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From below 500 to 73,000: How the start-up sector has boomed in India in only six years

One of the major thrusts of the Narendra Modi government since it came to power in 2014 was to boost entrepreneurship capabilities among Indians, which it believed would go a long way in generating jobs and making the country financially ‘aatmanirbhar’. To this end, the Centre on January 16, 2016, launched the ‘Startup India’ initiative to develop a vibrant eco-system that nurtures innovation.

The initiative has been a roaring success, with 72,993 start-ups being recognised in six years, which have created over 7.5 lakh direct jobs. The number of recognised start-ups has been growing rapidly with each passing year – from a mere 417 in 2016 to 20,160 in 2021. Another 12,341 start-ups have been recognised this year till June 30, and the total number is expected to surpass that of 2020 by this year-end.

India's booming start-up ecosystem

Among states, Maharashtra has the highest number of start-ups (13,519), followed by Karnataka (8,881) and Delhi (8,636). Metros such as Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru and Delhi-NCR remain favourites among budding entrepreneurs for the investment-friendly infrastructure they provide. However, Tier-II and III cities are also gradually gaining currency, and nearly half of India’s total start-ups are in these places.

The country is also home to 105 unicorns with a total valuation of $338.50 bn – 63 of them were born since last year. In fact, one out of every 10 unicorns in the world are from India. Unicorns (firms with over $1 bn valuation) that offered IPO to expand their growth include Zomato, Nykaa, PolicyBazaar and Paytm.

Bengaluru is India’s unicorn capital with 39 firms, followed by Delhi-NCR (32) and Mumbai (16). Bengaluru also ranks among the top 10 unicorn hubs in the world. While traditional sectors such as e-commerce, fintech, supply and logistics, and Internet software dominate the unicorn list, unconventional sectors such as gaming, hospitality, cryptocurrency and data analytics are also making their place.


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