Accel turns to rural India in hunt for future unicorns


Accel, some of the prolific e-commerce and market buyers in India, is making a contrarian transfer by turning its focus to smaller cities and villages seeking future unicorns.

The enterprise agency argued on Wednesday that these areas, which it refers to as “Bharat,” symbolize a major market ripe with alternatives for entrepreneurs although many startups have struggled to make inroads in these areas.

“There’s a notion that rural means poor. However if you happen to have a look at what the highest 20% to 30% is spending there, it’s fairly important. We estimate it’s north of $250 billion,” Accel associate Anand Daniel advised TechCrunch in an interview. The agency claims that the highest 20% of those untapped markets spend extra monthly than about half of the inhabitants in city cities.

Daniel stated the agency plans to function this new focus as no less than one of many main themes in its subsequent early-stage funding program.

Accel’s choice is notable, since most different enterprise buyers in India chase startups that serve the highest city cities. An early investor in startups like Flipkart, Myntra, Swiggy, Zetwerk, City Firm, Acko, Eruditus, Moglix and Infra.Market, Accel holds a stake in a few fifth of all Indian unicorns — although it has not deployed as a lot capital as a few of its friends.

Underpinning Accel’s perception in rural India is the development in infrastructure in these areas. The proliferation of smartphones and reasonably priced web has allowed individuals throughout the nation to undertake digital providers, like cellular funds by way of UPI. Warehousing and logistics have additionally improved country-wide, enabling quicker deliveries.

Rural Indians are additionally demonstrating a propensity to improve their lives, choosing 125cc bikes over 100cc fashions, double-door fridges as an alternative of single-door items, and used iPhones, stated Accel.

Whereas this enchancment in infrastructure additionally permits massive corporations like Flipkart to serve prospects in these areas, Daniel believes “it’s such a big and non-zero-sum sport market that there shall be alternatives for newer gamers.”

Many startups which have launched or expanded to smaller Indian cities prior to now have seen little success. For instance, commerce startup Udaan’s try and serve retailers in smaller cities has largely faltered regardless of the corporate elevating over $1 billion on the promise.

Some startups have struggled on this entrance as a result of they tried to force-fit city methods to those rural markets, whereas others struggled as a result of they didn’t prioritize exurbs.

One more reason may very well be merely how these markets perform: Typically, family-run companies keep generational relationships with lenders and logistics suppliers in these areas, and it may be laborious for startups to interrupt into such a market with solely their tech.

Daniel means that entrepreneurs trying to serve Indian exurbs must be aware of such relationships and attempt to assist scale them. He pointed for example to Citymall, an Accel portfolio firm that works with micro-entrepreneurs in smaller Indian cities and ensures they play a major position in — and profit from — the corporate’s development.

Startups serving rural India will seemingly need to look and function otherwise from their counterparts in cities. Their enterprise fashions, buyer acquisition technique, and distribution will seemingly be very completely different, stated Accel.

However the agency is for certain that massive startups will emerge from these rural areas, and their valuations shall be simply pretty much as good as their city counterparts, Daniel stated.