Chennai is growing and is too often overlooked in evaluating India’s startup economy
The bulk of the Indian economy is generated in three central locations: the capital Delhi, the financial hub of Mumbai, and the undisputed technology center in Bengaluru. But innovation is pervasive across India and venture capital has been mroe than ready to oblige every industry.
The capital of Tamil Nadu, the city of Chennai is often overshadowed by country’s bigger cities. The city ranked 5th in India for venture capital with $43 million raised in the first half of 2016 across 16 deals according to Your Story, right behind Pune and the big three, just falling short of 2014 numbers for the entire year ($58 million).
IIT Madras, the Madras Institute of Technology, the College of Engineering at Anna University, and Velammal Engineering College rank among the top engineering schools in the city. The Chennai Angels (TCA) are prominent early investors, while the Indian Angel Network (IAN) and Mumbai Angels are also influential. In short, Chennai is poised to grow more and can compete with larger economies across India. A non-exhaustive map of the local ecosystem counts 439 startups, though Angelist catalogs nearly 1,000 (Angelist tends to be inaccurate and often contains defunct companies).
This list can go on, but here are five of the companies that are off to a running start and showing true promise to grow and influence the Chennai startup ecosystem:
Wandertrails raised $1 million at the beginning of March for its traveltech business that builds itineraries based on very individualized interests that always tries to include something unique in the schedule. They have five founders: Hari Gangadharan Nair, Sruti Ramesh Chander, Vishnu Menon, Narayan Menon and Pranav Kumar Suresh.
“Not everyone is lucky to know a local to set up such an experience for them,” Vishnu told New Indian Express. “We wanted to become the blindly trusted Alfred (Bruce Wayne’s caretaker) for the new age traveller!”
2. Karomi Technologies
Starting the month of March off with a half-million-dollar seed round from Ideaspring Capital, Karomi wants to augment digital art for the digital age.
“In the next 12 months, we plan to make a dent in the US market and have reference clients in the Pharma and FMCG industry in the US,” Karomi Founder and CEO Vilva Natarajan told Inc42. “We have some exciting new technology that we will introduce in the next 12 months which will help the customer cut-down on the time to market dramatically.”
Energyly is one of dozens of startups that helps building managers and businesses reduce their utility bills by better managing (and sometimes automating) energy use. Founded by Dayal Nathan and Dilip Rajendran, Energyly can connect up to 10 devices to monitor via its analytics dashboard.
“Around 70% of domestic consumers come within the 450 to 520 units consumption slab. The problem is most of them do not know when they cross from 500 to 501 and end up paying Rs 800 extra”, said Energyly Founder Dayal Nathan, recently claimed. The company just released a new feature called TariffAlarm that warns Indian customers when they have reached the threshold for electricity usage.
A sales prospecting program that raised $1.1 million just last week, attracting investors curious about how they hunt for “nuances” among sales leads that hint at a higher likelihood for a deal.
“At the end of the day, sales is primarily a data problem. If you fix data, you fix authenticity or rather the lack of it,” Pipecandy Co-Founder Murali Vivekanandan said earlier in March. He and his co-founders — Shrikanth Jagannathan and Ashwin Ramasamy — are backed by Axilor Ventures, IDG Ventures, the Indian Angel Network, and Emergent Ventures India.
5. Acumenist Analytics (Lawbot.ai)
At the intersection of new automated legal services and chat bots, Acumenist has developed the simply-dubbed Lawbot that checks for legal loopholes, grammatical errors (such as missing Oxford commas, which have massive bearing on case law in any country), and other elements of contracts. Founders Manaswani Krishna and Krishna Sundaresan have self-funded their business thus far.