Indian tech unicorns are gaining ground while Chinese tech unicorns are losing ground. Is this a sign of good fortune or a burst bubble?
“The last thing India can afford is a burst bubble, forcing capital, talent, and technology to flee and seek refuge elsewhere,” writes Bhaskar Chakravorti.
Tiger Global Management, a New York-based investment firm, is well-known for pursuing unicorns — startups valued at $1 billion or more. If we followed the Tiger’s shifting gaze this year, we’d notice an intriguing migratory phenomenon: There are fewer unicorn sightings in China, the world’s largest unicorn habitat outside of the United States, and the beginning of an Indie unicorn stampede.
But first, let’s first step back and fill in the blanks
We start in China, where President Xi Jinping appears intent on suffocating the country’s most dynamic industry. I’m referring to China’s tech sector, which contributed more than 38% of the country’s GDP last year and was critical to Covid and the economy’s management. Nonetheless, Beijing has decided to tighten restrictions on the industry, resulting in a $1.5 trillion market value loss. The crackdown began last November, when Ant Group’s much-anticipated initial public offering (IPO) was abruptly halted, and Ant Group’s founder and global face of Chinese technology, Jack Ma, mysteriously disappeared.
Ant’s problems worsened, adding to the mystery. The government’s focus was not solely on the Ant Group. As soon as Didi Chuxing went public on the New York Stock Exchange, Chinese regulators barred it from accepting new users. Founders of companies like JD.com, TikTok, and Pinduoduo appear to be scared enough to retire early.
Then there were broad industry-wide changes, ranging from antitrust legislation to new data collection and use regulations. The influence of the state extends far beyond limiting access to capital markets and tightening regulations. Private tutoring is not permitted on weekends or holidays. Video games, on the other hand, are only permitted on Fridays and Saturdays.
Financial bloggers whose information contradicts official statistics are being phased out of the industry. Male digital idols deemed too effeminate, as well as certain digital celebrities and influencers, have fallen out of favor.
Needless to say, investors are concerned. Tiger Global Management ranked first among major hedge funds in terms of exposure to the risks posed by China’s tech crackdown. As one might expect, Tiger needed to look elsewhere, which led to its focus shifting to India. While Tiger is not a newcomer to the Indian market, its growing interest has piqued the interest of other investors.