international journals. But the need to start his own company was growing inside him and hence, he quit Microsoft after two years and decided to venture down the entrepreneurial path. He began an online company which customised holidays and short-duration tours. It was during this stint, that Bahvish came up with the idea for Ola.

Bhavish spend a good lot of time researching the market and understanding the problem faced by the masses. As his vision for Ola cabs became clearer and he changed his business from holidays to OlaCabs. Ankit Bhati, who was brought into the picture around 2010, introduced the technology that bridged the gap, connecting cab owners with commuters using the Internet. They got their first round of Angel investment from Snapdeal owner Kunal Bahl, Rehan Yar Khan and Anupan Mittal. Bhavish now wanted to scale up the model, and hence adopted the “zero” inventory policy, so Ola doesn’t need to buy any cars, instead they just rent them.

The strategy

Their simple yet effective strategy of ‘Leave no stone unturned!’ has put them on the map. From driving passengers to the airport, to attending calls, while managing operations, they did absolutly everything.

They paid the drivers 5000/day tips + no salary provided the criteria of ensuring one trip for the day has been completed. They gave out the integration devices for free. Once they had enough drivers on board with them, they re-evaluated their payment module and literally took over the entire market. What made them standout was the fact that they ensured all the cars that signed up had All India permits, reports Estartups. They invested in M-commerce that was growing at the speed of light which also contributed to their staggering lead in the market.

To ensure the stable growth of the company and fill in the huge requirement for drivers, Ola bought ‘TaxiForSure,’ one of its competitors. In addition they also launched Cashless rides and extended their services to auto-rickshaws and kaali-peeli cabs as well. Till now, Ola has raised a total of $676.8 million from investors like Softbank, ABG Capital, Sequoia Capital, among others.

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Online furniture and home decor platform Urban Ladder gearing up to join the big league

Online furniture and home decor platform Urban Ladder gearing up to join the big league

A couple of years back, when Ashish Goel and Rajiv Srivatsa moved to Bengaluru they realised that there is a dearth of trusted furniture brands in the country. A realisation which led the IIM alumni to come up with Urban Ladder.

Headquartered in Bengaluru, Urban Ladder is an online furniture and home décor platform that has a reach in over 30 cities and showcases over 4000 products.

Since its inception, the company has made $77 million. Although the net worth of the co-founders remains undisclosed, the merchandise held by company is valued to be around INR 300 crore.

Adapting a simple business to customer (B2C) model, Urban Ladder caters to a wide range of consumer needs. From designing the products, to making the furniture and even delivery/installation is taken care off by a dedicated team of individuals, thereby removing the middle men, who would compromise on quality and timely delivery.

Keeping in lines with the tech savy generation, Urban Ladder has Urban Storage, Living Spaces and Core catalog app to ensure consumers get all the information they need at their fingertips. The applications also helps the user understand the product, visualize the furniture in the setting they deem fit.


Currently, Urban Ladder is being funded by Sequoa Capital, TR Capital, Kalaari Capital, SAIF Partners and Steadview Capital. Tata Group Chairman, Ratan Tata also has personally invested in the company.


One of the primary challenges Urban ladder faced, was over coming the consumer habit of being face to face with the product and seller. The trust in the platform & the quality of the product had to be built over a period of time. Initially they had begun operation Pan India, but had to cut it down to only Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru, thereby causing a loss of around 30%.

Success Mantra

One of the unique aspects for Urban Ladder is the way they have presented the products with a human silhouette, allowing prospective buyers to visualize the dimensions, making it easier to understand. The unique consumer experience it offers has fast became a USP for the company.

The company has acquired ‘buynbrag.com’ a Gurgaon based furniture marketplace. The other players in the market are FabFurnish, Pepperfry, Housefull, among others. With the rumors of IKEA entering the Indian marketplace, local carpenters and retailers, don’t seem like the only contenders for a piece of the pie in the online furniture business.

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Start-up success story of movies and events ticketing platform BookMyShow

Start-up success story of movies and events ticketing platform BookMyShow

Waiting in long queues to buy tickets for movies, is now a thing of the past. With BookMyShow enabling you to book movie tickets from the comfort of your home, you can now give those long lines a skip. Within a decade since its inception, BookMyShow has over 70% market share in the online entertainment ticketing business as reported by Startuptalky. The app reportedly has over 30 million dowloads and sells over 10 million+ tickets a month!

How it began?

Sitting under a tree in Capetown, an inebriated Ashish Hemrajani struck gold with a thought of buying and selling tickets online. That’s how ‘Big tree Entertainment Pvt. Ltd.’, the holding company of BookMyShow, was born! On his return from Capetown, he quit his job at J Walter Thompson and began his entrepreneurial journey.

At the age of 24, he launched his first internet venture from his bedroom at that time. Soon friends like Parikshit Dar and Rajesh Balpande came to his aide and took over the technology and finance sectors respectively. Together they came to be known as the three musketeers of BookMyShow.

Early Days & Funding

Initially, it was a task selling tickets online as the number of people who are comfortable with using credit cards, debit cards & net banking was very low. They even encountered a huge amount of loss over a period of time due to its non-scalable business model.

In 2000, when the dot com business took a hit, BookMyShow took a swan dive into an all time low. Post 2002, once the market scenarios changed, the number of multiplexes began growing, thereby picking up the business capacity for BookMyShow. Network 18 was one of its first investors, while Accel Partners invested USD 25 million taking up the valuation of the company to INR 1000 crores.

Till now, the company has raised a total of $ 124.5 million in 3 rounds from 4 investors.

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Freshdesk’s five-year journey – a Plan B that was never needed

Freshdesk’s five-year journey – a Plan B that was never needed

They were armed with a Plan B, when the Freshdesk founding team started building the product prototype in 2010. For co-founder Girish Mathrubootham, the Plan B has just gathered dust. In the five years since the launch of Freshdesk, it has become the face of Indian enterprise software. Valued at $500 million, they have raised $94 million in funding from investors—Google Capital, Tiger Global and Accel Partners.

TheEureka moment for Girish was when he read an article on Hacker News on global customer support firm Zendesk increasing prices and a comment by a user on the potential business opportunity. He joined hands with his colleague at Zoho Corp Shan Krishnasamy & eight months later the product was ready.

In June 2011 Freshdesk, signed up its first client, Australia’s Atwell College. The same month, Freshdesk won the Microsoft BizSpark Startup Challenge. Pretty soon the company raced to its 100th customer mark and it hasn’t looked back.

On their fifth birthday, Girish stated,“Simultaneously scaling both the product as well as the culture has been vital to the success of the company. I take pride in saying that we have created a company—an ecosystem in itself—where people are passionate about their work and do a fantastic job at that.” Freshdesk’s team is 500 strong and is headquartered out of a 60,000-sq.ft. office in Chennai. Girish believes in focussing on matching roles to the core strengths of people and not force fitting hires into pre-set roles. The company has now opened offices in San Francisco, London and Sydney.

The product continues to be the heart of Freshdesk. Girish had said that like food is the most important reason for a restaurant’s success, so is the quality of the product the reason behind Freshdesk’s success. The company has also launched Freshservice, an internal IT helpdesk, and Mobihelp, an in-app support for mobile apps.

It has also made two acquisitions. They bought co-browsing platform 1CLICK.io. and they also acquired social recommendation platform Frilp. On the future, this is what Girish has to say: “We have crossed the stage where we were an upcoming startup and now we are right in the middle of a large growth phase. We want to channelise that and create a fantastic global brand in the SaaS space from India.”

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The success story of Practo!

The success story of Practo!

Practo is an online medical practice management software that provides doctors with appointment scheduler and electronic medical record services and other healthcare management services.

The Inception of Practo!!!

In the year 2008, when Shashank’s father had to go through a knee replacement surgery, he was browsing through his father’s medical records to take a second opinion. He was unable to access enough information about the doctor, to make an informed decision. This incident left a huge impact in his head, so with the help of his classmate Abhinav, they set up Practo Technologies Pvt. Ltd. in 2008 from their college dorm room. The duo founded the company in Bengaluru, while they were in their final year of engineering (B.Tech, computer engineering) at National Institute of Technology, Karnataka.

Practo, was nothing but online practice management software that helped doctors, clinics, etc. to manage their practice from anywhere. It brought doctors and patients together on the same platform so that patients know where to go when they need to find the best doctor.

“Healthcare is one of the last industries to be completely transformed by technology. In an era, where I can book movie tickets without getting out of bed, I have to jump through hoops to find a doctor. In the age of Internet, I have billions of spam emails but getting my health records digitally is a surprisingly difficult task. All this is going to change as technology permeates every aspect of healthcare and makes it digital,” explains Shashank ND, founder & CEO, Practo.


In July 2009, they got selected for the Start-Up Acceleration Program initiated by Morpheus Venture Partners and they soon expanded to their second and third offices in Chennai & Mumbai in October & November 2009 respectively.

After setting their base well & getting decent business from the first two cities they with a team strength of just 9 people then expanded their reach to Hyderabad, Delhi & Pune. By the end of the year Practo launched their first ever Practo Ray Android App.

In 2013 they went global and launched their first ever office in Singapore.

The growth

Practo Ray has 10,000+ doctors on the system & over 10 million electronic patient records and over 7.5 million unique patients every year.

With over 1,00,000 doctors listed from over 310 Indian towns and cities, with comprehensive coverage from the metros of Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai, Pune and Singapore it has over 1.3 million page views and 30,000 appointments.

Revenue model

Practo has two distinct products, with their own revenue models:

Practo Ray is offered at two price points, Rs. 999 and Rs. 1999 per month. The premium plan also includes a cloud telephony-based IVR system for doctors.

While Practo.com, the free product for both patients and doctors, allows contextual advertisements from hospitals and clinics in demarcated sections of the website.

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Car Dekho – Riding the wave of success

Car Dekho – Riding the wave of success

To begin with, CarDekho is owned by the duo brothers Amit Jain and Anurag Jain from Jaipur. In the simplest of terms, a web portal which has almost everything about an automobile. They not only list vehicles for trade but also provide multiple services in the most subtle language for everyone to understand. While browsing the site you will also see many other categories such as new launches, upcoming vehicles, used vehicles, etc!

CarDekho has their own e-store for automobile accessories such as stickers, floor mats, scratch removers, polish, mobile chargers, shampoo, navigators, seat covers, tyres, alloy wheels, car stereos, car perfumes, sun films, etc. In collaboration with BankBazaar.com and Berkshire Insurance, they also provide car laons and insurance too. They recently started an automotive forum on their portal where experts and reviewers that are working with CarDekho deal with any kind of car related queries.

So what’s CarDekho’s life story like?
Amit and Anurag spent roughly 8 years in the corporate world with TCS & Trilogy. Due to personal reasons, both left their jobs, but instead of getting into their family business of jewelry, they thought of starting their own business. Eventually the duo thought of doing what they were best at and thus without further thinking they launched GirnarSoft, an IT outsourcing company. After zillions of emails and calls, they finally got their first client! Although this project got them INR 50,000 which was below their standard pricing but they took it anyways. This project led to another and a chain of references started to build. With constant work coming in, they hired their first employee on April 1, 2007 and within a year’s time their company became 40 members strong. Now they had enough capital to bank on and were ready to fund their own project and thus CarDekho was born!

In September 2014, when CarDekho acquired ibibo owned-Gaadi.com and after this purchase, CarDekho became the undisputed market leader of the automobile industry. Apart from that, the acquisition also helped them evolve in the pre-owned car market which would have taken years if they had to do it by themselves. CarDekho also launched their iOS app, a month after their Android app was launched which scored a 100,000 downloads within that period. But surely that wasn’t enough, so in September 2014 they also released their first TV ad and along with that co-sponsored Big Boss– Season 8 & the movie – Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhaniya premiering on Colors Channel. After this, within a blink of an eye their unique visitors on the site doubled and their revenues increased by 3x too. Also, till date they have raised only USD 15-million from Sequoia Capital in exchange of a 20% stake in the company in November 2013. The company plans to raise roughly USD 40-50 million (up to Rs 300 crore) at a pre-investment valuation of 250-million (over Rs 1,500-crore). And, in the next 5-years they hope to cross INR 500-crores in revenues!

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Limeroad CEO Suchi Mukherjee: You need a fighter gene to succeed.

Limeroad CEO Suchi Mukherjee: You need a fighter gene to succeed.

Thinking out-of-the-box is second nature to 43-year-old Mukherjee, who is Founder and CEO of Limeroad, an e-commerce lifestyle and accessories website, designed using a fashion magazine style layout. Mukherjee, a former investment banker with Lehman Brothers, is as passionate about her start-up venture as she is about reaching out to every single woman in the country and converting her into a Limeroad user. She is also full of energy and enthusiasm, and eager to dabble in offbeat concepts. Founded four years ago in 2012, with Series A funding of $5 million from Matrix Partners and Lightspeed Venture Partners, Limeroad has grown manifold.

Today, both Limeroad and Mukherjee have evolved. In total, they have raised $50 million in three rounds of venture capital funding. Mukherjee started with a lean team of 50 people which stands strong at 400 today, is just another instance which shows she means business. "I love creating and scaling businesses which impact people's lives deeply, using technology. At Limeroad, we are trying to build a never-before platform for women to not only explore and shop for products, but also share and express their individuality through scrapbooking," she says.


"I understood that there was no consumer technology play that made discovery of lovely products easy and entertaining, just like reading a magazine, or like flipping photos in an album. Also, that there was no place from which one could access the vast array of products that were being manufactured and shipped out of South-East Asia, the world's manufacturing hub," she said. That's how Limeroad came into existence, with a novel concept as the backbone of its foundation. "I wanted to create a digital-age equivalent of the 16th century Grand Trunk Road, a highway that changed the face of trade in the Indian subcontinent. Limeroad is inspired by the legendary GT Road. By curating the best of Indian products across categories, we are building a revolution in e-commerce," she says.

At affordable prices, Limeroad has about 50,000 sellers on its online shop since June last year. "Our scrapbooking community has increased from 30,000 to 75,000 in last one year. The community posts three million style statements as scrapbooks every month. That's a 100x growth in less than a year," says Mukherjee.

"You need the fighter gene to succeed, and that requirement I think is gender agnostic. You have to be prepared for failures. It is possibly harder for women because all said and done, there are more family expectations of them. There are degrees of variations depending on families, backgrounds, and histories. I am grateful to have an extremely supportive family, which helps to ignore the many things I am sure I miss trying to be the entre-preneur, mother, wife, daughter and daughter-in-law, all at the same time," says Mukherjee. The unconditional support from her family has been the most constant factor throughout the journey of Limeroad, right back to the days when it was only an idea.


Doing well is relative. Chances are, that the reason the entrepreneurial bug is gnawing away at your mind is because what you are doing today is not really stoking your passion. Those who figure out that their passion lies elsewhere, and figure this out early, have a real head start.
If you have already gotten this far, the rest is all about managing your risk appetite. The reality is that most start-ups will fail. The risk of failure will, therefore, rightly be your greatest fear until you have figured this out.

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Zivame – Selling lingerie online in India

Zivame – Selling lingerie online in India

Lingerie as a topic is taboo in public for many in India. In an interview with Firstpost Richa Kar, 34, founder and CEO, talked about the hurdles she had to step aside to launch her venture, the challenges she continues to face and her goals for the company.
After acquiring an engineering degree, she worked in the IT industry for a brief period. She always had an inclination towards understanding the way businesses operate and so she decided to pursue management studies in 2007 from Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies.

She was working on an assignment to study a global lingerie brand & that got her thinking about lingerie as a category in India. Soon she realised that the customer experience in the category is very poor in India, right from unavailability of size options to presence of male sales executives.

She started Zivame in 2011 with Rs 35 lakhs from her savings and contributions from friends and family. After that, the first round of funds came from Kalaari Capital and IDG Ventures. They have raised around $48 million until now from marquee investors like Khazanah Nasional Berhad, Zodius Technology Fund, Unilazer Ventures, IDG Ventures India and Kalaari Capital. The funds have been primarily used to expand business, develop new products, hire talent, spruce up technology and market our products. The focus has always been on upping the ante when it comes to offering a great customer experience. Funding has helped them pursue private label strategy successfully. Today, their private labels Pen.ny and Cou Cou contribute to around 60 percent of the revenues. While the intimate wear market in India is growing at the rate of 15 percent year on year, they have witnessed a 300 percent year-on-year growth in their revenues. This is the result of women increasingly shopping online for lingerie. Around 60 percent of their revenues are from in-house brands while around 30 percent of business comes from tier 2 and tier 3 cities.

Future Plans for Zivame

The category offers a great potential and they want to create the best lingerie shopping experience for every Indian woman driven by technology which inculcates from their ability to comprehend their exact needs and requirements. They are working on our private labels, filling gaps and launching categories and styles that Indian customers have never had access to so far.

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