Start-up Ecosystem In India

Downturn in tech startup ecosystem


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Paper 3- Challenges ahead for tech startups


The startup ecosystem which has been in overdrive for the past few years — propelled by a combination of factors, but largely, by the era of cheap money — is now showing signs of weakness.

Factors that helped fuel the tech startups

  • With the combination of accelerated financial inclusion (bank accounts), ease of identification (Aadhaar) and connectivity (mobile phones) it was said that it is ultimately a bet on the Indian consumer, and the economy, not on government regulations/policies.
  • Low-interest rates: In the era of cheap money and negative real interest rates, uncomfortable questions over the true market size and profitability were swept under the rug.
  • Growth fuelled by cash burn: High cash burn rates were the norm as both startups and investors sought growth by subsidising the customer.

What is going wrong?

  • Lack of profitability: Among the startups that have gone public in recent times, Paytm’s losses stood at Rs 2,396 crore in 2021-22, while for Zomato and PB Fintech (PolicyBazaar) losses were Rs 1,222 crore and Rs 832 crore respectively.
  • Drying-up of investment: Sure, investors will continue to pour money.
  • Some early age start-ups will continue to be funded, as will some of the more mature ones.
  • But investors are likely to be more circumspect in their dealings.
  • Impact on valuation: There are also reports of startups in diverse markets, ranging from Ola to OYO, planning to raise funds at lower valuations.
  • Among those who have gone public in recent times, most are trading much below their listing price.
  • Tighter financial conditions, a re-rating of the market, will impact both fundraising efforts and valuations.

Lack of discretionary spending capacity

  • Many numbers were given as indicators of the size of the market or TAM (the total addressable market).
  • Smartphone users: One such number thrown around is the smartphone users in the country — some have pegged this at 500 million.
  • UPI transactions: The transactions routed through the UPI platform — in May there were almost six billion transactions worth Rs 10 trillion.
  • Bank account holders: We have the near universality of bank accounts.
  • But in reality, for most of these startups, the market or even the potential market is just a fraction of this.
  • There aren’t that many consumers with significant discretionary spending capacity, and those with the capacity aren’t increasing their spending as these companies would hope.
  • No increase in spending: What is equally worrying is the complete absence of any increase in spending by even these consumers who would have the capacity to spend more.
  • While more consumers are on-board digital payment platforms — Paytm has about 70 million monthly transacting users — these numbers suggest that when it comes to consumers with considerable discretionary spending, the size of the market shrivels considerably.


Tech startups are about to witness a tough time ahead. Some startups will survive this period. Many may not. And changes in the dynamics of private markets will also have a bearing on public markets.

UPSC 2023 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments


Join us across Social Media platforms.

💥Mentorship New Batch Launch
💥Mentorship New Batch Launch