RITESH MALIK, 32
Founder, Innov8 and Project Guerrilla, Delhi
Life would have been very different for Ritesh Malik had he opted to follow in his parents’ footsteps and remained a medical professional. (His father, Ravi, is one of the most sought-after paediatricians in New Delhi, while his mother is a reputed gynaecologist.) A graduate of Tamil Nadu’s Dr M.G.R. Medical University, Ritesh decided his focus would instead be on supporting innovators.
As an angel investor, he has funded firms in healthcare, technology, education and energy, also building an enabling ecosystem via his co-working space, Innov8. Beyond just equity investments, Ritesh has also been putting his management expertise to work to support these businesses. Eight years after setting up his first firm, he has funded more than 80 startups via Project Guerrilla. It all began with his augmented reality start-up, Adstuck, which created a product called Alive App that was later acquired by Bennett & Coleman. Today, Ritesh remains the CEO of Innov8, though he, along with other investors in the firm, such as Paytm’s Vijay Shekhar Sharma and Sequoia Capital’s Rajan Anandan, sold their stakes when OYO bought the firm for Rs 220 crore. —Anilesh S. Mahajan
MEDICINE’S LOSS, START-UPS’ GAIN
While pursuing his medical degree, Ritesh also attended the London School of Economics for a short-term course as well as completed a semester at Harvard University. He was working as an in-house surgeon at Delhi’s Sir Ganga Ram Hospital when he co-founded his first start-up, Adstuck.
Room to Grow
RITESH AGARWAL, 28
Founder & Group CEO, O yo Rooms, Gurugram
In 2020, London-based research group Hurun featured Ritesh Agarwal as the second youngest billionaire in their Global Rich List 2020. The founder of Oyo Rooms, though, had become a rage in India long ago. A college dropout from Rayagada in Odisha, Agarwal has built an empire of over a million rooms in 43,000 hotels and 150,000 vacation homes globally. OYO was valued at $10 billion (Rs 75,800 crore) in 2019 after Agarwal bought back shares worth $2 billion (Rs 15,125 crore) from venture capital firms Sequoia Capital and Lightspeed Venture Partners. His start-up success has had its share of ups and downs. Oravel Stays, the budget accommodation platform he had launched in 2012 while in college in New Delhi, had sunk without a trace. Agarwal, at one point, was left with just Rs 30 and the option of returning home. But his entrepreneurial zeal pushed him to not give up. The same spirit helped OYO survive the demand slump during the pandemic. The company invested heavily in technology, restructured operations and went lean. In October 2021, Oyo filed a red herring prospectus with SEBI, seeking clearance to raise Rs 8,384 crore by listing the stocks. The stock market bells are expected to ring in early 2022. —Anilesh S. Mahajan
Agarwal’s parents did not believe OYO Rooms was a phenomenal success until they heard Prime Minister Narendra Modi talk about it in one of his radio broadcasts
IN THE BIG LEAGUE
NITHIN KAMATH, 38 & NIKHIL KAMATH, 34
Founder and CEO & Co-founder and CIO, Zerodha, Bengaluru
In 2010, Nithin Kamath founded Ze-rodha, a brokerage with a transparent and discounted business model. Today, with an estimated five million active clients, Zerodha, now driven by both the Kamath brothers, Nithin and Nikhil, is the largest brokerage in the country. According to the IIFL Wealth Hurun India ‘40 and Under Self-Made Rich List’ 2020, they are the wealthiest entrepreneurs in India under the age of 40, with Rs 24,000 crore. They recently got permission from SEBI to set up an asset management company. In September, Nithin announced that Zerodha would be adding an ‘alert feature’ to its platform to inform nominees when an account became dormant, after reports in recent months that about Rs 80,000 crore of Indians’ wealth remains unclaimed in various banking and demat accounts. —Shwweta Punj
Nikhil Kamath dropped out of school at the age of 16 (after class 10) to join his brother’s business
RHEA MAZUMDAR SINGHAL, 39
Founder and CEO, Ecoware Delhi
On a mission to make sustainable packaging a way of life, Singhal has introduced the likes of national food giant Haldiram’s to using cutlery made of biodegradable materials. Distressed at the amount of plastic waste generated by disposable cutlery—with the attendant environmental consequences—Singhal worked to find an appropriate replacement material. She settled on sugarcane bagasse (the residue left from the extraction of sugarcane juice), and today, her firm claims its cutlery degrades into soil in just 30 days. Founded in 2010, Ecoware currently has a turnover of about Rs 30 crore, which Singhal aims to raise to Rs 100 crore. She has a growing list of major clients, including Indian Railways, Cinnabon, FabCafe, Subway and Chaayos. The firm also caters to hotels (including the Taj, Leela, Lalit, Novotel and the Oberoi), as well as the office canteens of J.P. Morgan, Goldman Sachs and Bain Capital. She was awarded the Nari Shakti Puraskar by President Ram Nath Kovind in 2019. — Shwweta Punj
THE EARLY BIRD...
Singhal wakes up at 5.45 am every day for a vigorous workout; she says this grounds her and keeps her motivated
The Patron Saint of Used Cars
NIRAJ SINGH, 36
Founder, Spinny, Gurugram
In the first week of December, when Niraj Singh’s Spinny raised $283 million (Rs 2,150 crore) from an investor consortium led by Abu Dhabi-based ADQ, Tiger Global and Avenir Growth, it became India’s newest unicorn, valued at about $1.8 billion (Rs 13,680 crore). A used-car retailing platform, Spinny competes with firms like CarDekho, OLX and Quikr. Industry estimates suggest Indians will be trading 6.7-7.2 million used cars by end of 2022, and transactions are rapidly moving online. An inveterate car lover, it’s what drew Singh to setting up Spinny. An IIT-Delhi alumnus, he is a serial entrepreneur and also an investor in new businesses. He floated Spinny in 2015, along with friends Mohit Gupta and Ramanshu Mahaur. Ramanshu, a fellow IIT-D grad, is a tech geek, while Mohit joined them from Flipkart and heads operations. The firm has 15 car hubs in eight cities—Delhi-NCR, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata and Ahmedabad. —Anilesh S. Mahajan
For Niraj, driving his car—both on city routes and longer highways—is a big stress-buster. In fact, he loves to go for a spin before taking a big decision
THE ED MASTERS
BYJU RAVEENDRAN, 40 & DIVYA GOKULNATH, 35
Co-founders, Byju’s Bengaluru
Understated, ambitious and an astute educator— Byju Raveendran calls himself an accidental entrepreneur. A journey that began with helping friends ace the CAT (Common Admission Test) and holding classes for whoever was interested led him to co-founding Byju’s with his former student and then wife, Divya Gokulnath. Today, Byju’s is the world’s most valuable edtech startup, at $21 billion (Rs 1.6 lakh crore) as of August this year. Before co-founding the firm, Gokulnath was a teacher. Her love for teaching and her ability to keep her people together has ensured that Byju’s core team has remained intact since it was founded. During the pandemic, the firm launched a slew of online classes for students across age groups. It also made several acquisitions—about eight this year—extending its footprint to the US. In terms of numbers, the Byju’s app has been downloaded over 100 million times, and classes are available in 1,700 cities worldwide. According to the firm, it added 13.5 million students in March and April 2020. —Shwweta Punj
COUPLE OF GOALS
Gokulnath’s love for biology comes from her father, but her appreciation for maths comes from her husband. Raveendran worked at a shipping company before returning to India to start Byju’s
The Jet Setter
KANIKA TEKRIWAL, 33
Founder and CEO, JetSetGo Delhi
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