Asia-Pacific’s Leading Disruptors 2019: India

FinanceAsia is showcasing the entrepreneurs who are leading the wave of technological disruption across the region. Here we look at India.

In line with our mission to shed light on the many investment opportunities popping up across Asia and Australasia, FinanceAsia is showcasing the entrepreneurs who are leading the wave of technological disruption in different countries and across a range of sectors.

Their companies range in size and maturity, but these people share a common drive and vision to compete against established institutions, whether in financial services, retail, energy, robotics, or logistics, to name just a few of the industries featured.

Following our methodology, we have selected five entrepreneurs from each of Asia Pacific's largest economies. Today we explore India's entrepreneur scene.


Indian startups are more consumer-oriented than in other countries across the region. Case in point, the world’s largest democracy by population was home to the largest online retail deal in history last year, when Walmart acquired a majority stake in Flipkart for $16 billion.


Company: OYO Rooms

Headquarters: Gurgaon

Year founded: 2013

Industry: Accommodation

Prominent backers: Softbank Vision Fund, Grab

Aged just 25, OYO Rooms founder and chief executive officer Agarwal has already created a hospitality empire. OYO is an international network of accommodation for budget travellers that started with a single hotel in Gurgaon, India, in 2013.

After graduating from secondary school, the entrepreneur created his first startup: bed and breakfast aggregator Oravel Stays. Agarwal received backing from venture capitalists and was the first Asian recipient of PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel’s fellowship programme.

The Thiel fellowship requires recipients to drop out of university and pursue a business idea with $100,000 backing from the programme. This led Agarwal to develop Oravel, which targeted the Bed & Breakfast market.

After finding limited success, the entrepreneur decided to target a wider market with OYO.“Worldwide there is no hotel chain in the fewer-than-100-rooms segment and 90% of hotel assets worldwide have fewer than 100 rooms,” Agarwal told the audience at the Young Turks 2018 Conclave.

“I saw that there was a big opportunity for small hotels which people could franchise and lease and use technology to operate very efficiently.”

Today, OYO is the third-largest hotel chain the world with, for example, 10,000 rooms in Malaysia, 20,000 in Indonesia and more than 500,000 rooms in China. Besides hotels and hostels, OYO recently entered the co-working space sector and rents offices in New Delhi and Hyderabad.


Company: Ola

Headquarters: Mumbai

Year founded: 2010

Industry: Transportation

Prominent backers: Softbank, Tiger Global

Aggarwal is co-founder and chief executive of Indian ride-hailing and car rental company Ola which, in July, completed its Series J round of funding.

The entrepreneur graduated from Mumbai’s Institute of Technology (IIT) in 2008 and his tertiary education experience mirrors the success of his later startups. He failed his first entrance exams to IIT and waited a year to retake them. Similarly, the entrepreneur’s first venture, Olatrips, proved a failure before pivoting to become Ola Cabs.

“While [working on] we very quickly realised that transportation is a much bigger problem,” Aggarwal said in an interview last year with CNBC. “We had our own pain points when we tried to sell trips to consumers, they were telling us ‘please help us with the transportation’.”

Ola Cabs, which he co-founded with several university classmates, has become a ride-sharing platform with a market share to rival that of Uber. 

This year has seen a rapid national expansion of the company’s transport offerings. Ola bike taxis are now available in more than 150 cities across India, while Aggarwal recently unveiled an electric car fleet. There have been discussions of self-driving vehicles as well.

Besides moving people, Ola functions as a food delivery app as well as a financial services platform offering micro-insurance and credit to users.

Ola is now aggressively looking for new international markets and in August launched on Australia’s Sunshine Coast.


Company: Azure Power

Headquarters: New Delhi

Year founded: 2008

Industry: Energy

Prominent backers: Helion Venture Partners, IFC

Wadhwa is the founder and recently retired chief executive officer of Azure Power. The company produces on average 1.5 gigawatts a year – equivalent to the energy consumption of Inner London for seven and a half months.

In 2016, Azure became the first Indian power company to list on NYSE and released the nation’s first solar green bond the following year.




Company: 1mg

Headquarters: Gurgaon

Year founded: 2015

Industry: Health, E-Commerce

Prominent backers: Redwood Global Healthcare Fund, Sequoia Capital

Tandon is the co-founder and chief executive officer of online health portal 1mg, India’s largest medical website.

The entrepreneur studied at Delhi’s Institute of Technology before moving overseas to pursue a master’s degree at Stanford. On his return to India, he co-founded, which was the precursor to 1mg. Tandon was among the first entrepreneurs in India to capitalise on the booming online pharmaceuticals business. 


Company: Paytm

Headquarters: New Delhi

Year founded: 2010

Industry: E-Commerce, Payments

Prominent backers: Ant Financial, Alibaba

Sharma is the founder of e-commerce and mobile payments platform Paytm, which launched nine years ago and processes more than 400 million transactions each month.

Forbes ranked Sharma as India’s youngest billionaire in 2017 with a net worth topping $2 billion, but as the son of a schoolteacher in northern India, his origins are humble. While studying engineering at university, the entrepreneur started his first business,, which he sold two years later. 

Sharma founded Indian telco One97 Communications with the proceeds of the sale. Paytm is owned by One97 Communications and specialises in telephone bill and utility payments. 

Today customers can book movies, flights, trains, accommodation and events, as well as a range of consumer goods online.

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