In this long essay, in fact my longest ever at ~7k words, I set out the evolution of the Indian startup ecosystem, or ‘Indus Valley’, and the emergence of the Indus Valley playbook — a distinct set of hacks and business models that help startups win in the unique Indian market.

I have been thinking of writing this essay for a while now. Many of the individual elements of the playbook I share were identified and later shaped in my mind as we developed sectoral theses for investing at Blume. Others came through interactions with founders. And a few as I wrote this piece out.

The essay has three sections

  • Origin and evolution of the India startup ecosystem or Indus Valley as I call it.
  • Forcing functions or constraints that influence Indus Valley – these include a relatively small consuming class, emergence of a two-track consumer startup ecosystem, presence of a high-quality English-speaking tech workforce, an undersized + underformalized enterprise space, and an over-indexed venture + startup ecosystem.
  • A look at the playbooks that have evolved in Indus Valley given the forcing functions: these include distinct India1 + India2 approaches in sectors such as Ecommerce, EdTech, Fintech; consumertech startups designed for success in U.S. market a la their B2B SaaS peers; full stack models over marketplaces; SaaSTra or SaaS + Transaction as an approach for Bharat SaaS; reducing reliance on ad-led models etc. I double click on each of these themes or playbooks, to detail out the playbook. Occasionally I speculate on future playbooks.

I have had trouble publishing long essays on this site (for some inexplicable reason), and hence am going to link to my LinkedIn page where the full article is hosted. I encourage you to visit the same to read it. In case you have trouble accessing that page, try this, or even this.