On Friday, a stellar lineup of corporate leaders, startup founders and global investors came together in a virtual meeting to pick the winners of The Economic Times Startup Awards 2022.
This year’s meeting took place against the backdrop of widespread turmoil across public and private markets, which has slashed the valuations of several startups amid a severe crunch in late-stage funding.
Despite the sombre industry environment, the mood was ebullient as the jury focused on empirical metrics and deliverables such as profitability, exits and effectiveness of innovation.
Today, it’s our pleasure to announce the winners of the 2022 edition of India’s most prestigious awards for entrepreneurs.
Razorpay bags top honours at ETSA 2022
Online payments company Razorpay bagged top honours at the eighth edition of India’s most prestigious awards for entrepreneurship — The Economic Times Startup Awards 2022.
At a virtual meeting that lasted for more than two hours on October 28, a high-powered jury led by Infosys CEO Salil Parekh named the Bengaluru company Startup of the Year for building a large business in the competitive fintech sector without sacrificing on profitability.
In all, the jury chose nine winners from a shortlist of 45 nominees across the nine categories.
Welcome to the club: Founded by Harshil Mathur and Shashank Kumar in 2014, Razorpay joins a list of eminent winners that have previously bagged the top prize including Zomato, Zerodha, Delhivery, Oyo Hotels & Homes, Swiggy, Freshworks, and Ola.
- Falguni Nayar, founder and CEO of Nykaa was chosen as the CEO of the Year, marking the launch of a brand new award category.
- Another notable winner was Shekhar Kirani, partner, Accel, who bagged the Midas Touch Award for Best Investor.
The jury for ETSA 2022
The jury: The high-powered panel including startup entrepreneurs who have taken their companies public recently, had logged in well versed with a 103-page dossier comprising confidential data from the shortlisted companies drawn up by the ET editorial team.
Maintaining a time-honoured tradition, direct contenders recused themselves while their candidatures were being discussed. Many other jurors with direct and indirect interests in the shortlisted companies participated in the debates but refrained from casting a vote.
“All the nominations for Startup of the Year (SOTY) were simply outstanding companies, and it was a really close call at the end of the day. [Razorpay has] demonstrated great growth profitably on the back of relentless customer focus, continued innovation in adjacencies, and a culture that allows them to ‘build to last’,” said jury member Sriharsha Majety, cofounder and CEO, Swiggy.
Also Read | The ultimate goal of ETSA 2022 was to pick winners displaying “innovation, grit, differentiation, integrity, and ambition,” according to Infosys chief executive and managing director Salil Parekh who led the ten-member jury.
Startup of the Year: Razorpay
Razorpay was voted as The Economic Times Startup of the Year 2022 in what was arguably the most closely contested category. In a neck-and-neck race, not seen in recent years, software testing startup BrowserStack emerged as another serious contender for the top award but missed it by a whisker amid multiple rounds of discussions and voting.
Razorpay, currently India’s highest-valued fintech firm at $7.5 billion, eventually took home the big prize. Having processed payments worth about $80 billion annually, the company has a good chance to emerge as the top online payments processing platform after rival PayU called off its deal to acquire BillDesk.
“We started off with the hope to make a difference in India’s financial ecosystem, but today the dent we’ve created by powering disruptive businesses with intelligent technology excites us to reach greater heights and this honour gives us further confidence to continue on this path,” Razorpay cofounder and CEO Harshil Mathur told ET.
CEO of the Year: Falguni Nayar
Falguni Nayar has broken all the conventions associated with the typical new-age entrepreneur, from gender to age to the category she chose for her startup.
Having founded Nykaa at the age of 50, she took on established ecommerce giants, barely raised any venture capital, and turned profitable in a cash-guzzling sector to successfully take her company public last year. All of this led the jury to pick Nayar as CEO of the year, a new category introduced at the Economic Times Startup Awards to showcase the growth and maturity of the ecosystem.
“For the longest time one questioned whether there can be a standalone company in the beauty category, considering the tough competition from horizontal players,” said jury member Shailendra Singh, MD, Sequoia India & Southeast Asia.
Nayar told ET, “From Day Zero, our business has been about creating customer delight and elevating the shopping experience – keeping at its core authenticity, content, convenience and curation. Prioritising sustainable growth with an emphasis on the right unit economics has been crucial to Nykaa’s success.”
Midas Touch: Shekhar Kirani
Among the most high-profile categories at the ET Startup Awards, this year’s Midas Touch award for best investor saw jury members debate whether clocking exits and providing cash returns should be the hallmark of a successful investor over plum mark-ups on a company’s valuation.
This made it a close fight as most of the nominees have seen one of their portfolio firms go public over the past year to break the pattern in a largely exit-starved ecosystem.
The jury finally zeroed-in on Accel’s partner Shekhar Kirani for being the first to write a cheque to Freshworks, the Indian SaaS poster child that went public on Nasdaq last year, and for having spotted a number of other high-quality enterprise firms early on.
In a close contest with Sequoia Capital’s Mohit Bhatnagar, who had impressive wins over the years with Zomato, Oyo and Citrus Pay, among others.
“I am humbled to be chosen, but, to be fair, this win is for all of us who have been nominated and the entire investment community,” said Kirani.
Woman Ahead: Smita Deorah
It was a two-way fight in this category b