In a virtual ceremony telecast last Thursday and viewed by the country’s top entrepreneurs, investors and policymakers, online stock trading platform Zerodha was awarded the prestigious prize for Startup of the Year 2020.
Alongside the guests of honour Ravi Shankar Prasad, union minister for law and justice, communications, electronics and information technology, and Piyush Goyal, union minister for railways, commerce and industry, consumer affairs, food and public distribution, the leaders of India’s technology and startup sectors gathered to celebrate the winners across nine categories.
“There is no cut-copy-paste way of building a business from ground-up,” said Nithin Kamath, founder and chief executive officer of Zerodha while pointing out that his company is still bootstrapped and doesn’t spend money on marketing or customer acquisitions.
“The ET Startup Awards shows that startups can be built in different ways, without raising external capital,” he said while accepting the award.
Kamath’s Zerodha is a repeat winner at ETSA having bagged the prize for Bootstrap Champ in 2016.
Among those who joined the circle of winners in this year’s edition was GV Ravishankar, managing director at Sequoia Capital India, who won the award for Midas Touch for having bet early on the likes of edtech startup Byju’s, which is now valued at $12 billion. Anju Srivastava, the founder & CEO of Wingreens Farms was chosen for the Woman Ahead award.
Ministers Prasad and Goyal stressed on the importance of digital inclusion as well as the need to build local solutions with global applications.
“I don’t have the slightest doubt that Digital India and the digital ecosystem will contribute a minimum of $1 trillion to the $5 trillion economy, which we (India) are conceiving for ourselves,” said Prasad. India’s top corporates must also step up and be counted in the cumulative effort to boost India’s thriving startup ecosystem, the law makers pointed out. “I’ve appealed to the captains of Indian industry to also consider larger involvement in the financing of startups, particularly early-stage financing,” Goyal said.
“Because I do believe a lot of very good ideas that come out of our startup ecosystem get sold at abysmally low valuations,” the minister said while underlining the potential for high impact displayed by ideas that have emerged from the crisis engendered by Covid-19.
“Twelve startups have become unicorns in 2020, the highest in a single year…I began with this number at the very outset to emphasise that even this pandemic couldn’t deter the surge of the startup movement in India,” Prasad told the virtual audience.
Covid-19 brought transformational shifts in the startup ecosystem
Following the broader theme of resilience, the star-studded panel of jurors, who met earlier in August, had chosen Zerodha for continuing to be bootstrapped even as the profitable venture continues to scale at a rapid pace. The Bengaluru-based startup joins a distinguished list of previous winners of the top prize at ETSA, which includes the 2019 winner – logistics and supply chain firm Delhivery, and hospitality company Oyo Hotels & Homes in 2018. Online food delivery startup Swiggy was the Startup of the Year in 2017, while enterprise software maker Freshworks was the winner in 2016. Ride-hailing app Ola bagged the prize at the inaugural edition in 2015.
The strength and robustness displayed by Indian startups over the past year also came in for praise from the high-powered panel, which gathered to debate the challenges and opportunities ahead for companies in a post-Covid world. Participating in the discussion were Zerodha’s Kamath, along with Wingreens Farms’ Srivastava, Swiggy’s Sriharsha Majety, Lightspeed Venture Partners’ Bejul Somaia and General Atlantic’s Sandeep Naik.
“We always questioned how big the total addressable market is once you cut down the subsidies and take back the discounts. Covid-19 showed us that there is still a very large market that is growing at a very fast clip. It’s given us more confidence as investors,” said Naik.
Somaia pointed out that Covid-19 had helped bring about a transformational shift in confidence across the startup ecosystem. “Entrepreneurs, in the face of very significant disruptions to their businesses, migrated entirely to home and then executed with resilience, ingenuity and creativity,” he said.
The Economic Times Startup Awards 2020 is presented by IDFC First Bank in association with Indorse and knowledge partner Tracxn.