Cricket is a religion in India and Indian Premier League (IPL) is the most-awaited event for the crores of fans in the country. The euphoria around IPL 2022, therefore, is natural and gets translated in TRPs, viewership numbers and yes, sponsorships.
Batting for the sponsorship game, this year’s IPL, which is starting today, has an impressive 29 startups as sponsors. The Tata IPL 2022 will be the 15th edition of the cricket tournament that first made its debut in 2008. It is the country’s biggest stage for drawing eyeballs at the best of the cricketing talent from India and abroad.
However, IPL has now taken to represent the best entrepreneurial minds in India, becoming an equally lucrative stage for startups. And this year, 29 startups are lining up alongside the 10 IPL teams.
The startups participating in this year’s IPL include the likes of sports promotions regulars such as Paytm and Unacademy and mega newcomers such as Swiggy, Fino, CRED, boAt, and Cars24.
According to BCCI secretary Jay Shah, the IPL 2021 had hit 380 Mn viewers till match 35 on September 24, 2021. By October 1, 2021, the consumption for IPL 2021 including Star Sports’ pre-match programming stood at 242 Bn minutes, per media reports.
Since IPL is the sporting event, we at Inc42 decided to take a peek into this marriage of cricket and the startup ecosystem.
Trends That Set The Stage
While Tata is the Title Sponsor of IPL 2022, the rest of the partners of the tournament are all startups, which is a testament to the growth India’s startup ecosystem has witnessed over the last few years.
Interestingly, Tata has been on a shopping spree of its own. It has been buying startups for the last year and a half and working towards its super app, Tata Neu, which is also set to launch during this IPL season.
For TataNeu, Tata Digital has acquired several companies, including Grameen eStore, Urja, AccessBell, 1mg, BigBasket, and CureFit. Recently, Croma has also joined the party, in a similar vein to Reliance’s emphasis on both physical and digital, while the ecommerce platform Tata Cliq is already a part of Tata Digital.
What’s more, all the 10 IPL teams this season have at least two startups partnering with them in some capacity.
Here is a look at a few trends that shone through during our research on the matter.
Out of the 29 startups that are participating in the IPL, 10 are unicorns, representing 35% of the participating startups. These unicorns have a total valuation of $43.6 Bn, with Dream11 and Meesho leading the pack with a valuation of $8 Bn each.
However, the growth stage startups also have a strong showing, with a total of 12 growth stage startups featuring at IPL 2022. These startups, including the likes of The Souled Store and Swiggy Instamart, have the largest representation at IPL 2022.
Surprisingly, Paytm and Fino Payments Bank represent the only two listed startups in the list, while late-stage startups are the third-largest contingent at IPL 2022.
In terms of late-stage startups, there are five of them, including the likes of EbixCash and boAt, both of which are looking for IPOs, incidentally.
This trend reflects on the fact that funded startups have more cash to burn, and hence they are participating in greater numbers in the IPL. Whereas in the case of profitable startups, which have revenues to worry about, have generally abstained.
However, this year’s major outing is by no means a fluke – during 2021, Indian startups received a whopping $42 Bn in funding.
This shows that startups that either don’t need immediate funding and are profitable– or both, have limited participation in IPL 2022, while unicorns had the strongest display at the competition.
It looks like funded startups have more spending appetites than those that are already profitable. Might be, such startups focus more on churning revenue than sponsoring in sporting events like IPL.
Fintech Leading the Charge
While we talk about the stage of startups that have been represented, it is also interesting to note the sectors that are represented as well.
To absolutely no one’s surprise, fintech leads. There are 10 fintech startups, ranging from the growth stage to listed startups that have sponsored the event.
Entertainment, ecommerce and consumer services are the only other segments that have more than one startup from—- with 5, 3, and 2, respectively.
Interestingly, multiple sectors that are little talked about made it to the IPL. Proptech (Strata), for instance, along with the likes of wealth management (Upstox) and energytech (Ather Energy).
However, surprisingly, only one edtech startup is participating in IPL 2022 (Unacademy), and the same was the case with D2C (Happilo). The density of startups in these segments is not mirrored as participation in IPL.
Mumbai Indians And Royal Challengers Bengaluru, The Startup Champions
No IPL team has less than two startups as their sponsors/partners, with CSK being the only team with less than three startup partners.
Three-time IPL finalists Royal Challengers Bengaluru and Mumbai Indians, the five-time IPL winners, have the most startups either sponsoring the team or participating as a partner. Both of these teams have onboarded seven startups each.
Interestingly, Gujarat Titans, one of the two new franchisees, has onboarded the second-most startups with six. It even features a startup – Ather Energy – as its Principal Sponsor that will appear on the front of its jersey.
KKR and RR showcase five startups each, SRH, PBKS, and LSG have onboarded four startups each, and LSG features three startups.
In all, the total corpus of partnerships has reached 47 total participations across 10 teams.
Leading Startups At IPL 2022
While RCB and MI are leading the IPL teams in terms of startups onboarded as partners and sponsors, Dream11 has become the most prolific startup in terms of the number of teams sponsored/partnered with.
The gaming unicorn has partnered with seven teams, the most among the 29 startups participating. Acko and The Souled Store followed closely, with six partnerships and sponsorship deals each. Meesho remains the startup with the third-most partnerships throughout IPL, with four partnerships.
IPO-bound boAt, which had teamed up with six IPL franchises last year, has come down to four this year, while ShareChat has come down from six to one in terms of the partnerships. Incidentally, ShareChat is partnering with Sunrisers Hyderabad via its recently-acquired subsidiary MX TakaTak.
In terms of principal sponsorships, six IPL teams have onboarded startups as Principal Sponsors, and these sponsors feature on the front of the jerseys of these teams.
KKR has become the only IPL team to feature two startups – WinZO and Unacademy – as Principal Sponsors.
With that out of the way, let us meet the 29 startups (so far) that have announced their participation in the Tata IPL 2022.
The Startups Sponsoring The IPL
Founded in 2010 by Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Paytm returns to IPL 2022 as the Official Umpire Partner of the tournament.
Paytm had the largest Indian tech IPO in November 2021, when it was listed on the stock exchanges, with plans to raise $3 Bn and target a valuation of $25-30 Bn. However, since then, Paytm has seen its stock price plummet, and amid multiple controversies, the Noida-based startup’s stock is currently trading 75% down from its IPO price.
Recently, Paytm has faced allegations of sharing customer data with Chinese firms, which came up in an annual RBI audit. Apart from that, Sharma was allegedly arrested in Delhi for reckless driving. Paytm has since then denied the allegations, but that completed the controversy triumvirate, sending stock prices reeling.
According to reports, Paytm has invested INR 28 Cr to be the Umpire Sponsor of Tata IPL 2022; the exact figure remains unconfirmed.
Founded by Bhavit Sheth and Harsh Jain in 2008, Dream Sports over the years has ventured into providing multiple fan engagement avenues, including fantasy sports, content, commerce, experiences and events among others. Dream11 is one of the subsidiaries of the unicorn.
Its fantasy sports platform Dream11 claims to have 80+ Mn users. The startup has been eyeing an IPO worth $1.5 Bn, valuing it at $6 Bn, in the US.
Dream11 is an official sponsor of Tata IPL 2022. The gaming unicorn also partners with seven IPL teams, the most, this season. The unicorn is the principal sponsor of Punjab Kings, official partners with CSK, MI, SRH, RR, and GT, while being the Associate Sponsor of DC.
Dream11 did not share the exact financial details for the deals, which was the same for every startup that has participated in this year’s IPL.
Unacademy was founded in 2015 by Gaurav Munjal, Hemesh Singh, and Roman Saini. It initially started as a YouTube channel, and at present, the edtech giant boasts of 50K teachers and has more than 62 Mn students.
The startup offers education in 14 Indian languages to students present in 5,000 cities. It enjoys the support of marquee investors such as Elevation Capital, Blume Ventures, Sequoia Capital, Steadview Capital, Facebook, Tiger Global, among others. The edtech unicorn was valued at $3.4 Bn during its last round. According to Inc42 sources, the startup is looking to commence its physical presence starting with the Delhi NCR region.
At the IPL 2022, Unacademy joins as an official sponsor of the competition, while it also partners with Kolkata Knight Riders as a Principal Sponsor and features on the back of the team’s jersey.
Founded in 2018 by Shah, CRED offers premium credit card users rewards and benefits for paying credit card bills. Currently, the startup boasts over 7.5 Mn members, partnerships with 12+ credit card issuers (banks), and a recent $5 Mn investment in the debt recovery platform CredAvenue.
In April 2021, CRED raised $215 Mn funding in a Series D round, at a post-money valuation of $2.2 Bn, becoming a unicorn in about three years. In October the same year, the fintech startup raised $251 Mn in its Series E round co-led by Tiger Global and Falcon Edge.
At IPL 2022, the fintech unicorn has joined as an official sponsor, for a reported INR 35 Cr. However, CRED did not confirm the figure.
Upstox’s parent company RKSV Securities was founded by Shrini Viswanath, Raghu Kumar and Ravi Kumar in 2008. It started as a proprietary trading firm but ventured into retail brokerage with the launch of Upstox in 2012. The startup offers online stock market investment services, advisory services, mutual fund investments and more.
With its recent funding round worth $25 Mn with Tiger Global at more than $3 Bn valuation, Upstox became the 40th Indian unicorn of 2021, in a year that saw a total of 42 new unicorns being made.
Upstox is an official sponsor of Tata IPL 2022, choosing not to disclose the financial details behind the partnership.
Launched in Gurugram and Bengaluru in 2020, Swiggy Instamart is now serving customers across 18 cities, and doing more than 1 Mn orders per week, it said. Swiggy, its parent company, announced its plans to invest $700 Mn in Instamart in December 2021.
Earlier the same year, Swiggy had closed a $1.25 Bn round of funding led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2 and Prosus, in a Series J round that also saw the participation of Qatar Investment Authority, Falcon Edge Capital, Amansa Capital, Goldman Sachs, Think Investments and Carmignac, and existing investors Accel Partners and Wellington Management.
Swiggy Instamart is an official partner of IPL 2022, representing the grocery delivery segment at this year’s cricket marathon.
Founded in 1999 by Ashish Hemrajani, Parikshit Dhar and Rajesh Balpande, BookMyShow’s online ticketing platform for events, movies, sports and plays, was launched in 2007. The company has raised close to $225 Mn in funding from investors such as Accel Partners, Elevation Capital, TPG Growth, Stripes Group, among others.
Coming in the latest to the party, BookMyShow recently announced that it will be the official ticketing partner for IPL 2022.
As part of the deal, BookMyShow will also manage venue services for all stadiums, including gate entry and spectator management services for the 70 league matches. The tickets will be available from INR 800 onwards.
Founded by Varun Dua and Ruchi Deepak in 2016, Mumbai-based Acko is an independent digital general insurance startup, which creates products and delivers opportunities in areas such as personalised insurance products based on user consumption behaviours.
Last year, Bloomberg had reported that Acko could raise $200 Mn in the new funding round at more than $1 Bn valuation, entering the unicorn club with the same. Acko is one of the leading startups at IPL 2022 in terms of partnerships with IPL teams.
It has partnered with six teams in total. It is an official partner of Mumbai Indians, official sponsor of Sunrisers Hyderabad, Kolkata Knight Riders, and an Associate Sponsor of Delhi Capitals, Gujarat Titans and Lucknow Super Giants.
The Souled Store
Founded in 2013 by Aditya Sharma, Rohin Samtaney, Vedang Patel, and Harsh Lal, The Souled Store is a D2C casual wear brand that started as a branded merchandise apparel brand. Recently, The Souled Store has made Sara Ali Khan its equity partner. Khan has infused an undisclosed amount in the D2C startup.
Talking with Inc42, The Souled Store said that it has partnered officially with Mumbai Indians, Chennai Super Kings, Lucknow Super Giants, Kolkata Knight Riders, Punjab Kings, and Rajasthan Royals.
“With the IPL returning home to India, fans (potentially) being allowed to watch games LIVE, the addition of 2 new teams – this will be a big, big season for us,” The Souled Store told us. The startup further shared about the new merchandise that it is working on, for the latest edition of the Indian Premier League.
Founded by Vidit Aatrey and Sanjeev Barnwal in 2015, Meesho is an online reseller network for individuals and SMBs, who sell products within their network on social channels such as WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram.
It has about 13 Mn individual entrepreneurs, bringing the ecommerce benefits to 45 Mn customers pan India. Last year, Meesho raised $300 Mn in a round that took its valuation to over $1 Bn, making it India’s first social commerce unicorn.
In a recent announcement, Meesho said that it is participating as an official partner of Royal Challengers Bengaluru, Gujarat Titans, Mumbai Indians, and Rajasthan Royals.
Launched in 2016 by Aman Gupta and Sameer Mehta, boAt is an audio-tech startup that manufactures products earphones, headphones, speakers, soundbars, travel chargers, premium rugged cables, and more.
The startup has to date raised more than $116 Mn across six funding rounds and counts Qualcomm Ventures, Warburg Pincus, InnoVen Capital, Fireside Ventures, among others as its investors. The startup has filed its DRHP worth INR 2000 Cr and has become the first Indian D2C startup to head for IPO.
It has participated with four startups this IPL season, down from six the season before. These teams include PBKS, RCB, DC and GT.
Founded in 2017 by Anish Achuthan, Ajeesh Achuthan, Mabel Chacko and Deena Jacob, Open offers business banking, payments and expense management services to more than a million small and medium enterprises. The startup claims to have boarded more than 2 Mn SMEs and processes over $24 Bn annually. Open claims to add 100K new SMEs every month.
In October last year, Open raised $100 Mn in a Series C round. The funding was led by Temasek and also saw participation from Google and SBI Investment. Existing investors, Tiger Global and 3one4 Capital. At IPL 2022, Open is associating with two IPL teams – RCB and KKR as their official partner.
Founded in 2013 by Tarun Mehta and Swapnil Jain, Ather is engaged in designing, manufacturing and production of electric automobiles and charging infrastructure. Hero was one of the early investors in the startup. The auto giant first invested to the tune of $27 Mn in the Series B funding round in 2016, and then later, another $17 Mn in 2018.
Recently, Hero’s board of directors has approved INR 420 Cr investment in Ather Energy, taking the former’s stake in the latter to 34.8%. At IPL 2022, Ather Energy is the Principal Sponsor of Gujarat Titans and appears at the front of the jersey of the newest IPL franchisee.
Bombay Shaving Company
Founded in 2016, Bombay Shaving Company began its life as a D2C men’s shaving and grooming products startup that then expanded into diverse hair removal and hair care categories including a women’s hair removal range that the startup is betting on.
It has a portfolio of more than 100 SKUs and the list includes shaving regimens, trimmers, beard products, razors for women, wax strips, hair removal creams, and other personal care products and accessories. It has raised a total of INR 170 Cr in an ongoing Series C funding round.
Bombay Shaving Company is one of the official partners of Mumbai Indians for this season of IPL.
Founded in 2015 by Vikram Chopra, Gajendra Jangid, Ruchit Agarwal and Mehul Agrawal, Cars24 offers a platform for car owners to sell their used cars at the best price. Cars24 has also forayed into selling used two-wheelers. In this segment, the startup competes against CredR, OLX, Quikr, among others.
In 2020, the startup entered the unicorn club by raising $200 Mn in a Series E funding round led by DST Global. Further, it has plans to raise another $350 Mn and go for an IPO within the next 12-18 months.
At the IPL 2022, Cars24 will take the pitch as a Principal Sponsor of Sunrisers Hyderabad and it will feature on the front of the team’s jersey.
Founded by Avinash Kumar and Mayank Batheja in 2017, Credenc is a lending tech startup that gives out education loans to students. The startup claims that it has approved loans worth $15 Mn till now. It further claims that it receives more than 200 loan requests a day and undertakes a rigorous evaluation process.
Last year, it had raised $25 Mn in a funding round led by Capital India Finance. Before that, it had raised $2.5 Mn in seed funding in 2019. Credenc has partnered with Lucknow Super Giants as an official sponsor.
Founded by Naveen Surya in 2006, Ebixcash helps consumers and businesses in international remittance based on GTV and foreign exchange, digital payments, domestic money remittances, prepaid cards and various other factors.
The company utilises phygital strategy and claims to combine over 650K physical agent distribution outlets throughout India and Southeast Asia to an omnichannel online digital platform. It has recently submitted its DRHP to SEBI, for an IPO worth INR 6,000 Cr.
Ebixcash will feature on the front of the jerseys of Punjab Kings as the team’s Title Sponsor.
Fino Payments Bank
Founded in 2007, Fino PayTech received the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) approval to set up a payments bank in September 2015. The payments bank began its operations in June 2017, and it competes with Paytm Payments Bank, Airtel Payments Bank, and Jio Payments Bank.
Fino Payments Bank turned profitable in FY21, reporting INR 20.4 Cr in profits and a total income of INR 791 Cr, up 14% year-on-year. The startup headed for an IPO in November 2021, making it the only other listed startup to feature at IPL 2022 that’s not called Paytm.
At the latest edition of IPL, the fintech startup has partnered with Rajasthan Royals as an official partner.
Going from one Rajasthan Royals partner to another, Happilo is a D2C healthy snacking brand. Founded in 2016 by Vikas Nahar, it offers a slew of products including dry fruits, trail mixes, nut protein bars and muesli. The startup claims to have grown its business 4X in the last 24 months.
Add to that, it is reportedly eyeing a revenue target of INR 2,000 Cr in the next four years. Recently, the startup has raised $25 Mn in funding from Motilal Oswal Private Equity (MOPE).
The startup, as mentioned, will take to the pitch on the front of the Rajasthan Royals jersey, as the team’s Title Sponsor.
Founded by Nischay AG and Misbah Ashraf, Jar operates an app that allows users to invest in gold and get started within seconds. The app works with Paytm to set up a recurring payment and is also the first to use UPI 2.0’s recurring payment support. Users can withdraw the physical gold or liquidate it.
The startup, last month, raised $32 Mn in Series A round at a valuation of $200 Mn. The round was led by Tiger Global, with participation from Rocketship.vc, Third Prime, Stonks, Force Ventures and existing investors including Arkam Ventures and WEH.
Jar will feature as an official partner of Royal Challengers Bengaluru.
Founded in March 2016, Finnov operates KreditBee for digital lending as well as KrazyBee, a non-banking financial company (NBFC). It specialises in personal loans and consumer durable loans up to INR 2 Lakh with tenures ranging from two months to 15 months. It claims to have a user base of over 20 Mn.
The most recent fundraise that KreditBee saw was the infusion of INR 600 Cr from PE fund India SME Investments through a mix of both equity and debt.
The startup will feature as an official partner of Royal Challengers Bengaluru at IPL 2022
Founded in 2018 by Sai Srinivas Kiran G and Shubh Malhotra, MPL offers various gaming options, including daily fantasy sports. MPL, at the latest edition of IPL, has partnered with RCB as an Associate Sponsor.
At present, MPL claims to have 85 Mn users in India, the US, and Indonesia. For years, the startup has partnered with several game developers and added more than 70 games to its platform.
The startup became a unicorn in 2021 after a Series E round by raising around $150 Mn from Legatum Capital, Accrete Capital and Gaingels LLC, at a pre-money valuation of $2.3 Bn.
Founded in 2019 by Yogendra Kashyap, RapiPay offers agent-based payment solutions for businesses. It also offers services such as mobile recharge, DTH recharge, money transfer, bill payments, cash withdrawal, AEPS, among other services.
The fintech startup is doing 1 Mn daily transactions and has served more than 100 Mn customers, witnessing robust growth of 25% month-on-month in basic banking services. RapiPay has recently raised $15 Mn in funding to launch NYE, a digital banking super app.
At the Tata IPL 2022, RapiPay will feature as an Associate Sponsor of Delhi Capitals.
ShareChat was founded in 2015 by Ankush Sachdeva, Bhanu Singh, and Farid Ahsan. The social media platform positions itself as an Indic language social media platform. Moj and ShareChat together have a user base of 340 Mn.
Recently, it acquired the short video platform MX TakaTak in a merger with Moj in a deal worth $700 Mn.
The startup was prolific in raising funds last year, becoming a unicorn in a Series E funding round worth $502 Mn, and raising another $145 Mn in a Series F round, taking its valuation to $2.88 Bn.
Last IPL, ShareChat had partnered with six teams. However, this IPL will see ShareChat featuring as an official partner of Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Founded in 2016 by Rajan Bajaj, slice (earlier Slicepay) is a fintech startup offering credit solutions targeting young consumers between the age of 18 and 29. The startup issues credit cards and payments cards to this segment in partnership with Visa and SBM Bank, allowing this cohort to build a good credit score.
The startup provides a credit line starting from INR 10,000 going up to INR 10 Lakh. In 2021, slice entered the unicorn club in a Series B funding round that saw it raise $220 Mn.
At the IPL 2022, the fintech unicorn features as the title sponsors of Mumbai Indians, appearing on the front of their jerseys.
Founded in 2020 by former VC Ajay Lakhotia, StockGro has a gamified virtual interface that enables users to discover trading strategies, compete and interact with others.
The startup has managed to blend in gaming, social and trading elements for its platform. StockGro has onboarded several B-Schools across the country to hone these students’ trading and investment skills.
StockGro raised $32 Mn in a Series A round led by BITKRAFT Ventures, General Catalysts, and Itai Tsiddon. At IPL 2022, StockGro will feature as an official partner of Royal Challengers Bengaluru.
Founded in 2019 by Sudarshan Lodha and Priyanka Rathore, Strata allows investors to own and sell units of pre-leased, grade-A commercial properties such as office spaces, warehouses, industrial assets, and so on.
Earlier this year, the proptech firm, the only one at IPL 2022, raised $6 Mn in a Series A round co-led by Kotak Investment Advisors Limited, Gruhas Proptech, and Sabre Investments.
For this IPL, Strata is sponsoring Mumbai Indians as an official partner.
Founded in 2018 by Arpi Mehta, Pravin Shetty, Manjul Jain and Anirudh Kale, Toothsi makes dental products that include invisible 3D printed teeth and offers at-home dental services with a team of dentists and tech experts on board.
According to the startup, it has conducted more than 65,000 ‘smile makeovers’ so far and has recorded a 5x year-on-year growth over the previous year in FY2021. In January this year, the healthtech startup raised $9 Mn in a debt funding round led by Stride Ventures.
Toothsi has partnered with Gujarat Titans as an Associate Partner for the latest IPL edition.
Founded by Paavan Nanda and Saumya Singh in early 2018, the startup partners with third-party developers to host games on their android app, where users can enjoy personalised multiplayer gameplay experiences. The platform is available in 12 languages with more than 50 Mn registered users.
WinZO’s most recent funding round happened in July 2021, when it raised $65 Mn in a Series C funding round, taking the total capital raised by the startup to $90 Mn.
WinZO has partnered with Kolkata Knight Riders as a Principal Sponsor and will feature on the front of the team’s jersey.
Tata IPL 202 – A Pitch For Startups
The sheer number of startups that feature at this year’s IPL is a testament to the growth of India’s startup ecosystem, which has seen a boom over 2021.
With 12 new unicorns this year already, we are looking at another big year for the country’s startup ecosystem, and many of the companies that are teaming up with IPL franchisees are what we call ‘soonicorns’ – startups that are close to becoming unicorns.
Not only this IPL represents a paradigm shift in terms of traditional sponsorship deals with the teams and the competition itself, but also presents itself as a stage, or rather, as a pitch, for ambitious startups to come to play and attract customers and investors alike.
The exact figures were not revealed by any of the startups featured here, citing multiple reasons, but we expect a good deal of RoI over the coming years. Some of these names are returning to the field, having had success previously (such as Paytm) while others are retracting (such as ShareChat).
In the end, the IPL has become much more than just a cricketing affair – it carries high stakes for the country’s startup ecosystem, too.