We have the data to prove that India’s startup scene is pretty much unignorable at this point, but after some extra activity in Bengaluru, a city in India known for its tech scene, I thought we’d tie together some interesting deals in one post.
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Before that, let’s just get a picture of how the city’s scene has grown over time. According to Crunchbase data, both deal and dollar volume is increasing over time. Last year, Bengaluru saw a specifically cash-strong year with on-demand food delivery startup Swiggy’s supergiant round of $210 million.
Now let’s start with the news, literally.
Lokal wants to make local news in India more accessible and digitally focused, from big cities to small villages. Through an app, Lokal wants to offer multilingual local news to users in different regions around India.
Digitized news is a busy sector, with apps like SmartNews and News Republic already comfortably powering millions of articles and users a day with local news. The key with Lokal is a localized experience right down to the language (it is unclear how many languages the company offers currently).
The Y Combinator-backed startup was founded by Jani Pasha and Vipul Chaudhary in 2018. According to Pasha, Lokal is operational in three of India’s most concentrated states, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Uttar Pradesh. It targets more than 900 million non-english speaking users in India.
In addition to news, Lokal offers digitized classified ads, a “large and lucrative opportunity” according to Madhukar Sinha, a partner at India Quotient. I imagine the opportunity he’s talking about is for advertisers, who have largely lost out on classifieds in traditional news outlets.
With that under our belts, let’s move to a later stage company founded in February 2016 that is finally getting some traction from investors.
The company raised $1.3 million in a seed round this week, bringing its total known funding to $2.1 million, per Crunchbase data.
When I saw this startup, I immediately thought of Zeus Living as a San Francisco counterpart, and one one of the other startups in the growing industry of tech-enhanced rental properties. Zeus describes itself as “smartly furnished neighborhood homes for extended stays.” One of Zeus’ gaps is that it is only in the United States in big cities for now (including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Washington D.C., and New York City).
I think the value proposition that a company like YourOwnROOM has, then, must be its deep relationships with Bengaluru’s residential asset owners, developers, building owners and individual homeowners. Plus, that becomes even more important as Bengaluru itself has its own set of woes with fraudsters selling property through fake documents.
There is a unicorn in the room, however. OYO, a hotel marketplace company reportedly worth $5 billion, is pushing into the housing space through OYO living. It rents out over 2,000 beds in cities across India, including Bengaluru. As we reported previously, Gurgaon, India-based OYO has raised so much money that the company is distorting India’s venture market, accounting for the lion’s share of the past year’s total funding in India’s hospitality startups. YourOwnROOM will have its work cut out for it in order to differentiate.
Finally, let’s move on from rooms and into what is inside of them: furniture.
The company raised $2.1 million in a financing round this week. Investors in the company include SAIF Partners, Trifecta Capital, Sequoia Capital India, and Steadview Capital. According to its Crunchbase profile, Urban Ladder has $114.9 million in known venture funding to date.
Beyond the classics, Urban ladder says it offers both modern and traditional designs and “products that are difficult to spot elsewhere during furniture online shopping; for example room dividers, corner storage units, and more.”
The company recently opened up physical stores to bring its online products to Bengaluru, Pune, Chennai, Mumbai, and Delhi.
It’s not immediately clear what differentiates Urban Ladder from IKEA – but per a Quartz report, the startup isn’t intimidated by the behemoth expanding in its region. In the same story, Ashish Goel, Urban Ladder’s founder and CEO, said that IKEA’s strength is homewares, while Urban Ladder’s strength is in furniture.
“Generally speaking, IKEA is an early starter household brand, like a few fresh college graduates moving into and setting up an apartment together. And that’s an area that nobody can beat them in. That’s not a market we are present in. We believe we know how to service a customer who is starting to move forward in life,” said Goel.
That’s a quick snapshot of some activity happening in Bangalore, a growing startup hub in India that has scored over $18 billion across 2,514 deals in the Crunchbase data set. We have more in the works on this region’s struggles and strengths as a hub, but in the meantime send any tips to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by tweeting me @nmasc_.
Illustration: Li-Anne Dias
Data credit: Jason D. Rowley