Entrepreneurs bet big on online verticals

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Updated: Mar 23, 2015 2:08 PM

The success of e-commerce industry in India has spawned the growth of newer businesses focused on niche verticals like health, education travel with investors betting on these entrepreneurs

online, Flipkart, Zomato, MakeMyTrip, Tripoto, MakeMyTripWith an apparent increase in interest from investors and the buzz they have created among users, the online companies such as Flipkart, Zomato, MakeMyTrip, etc. has made way for entrepreneurs looking to venture into other e-commerce verticals.

With an apparent increase in interest from investors and the buzz they have created among users, the online companies such as Flipkart, Zomato, MakeMyTrip, etc. has made way for entrepreneurs looking to venture into other e-commerce verticals. Be it education, healthcare, or delivery of essential items from your local shop, a slew of start-ups are disrupting these sectors with innovative solutions.

The off-shoots of traditional e-commerce business has even seen interest from big names in the online industry. Touch Talent, a start-up which helps artists and content creators to exhibit and sell their work online, raised money from Deep Kalra, founder, MakeMyTrip and Sachin and Binny Bansal, founders, Flipkart, among other existing investors. Recently, Snapdeal founders Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal invested in an online travel start-up Tripoto along with IDG Ventures India.

Investors are showing keen interest in the online travel segment and are closely watching other players. TripHobo raised $1 million from Kalaari Capital in 2014, whereas MyGola raised $1.5 million from Helion Venture Partners in 2013. “All the start ups in travel sector are in their early stage right now. As the sector evolves and one or two companies scale up, we will definitely see a lot of action happening in travel segment too,” said Anirudh Gupta, Co-founder, Tripoto.

Online furniture segment has also seen exponential growth and players such as Fab Furnish, Pepperfry and Urban Ladder have become a household name in urban India. “Besides being just a brand on Facebook, which was the case last year, we have expanded to other digital platforms and now our next push will be to go beyond digital,” Rajiv Srivatsa, Co-founder, Urban Ladder had told FE earlier. The company set-up UL Labs last year to work with other start-ups in the augmented reality sector to enhance the user experience of its app users. Pepperfry, which is also planning to expand the team size and its warehouse, raised $15 million from Bertelsmann India Investments (BII) in April last year.

Fueled with the large student population of India and growing internet usage e-learning has become one of the sought for sectors for investors and entrepreneurs. There are more than at least 10 tech start-ups in India built around the model of online education. According to a report by Ken Research, the Indian online education market would reach $1.28 billion by 2017-18.

Toppr, a Mumbai-based start-up, which helps students prepare for their medical and engineering entrance exams, raised $2 million from SAIF Partners and Helion Ventures in May 2014. Founded by Zishaan Hayath and Hemanth Goteti in 2013, the company earns through a subscription model and offers different courses for IIT-JEE and Medical entrance exams. “The test prep market in India is valued at around $4-5 billion (2012) and is projected to grow to $6-8 billion by 2015. The sector is growing rapidly with the increasing usage of mobile for learning purpose,” said Rahul Chowdhri, Partner, Helion Ventures.

Helion Ventures along with Kalaari Capital also invested $10 million in the Delhi-based Simpli Learn, which provides certificates for skill based courses such as Cloud Computing, Big Data, etc. Started in 2010 by Krishna Kumar, Simpli Learn focuses on a professional’s changing needs, where learning a new skill becomes important to stay relevant in the ever changing industry. Kumar said e-learning and related areas are growing and has started getting a lot of traction. “Whoever comes to us is a professional. So they know very clearly what they want. Our job is to provide the best tech-support and quality course material for them,” said Krishna Kumar, Founder, Simpli Learn.

Apart from education, healthcare is another vertical where investors are putting their money in. The dramatic increase in the usage of internet has given a cushiony platform for entrepreneurs interested in foraying into this relatively new and fledgling sector. The so-called ‘e-health entrepreneurs’ have carved out niche business models to suit the online medium.

Delhi-based Helping Doc, started by Amit Bansal in 2012, helps patients find out relevant doctors and also fix an appointment through their mobile app. “There are many patients who come to Delhi from other states to take a second opinion from senior doctors. We work with them in finding and getting an appointment of the best doctor for patients,” Bansal says.

Helping Doc has partnered with over 2,000 doctors in Delhi-National Capital Region, who work with them for a fixed yearly fee. Patients are not charged anything for the service. It raised R10 crore in a series A funding round from Singapore-based Senior Marketing Systems (SMS) in 2014. Helping Doc competes with BookMyDoctor, Practo, DocSuggest, etc, and will use the new fund to strengthen its place at other locations.

Another service in the e-health vertical is maintaining electronic health record of patients, and has begun to see a lot of action from online healthcare service providers. My Health Records (MHR), founded by Anil Joshi, maintains health records and other test results of its subscribers on their app. “We have seen sturdy growth and are adding more and more customers every day. Thanks to other online services, like e-ticketing, online education, e-application, people have become comfortable in transacting online now,” said Anil Joshi, Founder, MHR.

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