Mensa, house of D2C brands, secures $135 mn to become Asia's fastest unicorn
By: Asia Business Outlook Team | Wednesday, 17 November 2021
Bengaluru-based Mensa Brands, a technology-led ‘House of Brands’ set up for the e-commerce industry, has raised Series B funding of $135 million, led by Alpha Wave Ventures-Falcon Edge Capital with participation from all existing investors - Accel Partners, Norwest Venture Partners and Tiger Global Management. Prosus Ventures (Naspers) also invested in Mensa in this newest funding round.
Within six months of starting the business, Bengaluru-based Mensa has raised a total of more than $300 million in equity and debt. The company has been valued at over $1 billion in the latest round of funding, making it the newest member of the coveted unicorn club and it has become Asia’s fastest company to reach such status. US shopping site Jet.com holds the unicorn speed record – its $1 billion valuation occurred just 4 months after the company was founded. Mensa is the 36th startup to achieve unicorn status in 2021 in India.
Founded by former Myntra and Medlife CEO Ananth Narayanan, Mensa is already cost-effective. It intends to use the funding to continue partnering with founding teams of customer-loved brands and assist them become household names. Additionally, it’ll invest in hiring across functions and continue building out its tech platform and other growth capabilities.
“We are grateful for the confidence from our investors and our brand partners. Our deep focus on technology and digital brand building, as well as our people, has allowed us to grow 3X of our initial plan,” stated Ananth Narayanan, Founder and CEO of Mensa Brands. He launched the firm this year after getting a blockbuster exit from the PharmEasy-Medlife deal.
“We at Mensa Brands are primed to build global breakout brands from India. I am especially proud that more than 50 per cent of our brands are led by women founders and that Mensa supports small- and medium-sized businesses across the country,” said Narayanan.
Mensa kick-started its journey in May 2021 with a vision to cohort and invest in digital-first brands across fashion and apparel, home and garden, beauty and personal care and food and scale them exponentially. Mensa works closely with founding teams to accelerate growth on marketplaces, throughout the brand's own websites, and global platforms by using a combination of initiatives across product, pricing, marketing, distribution, and brand building with a
technology platform at the core. “We are excited to continue backing Ananth Narayanan as he executes a best-in-class playbook of brand aggregation and acceleration focused on Indian and global e-commerce brands,” said Navroz Udwadia, Co-founder and Partner of Alpha Wave Ventures | Falcon Edge Capital.
He said Mensa exhibits a tangible uplift through a combination of product and pricing optimization, technology-led process improvement, distribution and marketing augmentation and fine-tuning the supply chain. “These levers meaningfully accelerate the growth and margin trajectory of the brands and make them well-poised to become category leaders. We believe Mensa is well on track to cement its reputation as the partner of choice for well-performing e-commerce brands,” stated Udwadia.
The process of collaborating with Mensa from initiation to execution is hyper-efficient, often closing within 4-8 weeks. To date, the firm has partnered with 12 brands, majority of which are growing at 100 per cent year-over-year since their integration with Mensa. One partner brand, Villain, a leading men’s fragrance, and accessories brand grew by +250 per cent in October. Another partner brand, Karagiri, a leading high-end designer sarees brand has grown by +140 per cent in October.
“Armed with exceptional prior leadership experience in two major businesses, Ananth has been able to build a top-class team and partner with more than 12 companies to embark on a journey of building a tech first global house of brands from India,” stated Niren Shah, Managing Director and Head of Norwest Venture Partners India. “The speed and quality of execution has been impressive, and we are delighted to continue to back Mensa as it becomes the fastest unicorn in Asia.”
Ashutosh Sharma, Head of Investments, India, Prosus Ventures (formerly Naspers) said the organisation is excited to support Mensa Brands in their journey to build digital-first global brands from India. “Their team brings superior execution focus and technology chops to help emerging brands scale digitally,” said Sharma. “This is an incredible time for made-in-India businesses, and we look forward to helping to fuel their future success.”
“We're excited to continue our partnership with the superstar team at Mensa led by Ananth (Naryanan) on their hyper-growth trajectory,” said Subrata Mitra, Partner at Accel Partners. “It's a new approach to ecommerce that aligns our ability to identify exceptional entrepreneurs and accelerate their business with Mensa's tech platform and brand building capabilities.”
Mensa is a Thrasio-type startup and many such ventures are emerging in the country. US-based Thrasio is a digital consumer goods company that acquires private label Amazon FBA businesses and direct-to-consumer e-commerce brands.
In July this year, Flipkart Ventures and Tiger Global made an investment in Thrasio-style venture G.O.A.T. Brand Labs. It is using the funding to accelerate the growth of digitally native brands in India. G.O.A.T was founded by Rishi Vasudev and Rameswar Misra, who bring with them decades of expertise in this space. Vasudev, a veteran retail executive, previously headed Flipkart's fashion business. The same month, India's largest Thrasio-style investment venture, GlobalBees raised $150 million in a mix of equity and debt in a Series A led by e-commerce company FirstCry and some of its investors with additional participation from Lightspeed Venture Partners.
In June, this year, 10club, one of the early movers in the e-commerce roll-up space, secures $40 million in seed funding. It is primarily using the funding for expanding 10club’s portfolio of brands, investing in building its technology stack, and for working capital purposes. 10club partners with e-commerce product sellers in India by acquiring their businesses.