July 14, 2023
NEW DELHI – Ambiga Subramanian has become the first woman to head an Indian unicorn startup
which has a value of over $1 billion.
Ambiga Subramanian, a former CEO of data analytics firm Mu Sigma, is now the youngest of India’s eight richest self-made women. This is as per the Hurun India rich list 2017, published on September 26 by Shanghai-based research firm Hurun Report.
Subramanian ranked fourth after Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, chairperson of biotechnology company Biocon, with a net worth of over Rs2,500 crore ($381 million). Vembu Radha, director at software products maker Zoho, and Sheela Gautam, chairperson emeritus of mattress-maker Sheela Foam are all behind Subramanian.
The Hurun India rich list ranks Indians with wealth in excess of Rs1,000 crore ($152 million).
In 2016 Subramanian sold her 24% stake in Illinois-based Mu Sigma to her Ex husband Dhiraj Rajaram, the company’s founder and chairman, after their divorce. Rajaram emerged as the controlling shareholder of the firm which he established in 2004 then went on to buy stock options held by his employees. Mu Sigma is estimated to have a valuation of $1.5 billion.
Subramanian has also ranked among India’s most powerful businesswomen by Forbes in 2016.
Subramanian and Rajaram first met in the early 1990s at the College of Engineering, Guindy, in Chennai, they both studied electrical engineering. The two later went on to study computer engineering at Wayne State University in Michigan. She began her career in 1998 with the American telecom major Motorola, where she worked for eight years whereas Rajaram worked with consultancies such as Booz Allen Hamilton and PwC before he initiated his own business with Mu Sigma, which he funded by selling their home in Illinois and putting in $200,000 of his personal savings. Subramanian joined the company in 2007.
Mu Sigma grew rapidly on the back of a model that delivered big-data analytics to multinational corporations from centres in India. Today, it employs over 4,000 workers and serves 140 of Fortune 500 companies.
In 2012, it crossed the $100 million revenue mark and went on to become India’s first profitable unicorn. For the financial year 2015-16, Mu Sigma posted a profit of Rs462.9 crore (paywall), a 22% increase from the year before. It has raised over $211 million so far in seven rounds of funding, backed by investors such as Sequoia, General Atlantic, and Mastercard. It counts American companies such as Walmart, Microsoft, and Dell among its clients.
However, 2016 didn’t go quite well because of an internal crisis the company faced some serious turmoil when Subramanian and Rajaram decided to get divorced, and many important employees left the company in the crisis, resulting in chaos led to a loss of business. In the year ended December 2016, Mu Sigma’s revenues fell to $165 million, from $184 million and the turmoil was finally put to rest when Rajaram bought out Subramanian’s stake. Ambiga Subramanian is now doing her best on her own terms working for her startup and staying out of the public eye.