Oxford of the East: Pune

Sanskriti Bhatnagar

18 Jan'21

State: Maharashtra
Language: Marathi, Hindi, English
Population: 74,00,000 (2011)
Climate: Fairly Pleasant
Food: Chiwda, Bhakarwadi
Places to Visit: Pataleshwar temple, the 18th-century Shaniwarwada, the 19th century Aga Khan Palace, and the Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum
Industry Specialisations: Tech, iOT, Hardware, Automobile Manufacturing
Pune’s Own: Infosys (One of the world’s largest IT Consulting)

Of all superhero stories, the evolution chapter is the most fun. So, here’s our little attempt to talk about how the historical city evolved on the startup scene. In the last 20 years, most of the Multinational IT and Automobile companies have set up their base in Pune. The ecosystem has now become an IT Hub and people are leaning towards moving from the corporate to entrepreneurship. Even though it took several years to earn this title, Pune is also known as the Oxford of the East. Today, there are high potentials of students in Pune who are likely to turn to entrepreneurship and run a startup of their own in a few years.

Pune being the education hub for central India, the startup ecosystem of Pune enjoys unlimited fresh talent. Also, a lot of tech talent is readily available mostly due to a large number of IT services in and around Pune. According to a KPMG report released in 2019, about 2% of India’s tech startups are based in Pune.

Read about Pune 2.0, Startup Hub: home.kpmg/in/en/home/insights/2019/05/pune-startup-hub.html

Pune, The Ecosystem

The Pune ecosystem is unique in a way that the startups born here do not hesitate in collaborating. In a world where competition is rapidly growing, the founders here not only look for constant opportunities to find suitable partners for their business but are also extremely friendly and supportive of one another.

Let’s get down to business. Pune has been the launchpad for many startups, some of the most well known being Pubmatic, Druva, Embibe, Wingify, FirstCry, Pariksha, iCertis, Faasos, and Xpressbees! Most of them are well known in the Indian e-commerce market. A lot of Pune startups operate online. Even though B2B and SaaS are more in number, the more popular startups have mostly been the B2C startups.

Startups in Pune have seen a lot of acquisition stories, the biggest example of which would be Letsintern, which was acquired by Aspiring Minds in 2015. Tasty Khana, another such Pune-based startup was acquired by the food giant, FoodPanda. Embibe that moved to Bangalore got acquired by Jio.


That said, Pune is no stranger to massive funding rounds too. Pubmatic (USD$45 Mn, Series C), Druva (USD$25 Mn, Series D), Helpshift (USD$10 Mn, Series A), Sapience (INR 45 Cr.) FirstCry (USD$26 Mn, Series D) and Swipe Telecom (USD$10 Mn, Series A)! In total, Faasos has raised more than USD$280 million in the last Series D round, and FirstCry raised USD$268.4 million- it’s safe to say Pune has found some piece of VC pie.

Investors make up a huge part of the startup ecosystem and come in various forms. Pune has so far lacked in-house investors, all their rounds of funding have been raised by out-of-city/state/international investors. However, in recent years we have seen a small growth in the number of Venture Capitalists and Angel Investors emerge in the city.

Read about Funding in Pune: timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/pune/pune-ecosystem-players-happy-with-push-for-startups-seek-attractive-funding/articleshow/73894798.cms

As of June 2019, there are 19 Venture Capital firms in Pune. Firms like Guild, Wesley Clover, and SRKay Consulting Group are some of the VC firms that are in the city. Better Capital, Venture Catalysts, and Alacrity have also set up offices, and are growing operations steadily. They have close to 52 angel investors! With the ecosystem gaining considerable momentum in the recent past, we’ve seen organizations like the Pune Angels fly high! The Pune Angels are known for providing their partner startups with all the resources they need- be it financial help, guidance, or tech tools.

Incubators, Accelerators, and Stakeholders

Alongside this, TiE Pune, a non-profit collective of entrepreneurs, angel investors, and government officials, is also a key player in the Pune ecosystem. The Nurture @ TiE Pune programme has helped 800+ startups in the past 6 years, according to the KPMG.

Pune’s ecosystem is also home to Headstart Pune, a not-for-profit organisation that works towards the growth of the startup ecosystem in the country. In 2019, they impacted over 250 existing and budding entrepreneurs by conducting 10 editions of their flagship event, the Startup Saturday- a platform for networking, motivation, and knowledge for startups. In case you’d like to reach out to our team in Pune, write to pune@headstart.in

To further aid startups in their journey, Pune is a proud host of 19 incubators and accelerators. TiE Nurture program, Venture Center, BHAU Institute @ COEP, and CIIE are amongst some of the well-performing non-academic/non-governmental incubators that Pune has to offer. The acclaimed IIM Ahmedabad incubator in Pune is one of the more well known academic/governmental incubators in the city.

The Government

However, Pune’s recent growth and well-deserved attention doesn’t just stem from the efforts of the entrepreneurs and other ecosystem stakeholders. A lot of it can be attributed to the Maharashtra Government- the Startup India Maharashtra Yatra has been a wild success. Their innovation-friendly policies and initiatives along with the city’s IT/Automobile industries, high-quality education, affordable housing, and a pleasant climate are all massive factors that have contributed to Pune’s tremendous growth.


“The Pune Ecosystem has a huge amount of talent and the right potential to grow as it is a combination of both Bangalore and Chennai, Bangalore being the hub for large startups and Chennai being the source where successful businesses have originated.”, says Anshul Motwani, the Founder & CEO, WittyPen. In his opinion, Pune has the right inclination towards technology and can be the future for global tech companies.

Pune with it’s close proximity to the Metro city of Mumbai, was never overshadowed by the exponential growth of the neighbourhood. In a nutshell – it’s pleasant climate, academia, it’s proximity to the city of dreams and it’s history of the IT industry has made Pune’s startup ecosystem what it is today- small but closely connected and thriving.

There is still a long way to go and a lot of goals to achieve. Headstart is working towards increasing collaboration between different ecosystem players and providing early-stage startups with increased access to funds and mentors by connecting it with the markets of Mumbai and Tech prowess of Bengaluru.

Meet WittyPen, a startup that embodies the vibrancy of the Pune ecosystem here!

Contributed by:

Anoushka Chopra & Sanskriti Bhatnagar
Headstart Network Foundation

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