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“Quikr, Quikr on the wall, are you the fairest unicorn of them all”?

If the startup ecosystem were to be seen as a caste system (and some would say that it often is), the very apex of this pyramid would be populated by an exalted set of companies known as ‘unicorns’—companies that have been valued at over a billion dollars.

While there have been reams of newsprint expended discussing the various aspects of Indian unicorns like Flipkart, Ola and Paytm, there is one among this rarified set that has largely escaped scrutiny.

Say hello to Quikr.

Founded by Pranay Chulet and Jiby Thomas in 2008, Quikr is an Indian classifieds advertising platform that is said to be valued at $1.3 billion.

A Craigslist for India

According to Chulet, the original inspiration for Quikr came from Craigslist, the leading classifieds listings portals in the US. “Before I started Quikr, I was working in the internet sector in the US. Quikr is modelled on Craigslist. Sitting in India, I could rent out my apartment in New York. It made complete sense to have something like this in India.”

Prima facie, it did make ‘complete sense’.

After all, we are talking about a market of over a billion people collectively who hitherto had to rely on expensive newspaper classified advertisements to sell their personal effects, buy second-hand goods and find jobs or a life partner. Beyond individuals, there were hundreds of thousands of small enterprises that faced similar problems marketing their wares and connecting with consumers.

There were already the likes of Justdial that were making slow but steady progress weaning Indians away from newspaper classifieds. But these were either offline (relying on the printed ‘yellow pages’ types of media) or dependent on phone calls. In short, the market was still fragmented and unorganised.

What if Quikr could emulate Craigslist and create an internet-powered platform that could provide Indians with a single portal for their buying and selling needs? Surely that was a large market opportunity, and one that is worth backing.

And back investors did.

Hitherto, Quikr has raised nearly $350 million in funding from a clutch of investors including Tiger Global Management, Warburg Pincus, Norwest Venture Partners and AB Kinnevik. Curiously, this list of investors also includes Bennett Coleman & Co (The Times Group), India’s leading media conglomerate, which has invested Rs 130 crore in the company. This can be interpreted either as a bet on the future of local search commerce in general or as a hedge against declining newspaper classified revenues.

So what has Quikr managed to achieve with this funding?

Premortem of a unicorn

According to a recent report by Kinnevik, one of Quikr’s investors, “Quikr is used by over 30 million unique users a month and the platform generated 9.1 million responses in September 2016.

AUTHOR

Sumanth Raghavendra

Sumanth is a serial entrepreneur with more than eighteen years experience in running startups. He is currently the founder of Deck App Technologies, a Bangalore-based startup attempting to re-imagine productivity software for the Post-PC era. Sumanth’s columns appear regularly in leading publications. He holds MBA degrees from the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore and Thunderbird, The American Graduate School of International Management, USA.

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