Indian unicorn startups have been pilloried for years for making losses. Some of the biggest names in India’s startup space have never made a profit, and continue to make thousands of crores of losses years after being founded. While time will tell whether these companies can ever turn their balance sheets around and start making money, here are the current 10 highest loss-making startups in India.
Loss: Rs. 3,629 crore
Swiggy was founded 10 years ago, and has made losses consistently since inception. It is currently locked in a two-way battle for the food delivery pie with Zomato, which means that it’s still bleeding money. Newer initiatives, such as Swiggy Instamart and Swiggy Genie, have further stretched the company’s balance sheet. Swiggy, though, now appears to be looking to cut costs — it’s shuttered its cloud kitchens business, and has also fired 380 employees. Swiggy was the highest loss making startup in India last year, with a loss of Rs. 3,629 crore.
Loss: Rs. 3,247 crore
Meesho is one of the newer entrants to the unicorn club, having attained the $1 billion valuation in 2021. But it too has made losses since being founded in 2015, and is currently India’s second highest loss making unicorn with losses of Rs. 3,247 crore last year. Meesho has been looking to rein in costs — it had shut down its grocery experiment last year, and had also laid off 300 employees.
Loss: Rs. 3,030 crore
Udaan had become India’s fastest unicorn when it had attained a $1 billion valuation in less than two years of being founded in 2018. But this rapid growth has come at a price — Udaan has made losses every year since being founded in 2016, and now now India’s third-highest loss making startup unicorn with a loss of Rs. 3,030 crore last year. Udaan had also laid off 350 employees in 2022.
Loss: Rs. 2,988 crore
Sharechat is India’s largest homegrown social network, and also runs a short video app in Moj. While the company has tried to grow its users and not been focused on making money — its revenues were a mere Rs. 419 crore in FY22 — its losses have ballooned. ShareChat lost Rs. 2,988 crore last year, making it the fourth-highest loss making startup in India. The pressure now appears to be showing — ShareChat had fired 500 employees in January, and two of its three co-founders had stepped down not long after.
Loss: Rs. 2,848 crore
Unacademy has had a tough few quarters. It’s fired nearly a thousand employees in several layoff rounds. It’s also slashed management salaries, and cut down on business travel and free food at its offices. But these measures might not be enough to make up for its profligacy over the last few years — it is still India’s fifth highest loss making startup, and registered a loss of Rs. 2,848 crore last year.
Loss: Rs. 2,731 crore
Online pharmacies might be still operating in a legal gray zone, but there’s plenty of competition in the space. Reliance has invested in Netmeds, and Tata Group has acquired 1mg. This has meant that Pharmeasy is bleeding money nearly a decade after being founded. Pharmeasy is India’s sixth highest loss-making startup, and recorded losses of Rs. 2,731 crore last year.
Loss: Rs. 2,645 crore
Ed-tech is one of India’s most prominent loss-making sectors — 2 of the top 7 highest loss making startups in India are from this space. Executive education startup Eruditus had become a unicorn in 2021, but made losses of Rs. 2,645 crore last year, primarily because of high advertising and employee expenses.
Loss: Rs. 2,563 crore
News app DailyHunt is India’s eighth-highest loss making startup this year, with a loss of Rs. 2,563 crore. DailyHunt is the oldest startup on the list, having been founded all the way back in 2007, but in spite of running a popular app, continues to see large losses.
Loss: Rs.2,014 crore
PhonePe is India’s biggest UPI app, a lead it’s held on to for a couple of years. But this growth has meant that PhonePe has also had to lose large sums of money: through its journey, PhonePe has never made a profit, and registered losses of Rs. 2,014 crore last year.