Five tech biggies, who changed the startup scene in India

Arun Kumar
Nilabja Banerjee

The Indian tech industry has seen phenomenal growth over the last two decades, especially when it comes to the rise of startups. There were many industry leaders who blazed the path and made the Indian IT industry recognizable across the world.

Here are five who changed the tech landscape in India in the last few years.

Nithin and Nikhil Kamath of Zerodha

The two brothers, who are college dropouts, started discount brokerage Zerodha in 2010. And within the next decade or so they have disrupted the stock brokering business, earned crores of revenue for their customers, and along the way created a billion dollar business.

Nithin is currently worth $2.7 billion, while Nikhil, who at 37 is the youngest billionaire in the country, boasts a networth of $1.1 billion, as per Forbes. Zerodha is one of those rare startups that has not raised any funding and has grown in valuation phenomenally of its own steam. In the last quarter of 2022, it made a profit of Rs 2,000 crore.

Nithin, who is elder to Nikhil, started playing the stock market in the late 1990s. But he went bust when the market crashed in 2001. He later joined a call centre and was trading in stocks parallelly. He was joined by his brother in 2007 and they started a sub-brokerage business, managing funds for their clients. By launching Zerodha they offered low brokerage charges.

Nithin in an interview said that getting the first 5,000 clients was the hardest, and now Zerodha has over one crore active clients.

Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal of Flipkart

The Bansal duo, who both graduated from IIT Delhi, started Flipkart from a garage in Bengaluru in 2007. Both the Bansals were working at Amazon and wanted to provide a similar e-com platform to Indians. Flipkart first began selling books online and soon the e-commerce platform was selling virtually everything.

It was Flipkart that truly brought about the e-commerce revolution in India, by increasing customer confidence on remote deliveries and honoring payments made online. In the initial years, the two founders would deliver parcels to customers on their own. When Sachin launched the Flipkart website he was faced with severe criticism. But, the company started growing by leaps and bounds and acquired fashion portal Myntra for around Rs 2,000 crore.

At the core of their growth was the expansion of mobile usage in the country, which led to most of their products being ordered through mobiles. Flipkart, which was started with an initial investment of INR 40,000, was sold to Walmart at a whopping $16 billion in 2018.

Bhavish Agarwal of Ola

Bhavish Agarwal, who was working with a Microsoft research team, co-founded Ola Cabs, a taxi-hailing aggregator service, along with Ankit Bhati in 2011. Ola is one of the biggest cab aggregator services with over one crore customers.

In 2017, Ola launched its electric vehicle business, soon becoming the market leader in the EV two-wheeler segment with a 38% share, selling 1.06 lakh units in 2022. In 2015, Bhavish, who is an IIT-Mumbai graduate, was the youngest in the Forbes list of wealthiest Indians. With a view to impact the world from India, he started Ola’s Future Factory on a 500-acre plot in Krishnagiri in Tamil Nadu. The company has 10,000 employees who are all women, making it the only factory in the world that has only women staffers.

Nandan Reddy, Rahul Jaimini and Sriharsha Majety of Swiggy 

Swiggy, founded by the trio, is another major startup coming out of IT Capital Bengaluru. In 2011, Reddy and Majety started Bundl, a courier service company. But, the ecommerce industry in the country had undergone a change then and they could not sustain the startup. In 2014, they stopped Bundl and repurposed it to start the country’s favorite food delivery business, Swiggy, after onboarding Jaimini.

The three friends pooled in Rs 10,000 and started the business, which took off as it had the first-comer advantage. Swiggy is valued at $8 billion, and is now the largest food delivery company in the country with over 2.72 lakh restaurant partners and customer base of over 15 lakh.

Majety is an electrical engineer, alumni of BITS Pilani. He also has an MBA from IIM-Calcutta and worked at an ecommerce company before starting Swiggy. Reddy, who too is from BITS Pilani, was born in Hyderabad in a family of entrepreneurs. He studied computer science at IIT Madras and after graduation, joined Infosys, where he worked for three years. He quit in 2009 to pursue an MBA. Jaimini, was born in Jaipur, Rajasthan, and was always interested in technology. After graduating from IIT Madras in electrical engineering, he worked with Microsoft at Redmond in Washington, US. He quit Microsoft to pursue an MBA and later co-founded Swiggy.

Vijay Shekhar Sharma of Paytm

Paytm revolutionized the digital payment system in the country, especially after the demonetisation in India in 2016, and then during the Covid pandemic years of 2020 to 2022. Vijay Shekhar Sharma, who founded the company, is known for his brilliant track record. As a graduate student in the Delhi Technological University, he founded Indiasite.net, which attracted a funding of $1million. After graduating, he launched One97 Communications in 1997, which later transformed into Paytm.

At 45 years old, Sharma, who is worth $2.35 billion, is the second-youngest billionaire in the country. Born into a lower middle-class family in Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh, he was known for his brilliance from his earlier years. He always dreamt of working in Silicon Valley of the US, where most of the tech giants are situated. But as lack of resources serves as a hindrance to achieving this dream, it led him to create a similar ecosystem in India. He partnered with three others to start XS Corporation, which offered internet-based services. Their services were hired by some of the big names in the industry. But he had bigger dreams and sold off the company for half-a-million dollars. After graduation, he joined an MNC, which he quit within six months to pursue his dream of being an entrepreneur.

He founded One97, which was a mobile value added service company. But the business crashed after the 26/11 attacks in the US. Under One97, he launched Paytm, which aimed to reduce the use of plastic cards and to increase the use of digital payment systems through mobiles and website. Paytm was focused on content, advertising and commerce. Being at the right place, at the right time even as the mobile revolution was sweeping the Indian landscape, Paytm soon began to take the form of a household name. The rest, as they say, was history.