Adecade ago, India had one unicorn, which is the ultimate dream and crowning glory of startups.

Today, we have 100 unicorns making India the third largest unicorn cluster, valued at US$300 billion. Though textile industry may not figure prominently in this new breed of shapers and movers, days are not far off when some of the startups achieve this distinction. How? Startups in India show abounding inspiration and energy. Best of all, opportunities are multiplying thanks to availability of accelerator funds, rise of new ideas post hibernation during Covid times, concepts like Atmanirbhar and sheer entrepreneurship of indi- viduals.

According to a PwC Report, the startup ecosystem has created as many as 14 unicorns in the first three months of 2022, and for the third consecutive quarter, they have received over US$10 billion across 334 fund- ing deals.

Look at these cases: AKS Clothings, a start-up Indian ethnic brand was founded by Ms. Nidhi Yadav, a young, energetic inspirational designer & entrepreneur. Says Ms Nidhi: “The stories behind clothing labels have al- ways aroused my attention. So, while studying fashion design in Italy, I looked at the business models of sever- al well-known fashion firms. Inspired by their success, I decided to emulate it in AKS, in May 2014 with a bit of seed capital of Rs.3.5 lakh.” AKS has now grown to a turnover of Rs.200 crore and presently serve over a lakh consumer every month without any outside funding.

Founded in 2016 by Mr. Vijay Sharma, Mr. Anupam Deo Arya and Mr. Sandeep Sharma, Fabriclore, which literally means ‘stories of fabrics’, is an online brand that aims to revive India’s use of both traditional and modern fabrics by delivering premium curated fabrics. Anupam Deo Arya, VP Marketing and Communication, Fabriclore is happy that they have created a novel niche in fabric business. How did this happen? Arya says: “I never had an agenda to start a business in fabrics or textiles as I was inexperienced …My partners and I re- alised the demand for fabrics in the market was not being fulfilled. Hence, after plunging into the segment deeper, we were surprised to be acquainted with the variety of fabrics available! This is how we hatched the idea of starting a business in the same field.”

Lokesh Harjani, Founder & CEO – OnSpot Solutions has always been stirred by technology – the pace at which it is evolving & its potential to simplify complex problems. With a powerful vision of digitising every step of a brand’s supply chain, and hindering the scale of product counterfeiting in the Indian market, he founded OnSpot Solutions in 2020. He started off his entrepreneurial career at the age of 19; while study- ing International Finance & Marketing at the Univer- sity of Miami. OnSpotSolutions bears the markings of his drive and determination to preserve the value of a brand while simultaneously protecting the interests of the end consumer. His next endeavour took him for brand security & protection for companies such as Walmart, GAP, Target Etc. Continuing in the brand identification segment, Lokesh formed Pixel, a new age packaging development agency. Next, he has worked in the manufacturing space at Premco Global Limited. He has an aptitude for identifying promising start-ups and scaling them up, he has led marketing teams at the national and international level, and he has also been an important figure in financial decisions. He has worked in the manufacturing, Internet and Technology spaces in India and Internationally.

Hyderabad-based designer Anushree Reddy began her designing career in 2010. A self-taught designer and management graduate Anushree made her debut at Lakme Fashion Week Summer/Resort 2013. Her label stands out for its bursts of vivacious colours, glamour, and easy-to-wear garments. Her design philosophy lies in creating elaborate silhouettes brewed with sub- tle prints and surprising embellishments. A designer whose management roots evolved into a serious love for fashion, Anushree Reddy has now evolved into a name to reckon with. With perseverance and an in- domitable spirit to learn the art of design, she acquired the skill while being on the job. From one milestone to the next, this London School of Economics alumnus has aced her design game in the four years and count- ing. Having envisaged a label that creates breathtaking, feminine Indian wear with a hint of the nawabi royalty, Anushree Reddy has miles to go before she sleeps.

What about funding startups? Early-stage companies have had a good times since the phenomenon was new bringing in success stories. Later-stage companies have come under some pressure due to macro-eco- nomic factors to cut down on expenditure. Funding for Indian startups was the lowest in April, says indus- try sources. Workforce for startups is a more complex and challenging issue with workforce choice changing during the pandemic. New funding ideas have cropped up; Oppo Research Institute has joined forces with Mi- crosoft for startups to start an innovation accelerator. This is in the initial stage of progress.

9Unicorns is an accelerator programme backed by suc- cessful founders & leading company experience offi- cers (CXOs) for early stage startups! Calling themselves Startup Builders, 9Unicorns was launched in the late 2020 with a total size of US$50 million recently an- nounced the fifth closure of its maiden fund at US$100 million. The fund has made investments in over 110 deals in 2021 and plans to pour in US$500,000 to US$1 million in idea stage startups and US$2 million in high- growth stage Series-C and above startups in 2022-23. The 9Unicorns USP lies in the fact that it allows startups it invests in to dig into its vast business communities in cities beyond the meros enabling them to go pan-In- dia. It directly allows getting early customers, distribu- tion partnerships, cross-portfolio synergies for startups leveraging its pre-existing network of over 5,000 inves- tors, founders and executives in its ecosystem.

Another boon for the startups is the launch of FFS (Fund of Funds for Startups) in 2016. For contribution to various alternative investment funds (AIFs) regis- tered with SEBI, the capital market regulator. By this, the Government will allow venture capital (VC) and private equity (PE) funds take a higher share of prof- its, earn more fees and faster drawdown of the money they receive from the State’s FFS. The FFS is run by the State-controlled Small Industries Development Bank of India(SIDBI), which has invested over Rs. 9,400 crore in 86 AIFs (the regulatory term for PE and VC funds). Such funds have to invest at least double the FFS in- vestment in startups. SIDBI-managed FFS has been one of the most important domestic institutional investors in Indian VC funds.

There is no dearth of new ideas for startups. For in- stance, the Federal Soft Systems (FSS), a Digital Trans- formation & IT Services Company helping corporates to enhance their digital presence and experience, has launched an online e-commerce platform ROLLOVER- STOCK to revolutionise the large-scale sale and pur- chase of various leftover and surplus products at huge discounts. This connects sellers, manufacturers, retail- ers and consumers to sell and purchase bulk quantities of such leftover and surplus stock of a wide range of products at a reasonable cost. Many vendors of prod- ucts like masks and T-shirts, which are produced on a large-scale, can get buyers looking to order a huge vol- ume but have to travel longer distances from smaller cities to wholesale markets in larger cities. Within a week, the company has on-board 2,000 vendors from the southern States, says sources and add that FSS is yet to tap the northern States.

There are many side benefits to mushrooming of start- ups. Spurring economy, they do their mite to job cre- ations. Another trickling effect is the demand for flex- ible office space, the operators who have recorded higher demand after the dawn of this new phenome- non from well-funded startups and unicorns. Accord- ing to sources, today the biggest occupiers of managed offices are unicorns and startups.

Startups are driven by entrepreneurship passion and the positive sentiment in the Indian startup ecosys- tems. The country is likely to remain the world’s fastest growing major economy over the next few years. Indi- an startups fame is spreading far and wide. References to startups abroad from higher-ups are proliferating. “With a growth forecast of almost 8% in FY 2023, In- dia is likely to remain the world’s fastest growing major economy over the next few years, driven by the con- tinued expansion of its technology and startup ecosys- tems,” Sitharaman told a group of business leaders and co-investors in San Francisco. Among the businesses and funds that attended the event were Blackstone, Brevet Capital, Citi, Nova Credit, Western Digital, Palo Alto Networks, The Regents of the University of Cal- ifornia, Lightspeed House Ventures, Insight Partners, Morgan Stanley, Powerhouse Ventures, Blume Ven- tures, Bow Capital and Nasdaq. proliferating