Shades of Indian Startup Ecosystem: The 2020 Edition

A lot has happened in Indian startups space in 2020. And it’s time to do a recap!

Every year, I have done 50+ shades, but thanks to our ever decreasing attention span, I am now sticking to 20+ shades for this year.

In no particular order, sharing my perspective /takeaways / rants around all that happened with Indian startups in 2020 and some thoughts on what lies ahead.

  1. If there is one name that made the biggest impact in the Indian startup scene in 2020, my vote goes out to Wolf Gupta.
  2. From being a yogi who sold his Ferrari (i.e. startup) and having exited in 2 years, to now claiming that the ‘kid who got 12 cr salary from Google never existed’ to trying to shut the mouth of critics, the Whitehat team has completed a full circle and stood what Covid-19 stood for, i.e. unpredictably random.
  3. More VCs have podcasts than newsletters ( is the biggest loser in this shiny new game).
  4. Jio is the oil of the Indian startup space. If it enters your space, expect market share friction.
  5. WhatsApp is the new SMS. Ride the wave, before it’s too late.
  6. 2021 is going to be a new era for the Indian startup ecosystem. Expect a lot of global companies coming out of India (FYI: even after billions of dollars of funding, we still don’t have 2 consumer product companies from India yet!).
  7. Funding of Indian EdTech companies (across the board) suggests that one should not solve the real problem (which is of fixing the education system), but instead make people jump the well really fast (sharmaji ka ladka to first baar hi IAS nikala..aur tum idiot ! Now, take this app and study!!!).
  8. Real startups don’t solve problems. They ‘pretend’ to solve the problem (FYI: this is the dialogue from the web series: What the Goat)
  9. Creating Twitter threads out of Wikipedia… 🤤.
  10. For Indian startup ‘enthusiasts’, Clubhouse is the new Orkut.
  11. 2020, India was mostly confused about two things: What does Cred do? What’s their business model. Anybody who answered this (apart from Kunal) is basically jobless. Do not hire them.
  12. Take a deep break.
  13. Podcasting is the new blogging. Especially for VCs. And frankly, it is boring. Not because of the content, but because of the intent. But some are doing a consistent (and honest) job and should get an award for that.
  14. Talking about awards, expect a lot of media cos. to launch new award ceremonies (starting from ‘youngest coder’).
  15. Startup media in India is pretty much a sucker to $$. But then, the media business is either about either telling the positive stories or the negative ones. Being in the middle, asking questions is courageous, but gets no $$.
  16. The accelerator game is over. 100%.
  17. Many ‘spaces’ are taken (ecommerce/grocery etc).
  18. Funding is now a feature. Easily available, but building and scaling products are hard. Fucking hard! And gets harder.
  19. We (still) don’t have an abundant supply of product and growth talent in India. Hopefully, Covid has enabled remote culture democratizing access to the talent. Let’s hope we deserve them as well.
  20. Most Indian startups have hired elephants to do a goat’s job.
  21. Bootstrapping is..still unsexy.
  22. News will be reinvented. Frankly, it isn’t about video or audio or <X> words. New experiments will happen in this ever-high-traffic space.
  23. BHARAT: The one word given to a bunch of new Internet users whom we don’t know, won’t speak to, and don’t really care about. But, we believe we can solve for them. And we show a lot of porn to them – and call it stickiness (DAUs).
  24. Some startups are trying to solve the real Bharat problem of providing education, healthcare to the needy. They won’t ever be able to raise the capital needed to scale as this is a hard problem and not a fund-worthy opportunity.
  25. We are finally seeing large ticket exits in India. What a time to be in this space!
  26. The number of babas in the (startup) ecosystem is surely more than any other industry. Everybody is trying to become Naval and I call this phenomenon: naval-gazing 😂 (okay, tweet this).
  27. As they say: You are not your job. I say: You are not your startup. Do not take yourself so seriously. Talk to a lot of people / have fun/ learn to laugh at yourself (and your startup). Give it your best shot and keep learning.
  28. The new era belongs to disruptors. It’s time to build global companies and there is no better moment to do this.

Have fun and wishing you a ‘Dabang’ 2021 !

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Enjoy and stay focused!


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