India isn’t just creating record numbers of unicorns — it’s also creating them at record speeds.
Apna, which is a job-seeking and networking platform for blue-collar workers, has become India’s latest unicorn startup after raising $100 million in a round led by Tiger Global. The fundraise has valued the startup at $1.1 billion, which makes it the 27th Indian startup to enter the unicorn club this year.
India is minting unicorns with metronomic predictability these days, but what makes Apna’s story unique is that the company was founded just 21 months ago — Apna was founded in late 2019, and is now the fastest Indian startup to become a unicorn. Before Apna, Udaan had been the fastest Indian startup to become a unicorn, reaching the milestone in 26 months. Prior to that, Hike had been the fastest Indian startup to become a unicorn, having taken three and a half years to reach the milestone all the way back in 2016.
Apna’s journey, in comparison, has been frenetic. Apna was founded in 2019 by Nirmit Parikh, who had a B.Tech from India and an MBA from Stanford. Parikh had previously founded another company and worked with Apple before deciding to build a platform to help India’s millions of blue-collar workers get jobs. In April this year, Apna was valued at $100 million. It had grown five times by June, raising funds at a valuation of $570 million. And in September, the company has entered the unicorn club with a valuation of $1.1 billion. Apna’s valuation, in effect, has risen 10x in the last six months.
Apna’s premise is simple — it is a platform that allows blue-collared workers to network with one another, and also helps them grow their skills. Most crucially, it also connects them with potential employers to help them find jobs. Apna says more than 1.5 lakh companies use its platform to find employees, including Zomato, Bharti AXA, Burger King, Delhivery and Byju’s. Apna’s app has 1.6 crore users, and has more than 50 lakh jobs listed on its platform. The company claims to have facilitated 3 crore interviews and professional conversations in the last month alone. Apna is now live in 28 cities in India, and offers jobs in categories including AC technicians, office assistants, chefs, electricians, carpenters, and several others.
This is a market that’s underserved in India — while there’s no shortage of platforms for white-collar workers to get jobs, India’s burgeoning blue collar workforce has relatively fewer digital options to turn to. Also, India’s gig economy is growing, thanks to greater formalization and the ubiquity of the internet, and there’s possibly a greater need than ever to connect blue collar workers to potential employers through an online platform.
And Apna’s breakneck growth has been something to behold — the company has gone from 14 cities to 28 cities in the last 3 months, raised its valuation 10x in the last 9, and has become India’s fastest-ever unicorn. Apna, incidentally, was named after the song “Apna time aayega (Our time will come)” from the film Gully Boy. “When we started up, Gully Boy had released and there was an anthem, ‘Apna time aayega’. That is the sentiment of our target segment and when I saw this (movie), I had to name it Apna,” Nirmit Parikh had said in an earlier interview. As Apna’s growth shows, its time too might have well and truly come.