How did Apna become the last Indian unicorn so quickly? – Quartz India
The professional networking platform for blue and gray-collar workers founded by ex-Apple executive Nirmit Parikh entered the coveted unicorn club after a round table led by Tiger Global Management has almost doubled its $ 570 million valuation from June 2021. Apna dethroned the B2B e-commerce platform Udaan, which took over 26 months, to become the fastest startup to gain unicorn status in India.
What is Apna?
The startup, which takes its name rap song Indian entry to the Oscars 2020 Gully Boy, ‘Apna Time Aayega’, is no income yet. But that hasn’t stopped investors, Indian and foreign, from making big bets. From Insight Partners and Owl Ventures to partners at Sequoia Capital India and Lightspeed India, several VCs have supported the young startup.
In a recent blog post, Harshjit Sethi and Sidhant Goyal, partners at Sequoia India â Apna’s first partner who invested every turn since its seed turn– say they saw the promise from the start. In April 2019, âApna was an idea that was just starting to crystallize in his (Parikh’s) mindâ and seven months later, âhe launched a first prototype of the app in the Powai and Thane neighborhoods of Mumbai – and it quickly went viral. “
Now Apna’s user base is 16 million people. More than 150,000 Indian companies use it for recruiting and more than 18 million job interviews take place through the platform every month.
So how did this young startup find the formula for success? Sethi and Goyal shared three key takeaways.
Find the right product-market
At first, “we see founders focusing too much on user feedback or their own gut feelings,” Sethi wrote on Twitter. Apna has managed to strike a balance between these two approaches and find the right product to market, he said.
For example, Parikh says he spent many days at a manufacturing site in Ahmedabad, working undercover as a factory worker. After that he came up with the hosting format vertical professional communities for networking and skills enhancement, as well as for job search.
âIt became the place where estheticians showcased their hairstyles to their peers, where data entry specialists shared productivity hacks for MS Excel with their peers, where painters discussed the business of paint that offered the best incentive structures, and so on, âwrote the duo Sequoia. in their blog post.
Have clarity in the product, the company and the recruiting
From day one Parikh has made a “clear design choice to be a product company, with particular emphasis on creating a scalable, digital-only product that its users appreciate” and stuck to it, wrote Sethi and Goyal.
In just a few months, the company’s product team created more than 30 versions of the mobile app. Now, a 30-member team interacts with 1,000 users daily to understand their pleasures and weaknesses, “all of which are quickly fed back into the app through weekly feature releases,” investors said.
The sales team also “codified tribal knowledge of how to launch new geography in live playbooks, and new city launches are now executed from start to finish in just a week.” The application, available in 11 languages, exists in 28 Indian cities– almost half of this expansion occurred in the last three months.
Even the hiring of the company has been structured: those with expertise in the field first, followed by business strategy and operations managers with cross-industry experience, then specialists for scale-up.
Create a compelling start-up story
A compelling story goes a long way, especially before a startup makes enough money for the financials to speak for itself.
âStorytelling is the invisible thread that has helped Apna convince CEOs of established companies to quit their high-paying jobs and join a startup with all the associated risks,â wrote Sequoia investors. âIt has brought some of the world‘s leading venture capitalists as long-term partners; and, more importantly, has inspired millions of users and thousands of businesses to invest their precious time in a new product.
It only remains for Apna to earn real money.