Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Class of 2020: Where they are now

Looking back at how our alumni from last year fared in a challenging year

Published: Feb 10, 2021 04:51:52 PM IST
Updated: Feb 10, 2021 11:18:13 PM IST

Class of 2020: Where they are nowRishabh Karwa (right) and Nitin Rana’s GoMechanic app has crossed a million downloads
Image: Madhu Kapparath

Breakout Stars
Rishabh Karwa, Nitin Rana
Co-founders, GoMechanic

The company saw a shift in customer behaviour towards a more digital approach for car service and spares in 2020. The technology-enabled car service startup expanded its presence to 10 more cities, while its app crossed a million installs and garnered 300,000 monthly active users. Last year, the company also raised an undisclosed amount from Pawan Munjal, chairman and managing director of Hero MotoCorp Ltd.

Forbes India Impact: “We received recognition by investors and more trust for the company. Being on the list was like an intangible confidence boost for the founders of being on the right path,” says Karwa.

Ullas Samrat, Dhruv Khanna
Co-founders, Triton Foodworks

Over the last one year, Delhi-based Triton Foodworks, in addition to their India operations, also set up its first farm in Nashville, Tennessee. Additionally, they have also launched an online sore for their brand ChopChop—that sells produce grown in their hydroponic farms—especially due to the lockdown. They have also expanded from 18 stores to 30 in Delhi-NCR and are hoping to touch over 100 stores by the end of 2021.

Forbes India Impact: “Being part of the Forbes India family was life-changing and opened countless opportunities for us. This gave us the opportunity to directly connect with some of the sharpest minds of the business world through its strong alumni network,” says Khanna.
Ajeesh Achuthan
Co-founder and CTO, Open
In 2020, Open saw widespread adoption as businesses went from the offline to online model, leading to a surge in business banking and online payments. Open provides a dashboard where users can monitor their expenses, seek loans, collect payments, and manage their financial operations. Over the past year, the number of users on the platform swelled to nearly 750,000 from about 250,000. It is looking to ramp up its clientele in India in partnership with 17 banks.

Forbes India Impact: “It was unexpected for me, and a great privilege to be featured on the list. It means a lot to be recognised in a field where there is so much excellence,” says Achutan.

Suthirth Vaidya, Abhijith Chunduru, Adarsh Raj
Co-founders, Predible Health
During the pandemic, the co-founders pivoted their LungIQ product for Covid-19 analysis as well as to help doctors quantify the extent of lung damage from chest CT studies. Because of the pandemic, their study volumes went up by 18x from the previous year, while footprint grew to over 20 cities across India. Financial support from government bodies such as CAWACH (via DST), MeITy, BIRAC and their partners in IKP Knowledge Park enabled them to invest in their Covid-19 offering.

Forbes India Impact: “Being on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list gave us immense visibility in the startup ecosystem and helped us open conversations with several stakeholders ranging from customers to investors,” says Vaidya.

Amiya Adwitiya
Co-founder and CEO, Squadcast
Sisir Koppaka
Co-founder and CTO, Squadcast
Started in October 2017, Squadcast is a software-as-a-service venture that offers a software reliability product to help customers to ensure that their IT systems are up and running. The startup has grown through the pandemic even as its 28-member team works remotely. Its site reliability engineering technology is used by 150 customers, including India’s startup unicorns such as business-to-business online marketplace Udaan, and multinationals like Sony. Squadcast is in talks for a Series A funding and expects to expand to the US.

Proven Performers

Class of 2020: Where they are nowSai Gole (left) and Siddharth Dialani of BharatAgri plan to reach 100 mln paid users by 2025
Image: Mexy Xavier

Sai Gole, Siddharth Dialani
Co-founders, BharatAgri
Though 2020 was a tough year for BharatAgri, the co-founders say it was still one of the best. From having an offline dealer network and offline services, from April 2020, everything moved online—from product discovery to services. BharatAgri continues adding 10,000 paid subscriptions to its platform, monthly. In the next five years, it hopes to reach 100 million paid users.

Forbes India Impact: “Getting featured in Forbes India gave us national recognition that helped us build a good profile for the company. We have been able to attract better talent and retain people. We got interest from potential clients with whom we are working on many fronts,” says Gole.

Vikash Bakrewala
Chief de Zone, Groupe-BEL (previously with B9 Beverages)
From beer to cheese… that has been the giant leap for Vikash Bakrewala since last year. From being the youngest to manage Bira’s South India operations to being Chief de Zone of Groupe BEL, an iconic and century-old French cheese maker brand that started operations in India in 2019. “In India, the company is taking baby steps, and I am trying my hand at building a new business in a new category,” says Bakrewala, who joined the company last October. Being on Forbes India 30 under 30 list, he avers, “instilled tremendous confidence in the direction I have taken so far”.

Class of 2020: Where they are now(From left) Rapido co-founders Aravind Sanka, Pavan Guntupalli and Rishikesh SR are taking demand back to pre-Covid levels
Image: Nishant Ratnakar for Forbes India

Aravind Sanka, Pavan Guntupalli, SR Rishikesh
Co-founders, Rapido
Although the initial couple of months of the lockdown had its lows, Rapido saw an opportunity in bike taxis. After services resumed, the startup managed to recover 60 percent of its business, and expects demand to go back to pre-Covid levels by April 2021. It expects adoption of bike taxi travelling to increase in Tier II and III cities.

Forbes India Impact: “Being featured on the list helped us further in popularising bike-taxi in India. Receiving an accolade like this motivated our team to come together, and do our best to pivot and overcome any challenges thrown our way. We launched new services and continued to provide the most affordable, accessible and safe ride for the public commute,” says Sanka.

Akanksha Deo Sharma
Designer, Ikea
In the year gone by, she was actively involved with a number of community-building projects that helped strengthen local economies and provide work for rural artisans—a majority being women. She has also been working with the craftswomen in Bikaner, the refugee women in Jordan to create unique textiles that tell their story, and the artisans in Thailand to create ceramics to provide them a sense of stability. Her collection made with rice straws, Förändring, is being launched globally and gathering great response. It has been shortlisted for Beazley design of the year 2020 and is being exhibited at the London Design Museum until March 2021. In February, she will be moving to Sweden to be a part of Ikea’s core design team as a designer.

Class of 2020: Where they are nowYouTuber Bhuvan Bam’s popularity is rising
Image: Aditi Tailang

Bhuvan Bam
Recently, Bhuvan Bam’s YouTube channel ‘BB Ki Vines’ crossed 20 million subscribers from 16 million last year. Bam is also gearing up to release his latest series called ‘Dhindora’ with which he plans to launch his own production house ‘BB Ki Vines Productions’. His merchandise brand Youthiapa got a major revamp and Bam is indulging in licencing deals for the brand as well as producing products in-house. A perfume range is also on cards. 

Gaurav Chaudhary
Gaurav Chaudhary, popularly known as Technical Guruji, in 2020 became the world’s number one tech YouTuber, with 20.6 million subscribers on his YouTube channel from 15 million subscribers the year before.

Akshay Chaturvedi
CEO, Leverage Edu
Edtech startup Leverage Edu grew four times in monthly revenue in 2020. The company now has over 150 employees and most of them were hired remotely in the last six months. LeverageEdu has presence in over 40 cities in India.

Forbes India Impact: “A lot of our business is driven by credibility, and having an institution as strong as Forbes India come behind us, was game-changing. I can’t be grateful enough for that,” says Chaturvedi.

Class of 2020: Where they are now(From left) Ajay Thandi, Arman Sood & Ashwajeet Singh are co-founders of Sleepy Owl Coffee
Image: Amit Verma

Ajai Thandi, Ashwajeet Singh, Arman Sood
Co-Founders, Sleepy Owl Coffee
Due to the Covid-19 crisis, everything came to a standstill for ready-to-drink coffee brand Sleepy Owl Coffee. As soon as it got permission under essential commodities, it started doing home deliveries. It delivered more than 150,000 orders during the pandemic and also launched two new flavours of coffee—Hazelnut and French Vanilla.

Forbes India Impact: “Being on the list helped us in getting widespread recognition from customers as well as investors,” says Thandi.

Sai Pallavi
Sai Pallavi continued her success streak in the South Indian film industry in 2020, her most notable performance being in Vetrimaaran’s Oor Iravu for Netflix’s Paava Kathaigal, an anthology of short films around the repercussions of holding caste, pride and honour above all else. Her upcoming films include Virata Parvam opposite Rana Dagubatti and Love Story opposite Chaitanya Akkineni, both in Telugu.

Palak Shah,
CEO, Ekaya
Apart from launching its first ready-to-wear line with French couturiers Pierre & Daniel, Ekaya launched its Spring Summer 2020 Collection. A collaboration with handcrafted jewellery brand Misho using upcycled fabrics of Banaras and the silver tradition of Gujarat gave rise to ‘textile jewellery’. The brand also introduced upcycled accessories and gifting made of repurposed fabrics.

Forbes India Impact: “The feature led to an increase in steady traction from the younger clientele. Also, more young people are inspired to join the business and contribute to the growth of an India-proud brand,” says Shah.

Akshat Bansal
Founder, Bloni
Despite the pandemic playing spoilsport, Akshat Bansal took his aspirations to new levels, while staying true to his label’s aim of making traditional fabric and styles relevant by being gender- and size-fluid. In December 2020, he launched Shehar—a homegrown urban menswear brand documenting the cities of India, while celebrating their craft and diversity.

Forbes India Impact: “The recognition opened doors to plenty of collaborations. Peers and stakeholders in the industry started believing in the label more than ever, and placed Bloni on some prestigious platforms. I feel more responsible and confident about living the dream and working towards the brand with more strength,” says Bansal.

Nikhil Kumar
Co-founder, Setu
The startup which builds digital supply chains between banks and fintech companies went live with five new products during the pandemic and also raised $15 million combined through its early investor Lightspeed Venture Partners and also Falcon Capital. These funds were used to expand staff, building Setu’s employee strength to 51 from 19 a year earlier. Setu now works with some of India’s largest private banks. In 2021, the plan is to scale up reach and also build digital lending platforms for micro- and small- to medium enterprises.

Forbes India Impact: “Earlier, not many people knew the work I did. But getting on the list helped potential employees find us. Hiring remotely became easier for us,’’ says Kumar.

Abhay Rangan
CEO, Goodmylk
Abhay Rangan has had a good year since featuring on the list. Goodmylk doubled its stock keeping units with new products like sugar-free milk, and added different versions and sizes of its existing products. It extended its retail footprint to all major cities like Chennai, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Delhi and Kolkata, and put its feet on the ground in Mumbai and Chennai too.

Forbes India Impact: “It has added more credibility to the movement we’re building and has helped us validate our idea to investors,” says Rangan.

Class of 2020: Where they are nowKrishna Gupta’s 1441 Pizzeria is thriving
Image: Mexy Xavier

Krishna Gupta
Founder, 1441 Pizzeria
Krishna Gupta capitalised on deliveries from his existing restaurants and added two deliver-only kitchens in Mumbai and a cloud kitchen—with affordable price points for Tier II and III cities—in Pune to survive 2020. By October-November, they were doing 110 to 120 percent more deliveries monthly than in 2019. Gupta plans to add five more delivery kitchens this year and 15 more cloud kitchens. The strategy has been to expand footprint even in a washout year, but with low capex models. 

Forbes India Impact: “We have been doing this for a few years and this supports our hard work and tells the market that we are here for the long haul,” says Gupta.

Class of 2020: Where they are nowPriya Prakash’s HealthSetGo went fully digital
Image: Aditi Tailang

Priya Prakash
Founder and CEO, HealthSetGo
With schools shut, HealthSetGo—that conducts annual check-ups at schools and sends reports to parents via the proprietary app—went completely digital, conducting 300-plus hours of online wellbeing sessions and reaching out to over 100,000 kids. It has launched the HealthSetGo Protect 360, a platform for schools and colleges to track and manage Covid-19 on campus. It has tied up with other institutes for implementing technology-based interventions to ensure safety of staff and students.

Forbes India Impact: “It was a great national recognition of our work. We were able to scale our impact through the organisations we connected with,” says Prakash.

Class of 2020: Where they are now
Jubin Varghese (left) and Ameya Gadiwan of Gegadyne Energy raised Series A round of $5mln
Image: Mexy Xavier

Jubin Varghese  & Ameya Gadiwan
Co-founders, Gegadyne Energy
The co-founders raised their Series A round of $5 million from listed firm V-Guard Industries on January 18. It will help their patented non-lithium battery technology to have deeper penetration in the Indian market and achieve scale faster. Gegadyne has also tied up with international OEMs from the North American market to gain access in that market. It has also started field testing battery packs and aim to start commercial production in 24 months.

Abhishek Gupta, CEO,
Rishabh Verma, COO,
NavGurukul is a non-profit which offers annual residential programmes for the youth, especially those from low-income families, training them in software coding and making them employable. In 2020, NavGurukul scaled up their team to 23 people and on-boarded 600 students into various campuses. The curriculum and learning courses shifted to smartphones instead of personal computers. NavGurukul also launched its learning app Meraki in October. This bootstrapped startup, which is well capitalised with $1 million through donations, is set to launch more courses in design, management and facilitation in 2021.

Forbes India Impact: “The introduction changed a lot. From being an IT engineer in the non-profit space, people knew I was a 30 Under 30 listee,” says Gupta.

Class of 2020: Where they are nowEshan Sadasivan of PROSOC Innovators worked on a paper-bag making machine

Eshan Sadasivan
CEO, PROSOC Innovators
The pandemic caused earnings turn into a trickle in 2020 compared to ₹2.5 crore in 2019, as demand for its lightweight foldable school bags to rural schools stagnated. Sadasivan used this downtime to focus on a low-cost paper-bag making machine, which can provide employment to rural and handicapped women across Telangana. Testing and creating models is on, with an aim to sell the machines to corporates for their CSR activities. PROSOC will commence manufacturing the Deskit bags as soon as schools reopen.

Forbes India Impact: “Visibility definitely improved but the pandemic dampened our progress,’’ says Sadasivan.

Akhil Aryan
Co-founder and CEO, ION Energy
ION Energy makes sophisticated battery management systems (BMS) for batteries that power electric vehicles and energy storage systems, with customers in 15 countries. In 2020, the company deployed its 60,000th BMS, and continued recruitment through the pandemic. For Edison, ION Energy’s battery data analytics product, has also seen strong traction. In the December 2020 quarter, ION says it won the world’s largest ‘battery intelligence’ contract to manage a system delivering 581MWh of power.

Forbes India Impact: “While the recognition places enormous responsibility, it has also helped build ION Energy’s credibility with our customers and partners. We’ve had a few customers recognise the achievements of the company more clearly and partner with us,” says Aryan.

(This story appears in the 12 February, 2021 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

Post Your Comment
Required, will not be published
All comments are moderated