India’s resilient stock market sets the stage for record-breaking IPOs

June 22, 2021, 9:09 AM UTC

India’s stock markets endured the country’s devastating second COVID wave with surprising resilience. Now, companies are lining up to take advantage of that positive investor sentiment with a series of initial public offerings that could raise a record amount of money in the current fiscal year.

As of June 11, 18 companies have received approval from the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) to go public, and another 27 companies are awaiting the green light, according to Prime Database, an Indian database dedicated to the primary capital market.

That pipeline is forecast to raise Rs 75,000 to 80,000 crore or $10.2 billion to $10.9 billion, says Prithvi Haldea, founder and chairman of Prime Database. With more companies expected to file for IPO approval, the total amount raised in the fiscal year ending in March 2022 is likely to exceed the previous high of $11.1 billion set in 2018, he says. 

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“The rush of IPOs will continue as long as the secondary market remains buoyant,” Haldea says.

India’s benchmark BSE index on Monday closed 0.4% shy of its all-time high of 52,773 points, set on June 15. During India’s second COVID wave, which infected millions, killed tens of thousands, and locked down large swaths of the country, the market took an initial hit but rebounded quickly, hovering around the psychologically important 50,000-point threshold, even as coronavirus cases topped 400,000 per day

Investors looked beyond the second wave’s immediate hit to demand, focusing instead on India’s alluring long-term fundamentals: The economy is expected to grow this year at its fastest pace since the global financial crisis; the government plans to boost medium-term growth with federal spending; and India boasts the world’s second-largest population, which is also one of its youngest. Indian consumers are going digital faster than expected thanks to the pandemic. For instance, the number of people using online grocery services more than doubled to 23 million in 2020, according to management consultancy RedSeer.

What’s more, liquidity is readily available, and interest rates are low. 

Those factors have coalesced to juice investor confidence and convince startups that now is the time to list. 

Deep Mukherjee, a visiting faculty member at the Indian Institute of Management in Kolkata, says the abundance of liquidity has lowered the cost of equity capital, encouraging companies to go public. “Businesses that are looking for capital are likely to go for equity over debt,” he notes.

Some of the startups in the IPO pipeline matured to unicorn status after years of venture capital investment. The IPO of Paytm, an 11-year-old digital payments company that’s backed by SoftBank and China’s Ant Financial, is one of India’s most highly anticipated. It’s set to raise a reported $3 billion in a listing that could come later this year. Zomato’s IPO also promises to be a blockbuster. The 12-year-old online food delivery company that controls over 50% of India’s market is set to raise $1.1 billion. SoftBank-backed Policybazaar, India’s largest online insurance company, founded in 2008, is expected to raise $500 million

And for others, India’s turbocharged digitization during COVID accelerated their journey to an IPO. 

CarTrade, a digital platform for buying and selling new and used vehicles, says its revenues jumped 50% in the fiscal year ended March 2020. It’s planning to raise a reported $270 million in its upcoming IPO. 

“The pandemic has fast-tracked the growth trajectory and consequent time to market these companies as more people shifted their shopping, payments methods, health checkups, and other businesses online due to the pandemic,” says Manisha Girotra, CEO of Moelis India, an independent investment bank.

If this string of IPOs is successful, it could cement India’s reputation as a hub for business creation and high returns, analysts say.

“Institutional investors have a significant appetite to buy into IPOs of technology-driven companies [in India], having benefited from investing in several such peers in the U.S. and China,” says V. Jayasankar, senior executive director at Kotak Investment Banking. “We are going to see at least four to five unicorns listed in India in the next year, paving the way for many more to follow.”

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