Remember mega-companies like Infosys and Wipro, which rode the software service tidal wave that took India by storm more than two decades ago? Well, in a swiftly changing tech landscape, the old Bangalore guard is tryna pull a 50 Cent and stay relevant. Innovative, product-driven business is the new name of the game — and young, agile startups like Flipkart and ZipDial are the flag bearers. Hail!
OZY dug in and unearthed a range of established multinationals and budding startups worth training your eyes on:
Founders: Sachin and Binny Bansal
Size: $5bn estimated valuation; 12,000 employees
Recent Moves: Two e-commerce heavyweights, Flipkart and Amazon, are trading billion-dollar blows on the subcontinent. After Flipkart raised a jaw-dropping $1 billion in new funding last week, Amazon countered — 24 hours later — by announcing a $2 billion investment in India. The stakes are high: India’s e-commerce market is about to erupt, from current levels of approximately $2 billion to an awesome $50 billion by 2020. Flipkart has a headstart thanks to Indian restrictions on foreign investment in e-commerce, but those rules are going to change. Point, Amazon. If that isn’t competition enough, Flipkart is also butting heads with Google and Mozilla to claim a chunk of the fastest growing smartphone market in the world with a timely release of their budget smartphone (starting at $45), in collaboration with edgy manufacturer Karbonn.
Expertise: Mobile advertising
CEO: Naveen Tewari
Size: $1bn revenue (projected 2015); 800 employees
Recent Moves: The Bangalore-based mobile advertising company (as seen on Angry Birds) monetizes apps, games and websites. With 17 offices worldwide, it’s sparring with Apple and Google to be top dog in a global market that is expected to grow from $18 billion in 2014 to $41.9 billion in 2017. So far they’ve impressed: 756 million monthly users (second only to Facebook) and expectations to ring up $1 billion in revenue for 2015. Tewari’s known for his aggressive acquisitions and talent-poaching, so if anybody can take on the tech pillars, it’s one of “India’s new breed of entrepreneurs,” said Sharad Sharma, co-founder of think tank iSPIRT.
Expertise: Mobile marketing
CEO: Valerie R. Wagoner
Size: 400+ million engagements for 500+ companies
Recent Moves: More than 80 percent of India’s cellphone users have feature (aka dumb) phones and use prepaid plans, which explains the phenomenon of using missed calls as a notification (e.g., “I’m home,” “Call me back,” “This phone sucks”). Adapting the concept to advertising, ZipDial offers brands like Disney or Gillette the ability to give potential customers a number that they can “missed call” and automatically receive a call or text back with coupons, purchases or contests. The idea has boosted e-commerce by up to 250 percent in some cases. Now they’re partnering with Facebook to reach the huge invisible (offline) portion of their 100 million users in India.
CEOs: Gopal Vittal, Manoj Kumar Kohl and Christian de Far
Size: $24bn market cap; 24,700 employees
Recent Moves: Airtel is India’s largest cell service provider and the fourth largest in the world. After breaking the 300-million subscriber mark with operations in over 20 countries, Airtel looks poised to take advantage of India’s exploding mobile phone market. In 2013, over 214 million mobile phones were sold in India, and the final quarter of that year saw a 166-percent increase in sales. Although earnings in Africa came in $20 million short last year, Airtel is present in 17 countries on the continent (with a leading market share in more than half of those) and you can expect investment in the global south to continue.
Expertise: Mobile phones
CEO: Vineet Taneja
Size: $1bn revenue (FY 2014)
Recent Moves: Micromax is the posterboy for a group of a half-dozen mobile phone companies challenging Samsung and Apple in India and in China (where Xiaomi and Huawei are leading the charge). Taken together, the locals have surpassed Apple and are closing in on Samsung. After sweeping up Samsung executive Vineet Taneja, Micromax is building momentum and trying to shrink the market-share gap with the Korean colossus (11 percent vs. 20 percent). But local upstarts like Karbonn and new entrants such as Motorola, Apple and Xiaomi are about to make India’s mushrooming mobile phone market a bloody free-for-all worthy of pay-per-view.