Actor-turned-entrepreneur Sonu Sood co-founded an AI-based social media app Explurger along with industry veteran Jitin Bhatia
Kriti Sanon cofounded fitness startup The Tribe along with Anushka Nandani, Karan Sawhney and Robin Behl
Actor-cum-investor Varun Dhawan added a new startup to his investment portfolio in the name of cloud kitchen aggregator Curefoods in April this year
There is a common thread between Bollywood and Indian Startups— they serve common masses. The latter with their well-thought out products and services. Hence, the coming together of two fraternities in one platform is nothing less than obvious.
Over the years we have seen, Indian startups have allured people from different walks of life. From investors to business corporates to Bollywood celebrities— all have eyed the ever-growing startup ecosystem of the country.
Popular Bollywood celebrities have stepped into investors’ shoes and a few simultaneously founded one or two startups, too. Examples are aplenty!
Bollywood Actors Investing In Indian Startups
Actor-turned-entrepreneur Sonu Sood has co-founded an AI-based social media app Explurger along with industry veteran Jitin Bhatia. The freemium app creates automatic travelogues using AI and rewards users for being interactive.
It essentially helps users discover itineraries curated by travelers along with maps, photos and guides. Presently, it is running in beta version and used by more than 50K users across 40 nations.
This is not the first time when Sood has gotten into entrepreneurship. Prior to this, he founded a job search platform for migrant workers named Pravasi Rojgar which raised INR 250 Cr from Goodworker in November 2020.
In 2020, he invested in rural fintech startup Spice Money via his company Sood Informatics LLP where he endorsed the business as its brand ambassador and joined the board as a non-executive member too.
Bollywood actress Kriti Sanon started her entrepreneurial journey with the launch of her fitness startup The Tribe. The website and app-based startup is cofounded by Sanon, Anushka Nandani, Karan Sawhney and Robin Behl.
“We at The Tribe believe in motivating you to become the best and the fittest version of yourself- Be it with in-studio, group/personal or virtual sessions with some of the coolest, youngest and fittest trainers who will not only push your limits but also make workouts super fun,” Sanon said.
The Tribe essentially offers virtual and in-studio products including customised nutrition plans and training workshops. Tribe’s website and app are currently under progress while its Instagram page is operational for nearly two years now.
Actor cum investor Varun Dhawan added a new startup to his portfolio by making an investment in cloud kitchen aggregator Curefoods in April this year. As a part of the deal, Dhawan inked a long-term association with dark kitchen aggregator thereby, becoming the brand ambassador of EatFit.
Dhawan said, “I strongly resonate with Curefoods and Eatfit’s mission to provide access to multiple food categories while featuring healthy options. I look for the same while eyeing my fitness goals. As such, I am beyond excited to endorse Ankit and his team as an investor and brand ambassador. I can’t wait to show the audience some of the great campaigns we have in the works.”
Earlier, he also made an undisclosed investment in D2C brand Fast&Up which manufactures nutraceuticals and immunity boosting supplements.
Rakul Preet Singh
Bollywood actress, Rakul Preet Singh made her first investment in D2C health and nutrition startup Wellbeing Nutrition. As part of the deal, Singh also became the brand ambassador for the startup.
Founded in 2019 by Avnish Chhabria, Wellbeing Nutrition sells vitamins and minerals supplements via its website and offline distribution channels. It has more than 2000 retail stores in India while over 5K retail stores are being operated in the US, UK, UAE and Germany.
The startup also partnered with Disney to launch its children-focussed organic vitamins, probiotics and omega supplements.
Actor and cricket presenter-cum-entrepreneur Gaurav Kapur infused an undisclosed sum into the D2C brand Flatheads. As part of the deal, Kapur also joined the brand as brand ambassador.
Founded by Ganesh Balakrishnan and Utkarsh Biradar, Flatheads manufactures sneakers for customers. It claims to be making bamboo and banana sneakers to help customers cope with the tropical climate of India.
Besides, currently, Kapur manages a six-year-old sports-centric online media startup named Oaktree, as per his LinkedIn profile. His investment portfolio also includes Haryana-based beverage brand Jade Forest and influencer discovery platform Chtrbox, which was acquired by QYOU Media last year, as per the Crunchbase report.
Sara Ali Khan
Sara Ali Khan has made an undisclosed investment in casual wear and pop-culture D2C startup The Souled Store in March 2022. Besides this, she has become an equity partner in the D2C startup.
“I am delighted to partner with The Souled Store. In a short span of time, the brand has carved a niche for itself in the casual wear space. Being an ardent pop-culture lover, and a firm believer in originality and comfort being as important as fashion, I see the brand as a perfect fit to invest in. I look forward to being part of the TSS family,” said Sara Ali Khan.
Founded in 2013 by Vedang Patel, Harsh Lal, Aditya Sharma and Rohin Samtaney, The Souled Store offers pop-culture wear and casual wear for men and women. It claims to have more than 180 licenses such as Disney, Warner Bros, WWE, IPL, and Viacom18.
Samantha Prabhu, who is renowned in South Indian and Bollywood film industry, has made her first investment in an Indian startup in March 2022. She invested an undisclosed amount in Hyderabad-based SustainKart, an ecommerce marketplace for sustainable products, part of its seed-round funding.
“We are scheduling SustainKart’s first offline store launch in April. We have started partnering with entrepreneurs who believe in sustainability to launch our franchise experience stores across India. We aim to launch 30 stores in the first year and a total of 100 stores in two years from now,” said Shilpa Reddy, cofounder, SustainKart.
Launched in 2021 by Shilpa Reddy and Kanthi Dutt, SustainKart offers sustainable and eco-friendly products ranging from fashion to decor, beauty and wellness, furnishings to gifting, nutrition and snacks, kids care, pet care, among others.
Rana Daggubati, who commonly plays antagonist roles in Bollywood movies, also follows an entrepreneurial approach. In March 2022, his startup Ikonz raised an undisclosed seed funding from early-stage VC firm Village Global and technology investment firm Woodstock.
The fund raised would be used to ramp up artistic talent from across the globe and hire top tech talents to build its metaverse and drop non-fungible tokens (NFTs) from its IP partners.
In January 2022, Socialswag, which was launched by Daggubati and Akshay Kumar, raised close to $3.5 Mn in Pre-Series A funding round led by IMEF and Unicorn India Ventures.
After setting foot in the Indian film industry, Athiya Shetty is now embarking on her investment journey. She invested an undisclosed amount in Delhi NCR-based social commerce startup Stage3 in March 2022.
In addition, she will join Stage3 as its creative director. The startup plans to bank on Athiya’s stardom and fashion sense, and fuel its position within the creator economy.
Founded in 2016 by Sabena Puri, Sanchit Baweja and Rina Dhaka, Stage3 is a social commerce marketplace for fashion and lifestyle.
Athiya’s backing follows Stage3’s $2.65 Mn Pre-Series A round in December 2021, led by Inflection Point Ventures and LC Nueva Investment Partners, among others. With the funds, the startup aimed to improve technology infrastructure, hire talent and build data science capabilities.
Besides a successful acting career, Suniel Shetty is actively engaging in the startup ecosystem. In February 2022, he infused an undisclosed amount in fitness startup Aquatein. He also became the brand ambassador of Aquatein.
As per the startup, its products meet daily life nutrition needs. “Adequate hydration is the key to a healthy life. Merging that with a macronutrient one needs, creates a no-nonsense solution for everyone which is accessible, easy to consume, low on calories and shaker free,” the Mumbai-based startup said.
Founded in 2019 by Ananta Prabhala, Aquatein is a keto-friendly, gluten-free, lactose-free and 100% vegetarian drink which is basically made of water with added protein.
Earlier in 2021, the actor showed interest in the NFT space and joined an NFT marketplace on the polygon network Colexion. He joined Colexion as an investor and advisor.
Pankaj Tripathi, who is famous for his antagonist roles in movies, has shown his faith in the Indian startups by making an undisclosed investment in the agritech startup Krishi Network.
With the investment, Krishi Network plans to scale its AI-based technology platform across India and grow rapidly.
The deal is counted as the first investment of Tripathi in the Indian startup sector.
Over the years, Anushka Sharma has backed some homegrown startups and also founded her D2C fashion line Nush. In February 2022, she along with her husband Virat Kohli made an undisclosed investment in plant-based meat startup Blue Tribe.
Founded in 2017 by Sandeep Singh and Nikki Arora Singh, Blue Tribe is a meat-alternative startup that provides plant-based meat products such as frozen minced chicken, chicken nuggets, keema, sausages, and momos — that taste, look, feel and cook like meat but are plant-based.
Earlier in 2020, Anushka Sharma along with her husband infused $340K in fintech unicorn Digit Insurance’s funding round. Digit Insurance raised nearly $84 Mn in the then-funding round.
Tiger Shroff, who is famously known for his action films, has a business mindset too. In January 2022, he made an undisclosed amount in the English learning startup for 3-12 year-olds Freadom’s funding round.
Freadom raised $2.5 Mn in a fresh funding round led by Capital A and a slew of other individual investors. The funding would be used in product development and distribution, and also to further strengthen the startup’s vertical presence.
The startup, founded in 2016 by Kavish Gadia and Nikhil Saraf, uses AI and data science to drive English language learning. It allows children to learn to read in English in any country where it is an aspirational second language.
Earlier in 2016, Tiger Shroff launched his clothing line Prowl that sells clothes on its website and online marketplace Amazon.
The Bollywood actress, Deepika Padukone has several feathers on her hat. After gaining success in media and entertainment, she founded her fashion line called All About You in 2015.
Her family office marked its first investment this year with its participation in the $7.1 Mn Pre-Series B funding round of Women’s wellness D2C brand Nua in June 2021. Padukone is also set to work closely with the brand to ideate and create new solutions
Its next investment was in the $3.2 Mn seed funding round of learning and community platform FrontRow in August 2021. It offers classes taught by celebrities from different fields including music, cricket and comedy.
In September 2021, KA Enterprises, the investment arm of Padukone’s family office, invested an undisclosed amount in Mumbai-based cleantech startup Atomberg Technologies’ Series B funding round. The home appliance startup manufactures energy-efficient, remote and voice-controlled fans and fan accessories.
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan
The former pageant winner and Bollywood actress, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan has made a few bets on Indian startups. She invested INR 5 Cr in nutrition-based healthcare startup Possible; as part of a larger funding round where the startup raised INR 15 Cr ($2 Mn). This is Bachchan’s second investment in the Indian startup ecosystem
Founded in 2015 by Vishu Saraf and Megha More, Possible claims to offer a research-driven nutrition service and healthy food products that can supposedly help with sustainable health management, weight loss and the management of lifestyle diseases. The program includes a personal coach that assigns customers a customised diet plan.
In 2019, she had invested in environment intelligence startup Ambee.
Farhan and Zoya Akhtar
Farhan Akhtar, who is a Bollywood actor, director, screenwriter, playback singer, and Zoya Akhtar, who is an Indian film director, screenwriter and producer together made an undisclosed investment in EV-manufacturer Ola Electric.
Besides the brother-sister duo, other investors including Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma invested in the EV-manufacturing startup.
Alia Bhatt is one of the leading actresses in Bollywood. In 2021, she started her investments with StyleCraker and listed startup Nykaa.
Following this, she also launched her own startup called Ed-a-Mamma, which is a kidswear fashion brand that offers clothes for children between the ages of two and fourteen. The brand sells its products through its own website as well as through platforms Amazon and Flipkart.
In 2021, she invested in D2C wellness startup Phool.co, which converts floral waste into charcoal-free luxury incense sticks and other products. It plans to utilise the freshly-infused capital towards its research and development and expand its footprint globally.
Malaika Arora, who is a Bollywood actor, dancer, and television personality, showed her entrepreneurial side in 2021. Last year, she launched Malaika Arora Ventures to invest in lifestyle, health, fashion and wellness brands.
The fund marked its first investment in October last year in D2C ayurvedic nutrition brand Kapiva. Arora also joined the startup as a brand ambassador.
Shraddha Kapoor, who is a Bollywood actress and singer, has now turned into a business investor. In 2021, she invested an undisclosed amount in personal care company MyGlamm, where she also joined as a brand ambassador.
Akshay Kumar, who is famously known for his athletic and simple lifestyle, is an entrepreneur investor too. In 2019, he invested an undisclosed amount in Mumbai-based wearable tech startup, GOQii. He also joined the startup’s board as an investor and strategic advisor.
Founded in 2014 by Vishal Gondal, GOQii is a smart wearable that helps people track their steps, sleep, and other physical activities, and then does more. Its smart health ecosystem integrates tools for real-time personalised coaching, an explosive high-growth health ecommerce store, scheduling health checkups, a health locker among others.
In January 2021, Kumar and Rana Daggubati together launched fan engagement startup Socialswag.
Priyanka Chopra, who is quite famous in Bollywood and Hollywood, shows confidence in startups too. In 2021, she created a buzz with her investments in alternative college education startup Holberton School and dating app Bumble.
San Francisco-based Holberton School was founded in 2015 by Julien Barbier, Rudy Rigot and Sylvain Kalache as a project-based alternative to college for the next generation of software engineers. Bumble was founded by Whitney Wolfe Herd in December 2011 as a ‘feminist dating app’.
Chopra said that she is honoured to join the two startups that are striving to expand gender diversity in the tech space and make a social impact for the greater good of society. After her investment, Bumble launched its operations in India.
Ayushmann Khurrana, who is a Bollywood actor and singer, turned into an investor in 2019 when he invested an undisclosed amount in Gurugram-based male grooming startup The Man Company (TMC). The actor became the brand ambassador for TMC as well. This is the actor’s first first investment in a startup.
TMC founder and managing director Hitesh Dhingra said that the funding is part of a strategic investment, and the actor would not hold any board position. He added that the funds will be used for branding and ramping up presence across India.
The Man Company was founded in 2015 by Bhisham Bhateja, Hitesh Dhingra, Rohit Chawla and Parvesh Bareja. The startup is known to offer a head-to-toe range of men’s grooming products across various categories, including bath and body management, shaving and perfumes.
Last updated on 18th June, 2022