Apna startup – an employment platform for blue-collar staffers, has been estimated at $1.1 billion (Series C) in just 22 months since it originated. The investment of $100 million from Tiger Global Management on September 16. It is one of the quickest Indian startups to become a unicorn. Founded by past Apple executive Nirmit Parikh, Apna- which does not make money, has 16 million users and 1.5 lakh job providers.
Apna came up with an idea to build a community for workers through their app. They interact and share notes about interviews, group discussions, and tips for better wages on this platform.
Now the startup, which has begun to monetize the platform, is ready to grow aggressively. Parikh said Apna would expand to more cities in India, and by early next year, Apna will start its global expansion.
“We have already created a dent. Now we want to impact the lives of 2.3 billion,” he said. “We will require crazy amounts of resources and a world-class team to deliver. It’s an arduous task and is going to take a village. But somebody has to solve it.”
How was Apna started?
Long before Parikh started building apna, he had been bitten by the entrepreneurship bug while he was continuing his engineering degree at the Institute of Technology at Nirma University in Ahmedabad. Back then, he had established a company, Incone Technologies, that helped automate dam gates, an idea that hit him after floods on the west coast in 2007.
“It was super unsexy for a 19-year-old teenager to start a hydropower company,” Parikh had told in an earlier interview. Years after, Parikh united that business with his family-owned venture. The business was primarily engaged in solving the problem of floods, using artificial intelligence-based control systems that centred on flood forecasting and reservoir monitoring. “I got my early learnings into how to design value propositions and positioning around business,” Parikh speaks.
When he was turning 26 that year, he had been building companies back-to-back. After graduating from Stanford, Parikh worked with the mobile and electronics industry’s prominent firm Apple.
Somewhere he supervised the product and tactics of the software platform. While at Apple, Parikh had also begun to spend considerable time in India where he became privy to unemployment issues while his regular visits. “We say these are big problems the world is facing, but you never feel that you’re going to go and solve this,” Parikh says. He also saw first-hand the difficulties in hiring skilful workers at his family-owned production businesses.
Pratik knew the problems they were facing, but he didn’t know from the candidate’s side. He went secretly as a blue-collar job holder, as an electrician, supervisor and shop floor chap. The idea is easy until you don’t taste the problem, you cannot produce a good solution and he didn’t want to be one of the other organizations. According to him, pretty often, people find an answer from the Western and copy.” That was the trigger, and Parikh knew he had a significant obstacle to resolve on his hands.
Parikh was expressly encouraged by dialogue from the movie Gully Boy, “I’m not going to change my dream because my reality is so, I would rather change my reality so that I can go and achieve my dream.” Taking a tip from the famous song from the film, ‘Apna time aayega (Our time will come)’, Parikh named his new startup apna. In the initial days, Parikh contributed much of his time nearby the slums of Mumbai, trying to understand user requirements, and the freshest version of the app, Parikh tells, is the 16th repetition of its design. “Initially, we got users through word of mouth, as we used to visit the slums and chawls around Mumbai,” Parikh told.
Their burn rate for the transaction is becoming better and stabler. Every individual transaction they do, because of the network effect market, goes down. “If you see, our budgets have been the same which we had planned in,” Parikh states.
Apna has raised a total of $193.5M as an investment over five rounds. Their latest funding was raised on Sep 15, 2021, from a Series C round. The firm is funded by 9 investors, including Tiger Global Management and Insight Partners, marked as the most recent investors.
The last startup funding deal makes Apna India’s 27th unicorn of 2021- startups valued at over a billion dollars, in a record-breaking year for venture funding.