Delhivery Becomes India’s Latest Unicorn Startup, Is Now Valued At $1.6 Billion

There was a time when India’s unicorns were all e-commerce players, but some interesting companies are now getting into the mix.

Logistics startup Delhivery has become India’s latest unicorn after raising $350 million (Rs. 2450 crore) from Softbank and existing investor Carlyle Group. The round has valued Delhivery at $1.6 billion (Rs. 11,200 crore), and turned it into India’s first unicorn of 2019.

delhivery unicorn

Unlike other Indian unicorn startups, Delhivery doesn’t often make the news. This is partly because it’s not a customer-facing company, and primarily interfaces with other businesses. Another reason is that founders Sahil Barua, Mohit Tandon, Bhavesh Manglani, Suraj Saharan and Kapil Bharati have kept a low profile, and quietly gone about building their business since they founded it in 2011. CEO Sahil Barua has a BE in Mechanical Engineering from NIT Suratkhal, and an MBA from IIM Bangalore.

Delhivery was founded in 2011, and initially delivered shipments for e-commerce companies in NCR. In 2012, it raised its Series A from Times Internet, and created fulfillment centres in Delhi and Chennai. The next year, it raised its Series B from Times Internet and Nexus Venture Partners. By 2014, Delhivery employed 5000 people and was processing 2.5 lakh shipments a day. In 2015, big international investors came calling — Tiger Global became an investor. By 2018, Delhivery had delivered 250 million shipments — that’s nearly one shipment for every fifth Indian. It now has 21,o00 employees, and operates 30 fulfillment centers in 12 cities.

While e-commerce companies in India had been growing their operations, allied services like Delhivery have also quietly made merry. As e-commerce shipments in India have exploded, they’ve given a space for companies in allied industries, such as logistics, to grow. In some sense, Delhivery’s business is a bet on the overall e-commerce space in India, instead of a single e-commerce company — as long it has a pan-India network and can deliver packages cheaply and reliably, e-commerce companies will pay it to keep delivering their packages.

But just like e-commerce companies, Delhivery is bleeding money — it lost Rs. 684 crore for the year ending March 2018, up from Rs. 630 crore a year ago. That seems to be true of all Indian unicorns, notwithstanding the industry they operate in. Last year, foodtech player Swiggy, education startup Byju’s, and even B2B e-commerce player Udaan became unicorns, but none of them yet make any money. But India’s unicorn list keeps growing, and getting more diverse — that should be heartening news for its ecosystem, even as these startups work towards finally becoming profitable.