AIC-BIMTECH

Supported by Atal Innovation Mission, NITI Aayog

From Masks to Unicorns: The Fate of Pandemic-Era Startups

As per the data presented in the Parliament Budget Session, the growth rate of active companies in India registered with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, is just 12.23 % from 2020 to January 2023, while it was about 77.6% from 2017 to 2020.

Many start-ups were highly proactive in terms of assessing the changing environment, customer needs, and market trends and served accordingly.

Some of these startups established to cater to the needs of the pandemic may continue to thrive by pivoting their business model and adapting to the changing needs of the market.

If we go back the past few years, many significant incidents will come to our mind, but the COVID-19 pandemic is the one to recall for ages, which is slowly revealing it’s long-lasting impact on economics and businesses globally. But as they say, ‘difficult times create warriors’, so these harrowing times also presented new opportunities for innovations while being socially responsible.

The Indian start-up ecosystem during the pandemic times has shown great resilience and adaptability even in comparison to global leaders like USA and China. One of the reasons for this success can be attributed to the emergence of several start-ups addressing incipient problems as and when they came up. Many start-ups were highly proactive in terms of assessing the changing environment, customer needs, and market trends and served accordingly. For instance, food-tech startup “Conosh” identified ‘online/doorstep services’ as crucial for its success during the pandemic. Other startups, operating in the healthcare and wellness sector, also shifted to online consultations to cater to the changing needs of customers.

A crucial factor for startup survival during the pandemic has been optimized cost management.

With the pandemic causing financial uncertainty, startups had to be creative in managing their costs while ensuring the continuity of their operations. This involved leveraging technology to automate processes and reduce manual labour, optimizing supply chains, and implementing lean operations.

Many startups also stressed on educating the consumer about their impact on society and ecology. As a result, there has been an increase in interest in sustainable products and services, which has opened new opportunities in agriculture, education, healthcare, and sanitation. Certainly, many startups are recognizing the importance of social and environmental responsibility, and are incorporating it into their business models. Mamaearth, is among such startups that sell natural and toxin-free personal care products, and plants a tree for every order placed. Their goal is to plant 1 million trees in 5 years and raise awareness about the importance of sustainable living.

Notable startups that have emerged during Covid-19 include “ChefJunction” in Bhubaneswar, “Gradeazy” in Surat, and “Felicity” in Jaipur, among others. Ankur Dhaiya’s “Rozana” is an e-commerce startup that aims to connect rural India to online shopping through a network of micro-entrepreneurs. These startups have leveraged technology and innovation to cater to the changing needs of customers and tap into new opportunities.

However, the survival of start-ups after the COVID period is also questionable. As per the data presented in the Parliament Budget Session, the growth rate of active companies in India registered with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, was just 12.23 % from 2020 to January 2023, while it was about 77.6% from 2017 to 2020.

Another aspect that needs to be considered is the fate of startups that started their business on pandemic requirements such as masks, PPE kits, and other related supplies. These startups were born out of necessity and were crucial in meeting the demand for essential supplies during the pandemic. However, with the pandemic slowly coming under control and the demand for these supplies decreasing, it would be interesting to observe what happens to these startups. Some of these startups may continue to thrive by pivoting their business model and adapting to the changing needs of the market. Others may struggle to survive as their business model is no longer viable. These startups will need support to pivot their business model or find new opportunities.

With all this, it is of paramount importance to see the future status and viability of these startups because several of them have the potential to become the next unicorns. The pandemic has forced businesses to adapt and innovate, and many startups have risen to the challenge. These startups have demonstrated their ability to pivot quickly, meet the needs of the market, and create value for their customers. However, without proper documentation of their growth and progress, it is difficult to understand their potential and provide them with the necessary support.

Despite the challenges, entrepreneurship has emerged as a critical driver of transformative changes in society and the economy by addressing grassroots-level needs. Startups that offer innovative solutions and create value and wealth are crucial for sustainable economic growth. As Indian startups continue to navigate the post-pandemic period, the opportunities, and challenges they endure will shape the future of the country’s economy and society and help to achieve the target of 1 trillion. 

 

AUTHOR
EDITOR
Nirupam. K. D
Nirupam. K. D

Nirupam is a doctoral scholar at IIT Jodhpur, pursuing her PhD in Innovation and Entrepreneurship with a focus on entrepreneurial support ecosystem. She is also working as a Research Associate at the Atal Incubation Centre, BIMTECH and aspires to be a thought leader in the business incubation space. She has done her masters in Business Administration from Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai and has a diverse skill set of human resource management, training, content creation, research and analytics.

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