Whether it’s the Chinese dragons, Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent or Indian juggernauts like Flipkart, Asia is the birthplace of some of the most successful unicorn startups. Asia’s vibrant startup ecosystem simply has no rivals. So, what’s the secret sauce to joining the unicorn startups of Asia? It is, essentially, a recipe for success no startup can do without!
#1 It’s Not What You Sell But What People Want to Buy From You
When McDonald’s arrived on Indian shores, not many vegetarians were delighted by its chicken burgers, which is why the global fast-food chain changed its menu! McAloo Tikki burgers made their way into Indian diner’s hearts and grabbed their wallet share.
Similarly, Paytm was born out of the need to eliminate wallets and cash, and to further improve the convenience of customers.
Google made a difference in people’s lives across Asia by offering Google Maps. People would need to ask for directions earlier, which was highly inconvenient especially if it was during odd hours. Now, all they have to do is feed in the address on the map and locate the area. After all, it’s easy to know where to go when you’re moving in the right direction!
Amazon started out as a bookstore, but grew as an ecommerce brand. It now meets the needs of different customer segments. From being a niche player to a universal online retailer, Amazon’s done it all.
Each of these businesses has one thing in common: they meet consumer needs.
The age of “build it and they’ll come” is over. The era of heightened consumerism is here. The focus is on what people are buying, not what your company is selling.
Asian unicorn startups are tapping on to this phenomena. China alone has 46 of the 192 total known unicorn startups across the globe. China’s unicorn startups have a combined valuation of $209 billion, as per CBInsights. The Chinese startups are cashing in on ready consumers in a thriving marketplace.
Consider the ride-hailing service provider, Didi Chuxing, who with a valuation of $50 billion is just one step behind Uber, or mobile and hardware maker Xiaomi that is pegged at $46 billion. Each of these startups starts out by generating value for customers.
For example, Xiaomi aims at client co-creation. It even has its own consumer community — MIUI forum. Consumers can tell Xiaomi what they need in a product. Xiaomi then builds products based on customer feedback! This forum scored 10 million registered users by 2018. That’s not all — it even had more than 100K daily publications!
#2 Tapping Technologies in the Internet Age
When Google was born, the aim was simple: Providing unstructured data to common people like you and me, who are looking for information online. That has not changed, but Google’s fortunes have. All because of technology, people are being drawn to unicorn startup brands.
Apple’s diversified offerings across a single product line or Netflix with its movie-streaming services … these are just some ways in which technology is deemed as the king and queen of the present age. It is also the secret to the success of many unicorn startups.
From video gaming startup Garena in Singapore to Traveloka in Indonesia and GrabTaxi, tapping new technologies is the key to success. Millennial digital natives respond incredibly well to this. WEF estimates that by 2020, 64% of the Asian population will be below 40 years of age. These digital natives are disrupting the Asian economies and driving growth. Traveloka CEO Ferry Unardi is 30. Go-Jek a ride-hailing app has its CEO in Nadiem Makarim at 33!
Going online may be the best way to mobilize your startup. It also accelerates growth. A research by McKinsey pegs mobile penetration rates in Asia at 110 per cent and growing. This is where startups like Tokopedia and premier online marketplaces like Bukalapak by Achmad Zaky are cashing in. In the startup industry, innovation is clearly the buzzword.
Ecommerce is big. Technology is even bigger.
#3 Building a Culture of Trust
Trust is the currency businesses to deal in now. Unicorn startups are no different. Customers need to feel a sense of trust. The only way to build it is to innovate. Attracting funds is not about the right elevator pitch or the perfect presentation. It is about real results. Your profit margins, revenue, growth stats — all of these need to reflect what an amazing innovator you are. This is how Bullet Messaging, a startup launched in August 2018 garnered an impressive $22 million in funding within 7 days of being founded. Big players like BAT look for game-changing startups to invest in. If you fit the bill, the results can be phenomenal.
#4 Start With Innovation But Grow With Repetition
Consider how successful ‘India’s Amazon’ Flipkart is or how GrabTaxi has beaten Uber at its own game. It’s not just about having exceptional ideas but also working on how to execute these. The real success comes from processes and systems. Streamlining operations, refining processes — it’s all about building a sense of synergies and letting your team thrive.
#5 Creativity Counts
Byju’s is a unicorn startup which demonstrates what thinking creatively can do. Within three years of launching its learning app, the startup has 20 million users and 1.26 million annual paid subscribers. Its CEO, Byju Raveendran, started out by going to campuses and schools to teach students. He even lectured in a stadium once! Now, Byju’s has become a billion dollar company with investors like Sequoia Capital and Sofina simply because of an idea that was creative for its time.
Five Lessons to Learn From Successful Unicorn Startups was originally published in Hacker Noon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.