Entrepreneur-turned-angel investor Kunal Shah is known by numerous names. He is the unconventional risk-taker who has so far been successful in launching multiple startups in India.

Kunal decided at the age of 16 that he would put in a lot of effort and by the time he turned 35, he would be so wealthy that he would no longer need to work for a living.

Kunal Shah, Founder of CRED Image
Source: Inside CRED's Growth Strategy

Awards and Achievements

  • Comeback award– Economic Times (2016)
  • Economic Times 40 Under 40– Times of India (2016)
  • Fortune 40 Under 40– Fortune (2016)
  • Fortune 40 Under 40– Fortune Magazine (2015)

Kunal's Journey from Being in College to Founding Freecharge

Kunal planned to pursue either engineering or medicine after graduating from high school, but because of a part-time job, he was unable to concentrate on his academics and was therefore unable to enrol in either field.

He decided to pursue a B.A. in Philosophy.

Kunal used to hawk mehandi cones and illegal music CDs while he was in college to cover his tuition costs.

Later, he ran numerous enterprises out of his house, including a modest cybercafé.

In addition to running all these side ventures, Kunal had a job.

As a programmer, Kunal worked for a startup named dot-com in 2000.

Sadly, this startup failed, thus he eventually joined  an another startup called Net4Pharma.

Then, He enrolled in the part-time MBA programme at Mumbai's Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS) in 2003 but left after a few semesters.

“I realised that I was better off learning on my own than through a structured programme, because the curriculums and theories were a lot more designed for scoring marks and not really understanding things. So, to me MBA as a format did not work,” he said.

After quitting his MBA school, he started working as a junior programmer once more for a business process outsourcing company.

Kunal afterwards worked in other startups for many years.

Kunal launched the website PaisaBack in 2009. When shopping online, this website used to offer cashbacks, coupons, etc.

Later, PaisaBack assisted him in starting Freecharge.

After ending the PaisaBack promotional discount campaign in August 2010 alongside Sandeep Tandon, Kunal created the company "Freecharge," serving as its CEO until October 2016.

His motivation for creating Freecharge was to make it possible for individuals to top off their phones online at a time when most Indians were still doing so through offline retailers.

Customers were offered free vouchers from reputable brands like KFC, Barista, PVR Cinemas, and more if they completed an online bill payment or recharge. The concept capitalised on the word "Free."

Many firms benefited from the concept, and Freecharge was highlighted on reputable websites like Rediff, The Hindu, and ET Now to create their success story.

Sequoia Capital invested 200 million INR in Series A capital, which accelerated the company's business operations the very next year. It stated that it generated roughly INR 2.1 billion in revenue in 2012.

Selling Freecharge

After conducting thorough research on client brand preferences, purchase behaviour, and product enhancement, Freecharge created its network and grew its customer base.

Freecharge was awarded the most promising Indian technology startup by Pluggd In in 2011. Freecharge was purchased by Snapdeal in April 2015 for an astounding $400 million in cash and equity.

One of the biggest acquisitions in the history of tech firms was this takeover. Shah continued to run the business until October 2016, when he made the decision to leave.

The following day, on July 27, 2017, Axis Bank purchased Freecharge for $60 million.

Kunal began working for YCombinator as a part-time partner in January 2016 and remained there until December 2016.

He also held the position of Chairman of the Internet and Mobile Association of India from January 2016 to May 2017. (IAMAI).

Since January 2016, Kunal has invested in businesses both domestically and internationally using the proceeds from his Freecharge acquisition. Last but not least, he invested these profits in 80 startups including Unacademy, Razorpay, etc.

He began working for Sequoia Capital as an advisor in January 2017.

Kunal was also given the opportunity to become a partner here, but he turned it down and continued working as an advisor until December 2017.

Here Comes the CRED!!!

CRED Launch Kunal Shah Tweet 

Kunal worked for a variety of businesses, but he wasn't happy with any of them and desired to found (start) his own business.

In April 2018, he established the financial business- CRED, headquartered in Bangalore.

Over 5.9 million people currently use the app, which handles 20% of all credit card payments in India.

A fintech business based app in India that lets customers use CRED  to pay with their credit cards.

It reinvests user money on several platforms and offers numerous additional services, like housing rent payment.

Even though the odd business model has drawn much criticism from tech experts, the company is currently valued at $2.2 billion.

Deep Dive into CRED Business Model:

CRED Business Model: How CRED Earns Money? [2022 Updated]
CRED is a lifestyle platform that rewards its users with CRED coins for making credit card payments through its app. It significantly reduces the hassle of managing multiple credit cards by making the process extremely simple, easy, and convenient.

The startup attracted a lot of attention for both its extraordinary seed fundraising round and its distinctive business approach.

Shah has been concentrating his enterprises on providing customers with a wonderful shopping experience because he is a sharp observer of consumer behaviour.

CRED has been introducing a number of cutting-edge products, such as CRED Cash, an instant credit line that can be accessed in three easy steps, and Rentpay, which lets you pay your monthly credit card rent for a minimal transaction cost.

At present, CRED has more than 6 million users and a current market value of over $4 billion in only a little more than two years.

For Shah, though, valuations are meaningless since, in his opinion, unicorn tags represent the expectations and convictions of stakeholders.

From a Founder to Angel Investor

Shah is a proponent of India's startup environment and an active angel investor in addition to running his own business.

A recent Hurun India survey places Kunal Shah at the top of the list of businesspeople who have made the most investments in businesses that may become unicorns in the next years.

He has investments in nine of these businesses. Ratan Tata and Binny Bansal come after Shah.

By funding numerous ventures, including Go-Jek, Zilingo, Unacademy, Shuttl, Chillr, Innov8, Lifcare, TinyOwl, Spinny, Jugnoo, Mobile Premier League (MPL), Azani, Tapzo, Runnr, Flyrobe, Razorpay, Voonik, TVF, PocketAces, Rupeek, Dil Mil, and others, Kunal is also assisting the entrepreneurial community.

Shah, a Mumbai native who first had to take on numerous odd jobs to make ends meet, is now actively investing in startups in an effort to pay it forward and support businesses that create jobs since he thinks that is what the country needs most right now.

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