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BENGALURU : Mensa Brands, which buys stakes in digital brands, raised $135 million at a valuation of around $1.2 billion, it said on Tuesday, making it the fastest Indian startup to reach unicorn status.

The funding round was led by Falcon Edge Capital’s growth-stage platform Alpha Wave Ventures. Other existing investors who participated in the round include Accel Partners, Norwest Venture Partners and Tiger Global Management, along with new investor Prosus Ventures.

Mensa reached the coveted unicorn status—a privately held startup with a valuation of $1 billion—in just six months. The previous quickest unicorns, achieving the label in around two years, were jobs platform Apna, cab aggregator Ola Electric, business-to-business marketplace Udaan, lock screen solution Glance, and Paytm Mall.

Ahead of the pack
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Ahead of the pack

Mensa Brands plans to deploy the fresh capital to accelerate growth, ramp up acquisitions and scale its team across operations, marketing and technology. The company has close to 60 employees and looks to scale it to 150 -200 over 12-18 months.

Founded this year, Mensa Brands follows a brand aggregation strategy. It acquires and partners with digital brands and accelerates their growth through providing on-ground expertise and tech-led interventions in marketing and operations.

Mensa currently focuses on brands in fashion, beauty, cosmetics and home furnishing.

“One of the key reasons to raise another round of investment this year is to invest in more brands. There are a lot more inbound deals coming our way, and we look to tap into those opportunities. Close to 80% of this fundraising will go in bringing these brands to Mensa’s fold. The second is to grow and scale our brands both in domestic and international markets, as well as to scale our team," Ananth Narayanan, founder and chief executive officer of Mensa Brands, said in an interview.

Narayanan added that Mensa acquired 12 brands to date and looks to scale this to 40 brands over the next 12-18 months. The company is in the process of closing eight deals, he added.

The average ticket size to acquire a brand is in the $4- 5 million range, Narayanan said.

“Close to four of our total 12 brands are selling in international markets. We are forming partnerships with international e-commerce majors such as Amazon, Walmart and Target to retail these brands. Today 15% of our revenues come from international geographies. We can see this number grow to almost 30% in 12-18 months. However, our brands will be primarily focused on the India opportunity," added Narayanan, who was the chief executive of Myntra and Medlife, before starting Mensa in May.

Within six months of starting the business, Mensa has already raised more than $300 million in equity and debt. It has also secured debt financing from Alteria Capital, InnoVen Capital, Piramal Capital, Stride Ventures and TradeCred, among others.

“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.

In May, Mensa raised around $50 million as a part of its Series A round, led by Accel Partners, Falcon Edge Capital and Norwest Venture Partners. It raised another $33 million in August.

“We are excited to support Mensa Brands in the journey to build digital-first global brands. The team brings superior execution focus and technology chops to help emerging brands scale digitally," said Ashutosh Sharma, head of investments, India, Prosus Ventures.

The rivalry in the ‘house of brands’ e-commerce space is heating up, with Thrasio-style e-commerce ventures such as 10Club and GlobalBees raising $40 million and $150 million, respectively, in one of the largest early-stage rounds among Indian startups.

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