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Covid-19 Pandemic: The modern start-up challenge


I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.

– Maya Angelou

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly disrupted the Indian economy in unimaginable ways. The lockdowns have deranged the supply chains of companies and have sent the GDP and import-export cycle plummeting. With India facing a massive recession between March 2020 and October 2020, the future of several companies, including conglomerates, looked bleak. Many were forced to shut their businesses, thereby exacerbating the job loss crisis. Unlike many established businesses, Indian start-ups had to navigate through a tumultuous period.

In the pre-pandemic era, the Indian start-up ecosystem had about 38,000 start-ups in its kitty. The start-up ecosystem was diverse, ranging from SaaS to AgriTech. Venture Capitalists rushed to invest in such start-ups, and many progressed to different stages of Series funding. To their dismay, the pandemic startled the entire ecosystem, rupturing their hopes of making it to the next level. As per various reports, there was a dip in nearly 50 percent funding to start-ups during the lockdown period. About 40 percent of the start-ups were negatively impacted, and 15 percent of them were forced to discontinue operations. Lack of funding in an extremely volatile economy made matters worse for entrepreneurs.

Start-ups were obligated to ‘innovate’ and ‘evolve’ to keep their ships sailing. Entrepreneurs adapted to the agile business model that helped their businesses subdue an ever-volatile economy. Rapid innovations in AI and healthcare helped start-ups render to a more significant cause- saving lives amidst the pandemic. Whether it was providing contactless payments or making education accessible to students in rural areas - Indian start-ups marvelously rose to the occasion. The pandemic gave birth to niche domains, especially in the field of Information Technology. Fintech, EdTech, HealthTech, and E-Commerce soon became buzzwords in the start-up ecosystem as the world progressed towards a rapid digital transformation.

A record number of start-ups become unicorns during the pandemic years of 2020 and 2021. Around 28 start-ups have already achieved unicorn status, and a NASSCOM report expects India to have 50 unicorns by the end of this year. If one were to have predicted the same at the beginning of the pandemic, we’d have surely rebuffed their claims and called them insane. The resilient character adopted by the entrepreneurs during pandemic speaks volumes of their zeal to keep their companies in business. With Zomato going public, and several other start-ups in line for an IPO, the confidence in the start-up ecosystem is at a high like never before.

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