Indian fintech CRED seeks funds at $5.5 billion valuation

Tech News

CRED has begun to engage with investors to raise money at a valuation of $5.5 billion as the Indian fintech startup eyes international expansion and inorganic growth, a source familiar with the matter told me.

The startup has received a number of inbound requests from investors and has also held talks with some in recent days to raise capital at a pre-money valuation of $5.5 billion, the source said, just weeks after the three-year-old startup was finalizing an investment of over $200 million at a pre-money valuation of about $3.75 billion from Tiger Global and Falcon Edge Capital among others, according to multiple people familiar with the matter.

The Bangalore-based startup disputed the claims.

In its conversations with investors, CRED founder and chief executive Kunal Shah has said that he plans to deploy the capital to invest in — and acquire — fintech startups, people familiar with the matter said.

The startup has already engaged with several firms. It recently invested in CredAvenue, which recently unveiled a $90 million in the nation’s largest Series A funding, and is in talks to back fintech startup Uni at a valuation of over $300 million, according to two people familiar with the matter.

CRED, which helps people improve their credit score by paying bills on time and has amassed over 7.5 million members, has this year also explored aggressively expanding its e-commerce platform.

On its app, the startup offers its members access to a range of premium brands. Earlier this year, CRED explored whether it should acquire some of the brands that sell on CRED.

The startup, unlike most others in India, doesn’t focus on the usual TAM of India — hundreds of millions of users of the world’s second-most populated nation — and instead caters to some of the most premium audiences.

“India has 57 million credit cards (vs 830 million debit cards) [that] largely serves the high-end market. The credit card industry is largely concentrated with the top 4 banks (HDFC, SBI, ICICI and Axis) controlling about 70% of the total market. This space is extremely profitable for these banks – as evident from the SBI Cards IPO,” analysts at Bank of America wrote in an earlier report.

“Very few starts-ups like CRED are focusing on this high-end base and [have] taken a platform-based approach (acquire customers now and look for monetization later). Credit card in India remains an aspirational product. The under penetration would likely ensure continued strong growth in coming years. Overtime, the form-factor may evolve (i.e. move from plastic card to virtual card), but the inherent demand for credit is expected to grow,” they added.

CRED has also expressed intentions to expand outside of India to potential investors. In one of the conversations with one of them, Shah said he has identified one international market where CRED is exploring to launch its offering, another person familiar with the matter said. TechCrunch couldn’t determine the name of the market.

CRED — backed by Tiger Global, Ribbit Capital and Sequoia Capital India and valued at $2.2 billion in an April round and $806 million in a round it disclosed in January — has been aggressively expanding to new categories in recent quarters. The startup lends to its members, giving them the option to pay their rent and tution fee from the app itself. In August, it launched Mint, a service through which it allows its members to lend to one another at an interest rate of up to 9% annually.

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