Looking back at 2015, I should think the high points for me this year were meeting with the young entrepreneurs who are shaking up the way business is done in India. So I may like to call this the Year of the Unicorn. But don’t drink your New Year’s toast to that yet. There is many a slip between the cup and the lip as these companies are yet to go public.
Messers Sachin Bansal (Flipkart), Deepinder Goyal (Zomato), Naveen Tewari (InMobi) and Vijay Shekhar Sharma (PayTm) are among the people I have met. Yes, of course, there are others I have not yet met, such as Snapdeal’s Kunal Bahl or OlaCabs’ Bhavish Aggarwal. Or those I casually bumped into, such as OYO Rooms’ Ritesh Agarwal. Or those I have met in the past but could not connect this year, such as Mu Sigma’s Dhiraj Rajaram.
All these gentlemen have one thing in common: the ability to understand technology at a deeper level and the audacity to take risks and think global in some way -- either to conquer new markets or think big in terms of addressing giant problems.
The word Unicorn is a cool startup slang for unlisted companies that have been valued at $1 billion (`6,500 crore or so) -- these companies are less than 15 years old and most of them less than 10. The timing may have been right for some. The rise of mobile banking will aid Paytm, the general burgeoning of the online population will aid Flipkart and Snapdeal and growing urban congestion will be a help for OlaCabs. OYO Rooms is riding a global trend in leading the “sharing economy” in India, in which “Uberisation” of everything is possible. Mu Sigma is engaged in advanced analytics for Fortune 500 companies, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it is like the old IT service company. It’s technology is cutting edge, just like InMobi, whose advertising technology is challenging Facebook.
The world spoke of Facebook’s Free Basics, the Apple Watch and Microsoft’s Windows 10 and Google’s new strategies involving Indian-born CEOs. But for me, the year belonged to entrepreneurs sitting in India who dared to dream big.
P.S. - There was also Housing.com’s sacked CEO Rahul Yadav. But hey, that’s another story, of another kind of daring.