The mythical unicorn can be the object of Mesopotamian artwork and Indian and Chinese legends, distinguished by the solitary horn protruding from its forehead.
Equally distinct, and easier to spot, is the sheer number of Indian startups that have achieved coveted unicorn status – 24 in all in the past 15 months. In a single record-breaking week, between April 5 and 9, 2021, six domestic startups raised $ 1.55 billion and joined the elite billion dollar valuation club.
As the number of startup unicorns grows, what does becoming one mean for a brand? “A tremendous acceleration of interest in the company,” says Harshil Mathur, CEO and co-founder of Razorpay, who became a unicorn in October 2020. This growing attention is not just coming from companies looking to digitize their finances, but also potential talented partners such as banks and investors.
Since becoming a unicorn, Mathur reveals, total brand value has tripled, while the volume of brand search impressions and website traffic have doubled.
“Razorpay branded search volumes are three to four times higher than unbranded category (payment gateway) searches in the digital payments space. There is a 45% increase in the number of businesses gravitating to Razorpay, and our conversion rates continue to improve month over month. The unicorn title has helped gain immense trust and respect from our customers and external industry stakeholders, thereby amplifying our positioning and accelerating brand recall, ”said Mathur.
Joining the unicorn club is undoubtedly an asset for the image of the company, agrees Gajendra Jangid, co-founder and CMO, CARS24. In November 2020, CARS24 raised $ 200 million in a Series E funding round for a valuation of over $ 1 billion, becoming the first Indian unicorn in the automotive segment.
CARS24 is an e-commerce platform that leverages technology for consumers who buy and sell cars. “Customer centricity is at the very heart of our brand and joining the coveted unicorn club just pushes us to reach new heights,” he says.
Innovaccer, India’s first health tech unicorn, joined the much-vaunted club in February this year. Sachin Saxena, Founding Member and Senior Marketing Director, says that since then the visibility of the brand has definitely improved. “We have also seen an increase in the brand’s recall value for us with good traction,” he adds.
Ashok Lalla, independent digital business consultant, agrees that transforming the unicorn certainly improves the way a business is viewed.
“The most obvious being the investors,” says Lalla. “The unicorn badge also reinforces the company’s employer brand, and it serves as a hook for potential employees, as well as reassuring current employees that their company is relatively ‘stable’. It also reassures partners and suppliers, ”he says.
For consumers too, the title of unicorn enhances a brand’s reputation, bringing with it an additional layer of credibility. Recognizing that the company has a viable and scalable model creates momentum for this particular industry.
Banking technology provider Zeta, which became a unicorn in May 2021, continues to grow with a particular focus on the US and North American markets and increased investment in its product and technology portfolio. Bhavin Turakhia, its co-founder and CEO, says, “We look at branding and positioning primarily in the context of what Zeta means to our target audience and to our customers. Obviously, we care deeply about our brand as employers, and in various other dimensions as well. As the ecosystem as a whole values the unicorn moniker, that’s great, but it doesn’t change or impact how we develop or prioritize our branding efforts on a daily basis.
For a unicorn, marketing also helps create an attraction and aura among investors, potential employees and the broader ecosystem of stakeholders, Lalla believes. “The personal brand and charisma of the founders also help build the startup’s brand, especially if the founder is experienced and has a solid track record of growing businesses, creating unicorns, and creating value and wealth. for investors and shareholders. Marketing well done can further amplify this intrinsic founders’ brand value and create a bigger and bigger impact for the company, ”he explains.
Marketing helps unicorns in the same way it helps any other brand – by building visibility and brand awareness, creating brand preference and affinity among its audience, and enabling sales.
Saxena remembers the early days of startup, when Innovaccer didn’t have a marketing structure in place. “It was just the seven of us working in a basement, and things usually fell to one or two of us. At such a time, when we were still new to the field, we used precise marketing strategies, thinking several times at each step. After 2015, things started to improve for us, and a whole marketing department was put in place, ”he recalls.
Becoming a unicorn, however, didn’t mean the founders forgot the marketing lessons of the past. “We knew back then that every penny saved was a penny earned,” says Saxena. “And even today, instead of letting the money flow like water, we prefer to keep our marketing strategies explicit and well thought out. Marketing is essential for organizations like ours as we aim to propel the future of healthcare, and that is not possible without the support of several other factions in the industry. And marketing was the tool that brought us visibility in the eyes of such organizations.