India is a major part of Google’s global focus. The company launched a new product in India last week as its program to bring free WiFi to the public registered its 400th railway station. Now, the U.S. tech giant is continuing to deepen its focus after CapitalG — its venture arm formerly known as Google Capital — made its first fintech investment in India by backing micro-loan startup Aye Finance.
CapitalG led the $21.5 million Series C round which also included participation from existing investors SAIF Partners and LGT, who were part of a $10.5 million investment in 2016. Since that round, Aye Finance has raised over $30 million via a series of debt investment-based deals, according to data from Crunchbase.
Update: The original version of this story stated that the deal is CapitalG’s first in India, but the firm has already backed a number of startups in the country including FreshDesk, Practo, Cardekho, and Cuemath. The Aye Finance deal is, however, the first investment in an Indian fintech startup — we have since corrected the story and apologize for any confusion.
Aye Finance offers micro-loans to small businesses in India that are not on the radar of banks and traditional financing companies, and also don’t qualify for programs run by the likes of Flipkart and Amazon. The firm aims to digitize the market of informal money lending and loan sharking. Its disbursements are typically used as working capital for SMEs.
Over its four years of operations, the startup claims it has paid out more than 60,000 loans. Today, it claims to cover 10 states in India through a network of 72 branches. The firm touts its use of technology, and in particular data, which helps keep operating costs low and efficiency high.
In particular, it targets industry ‘clusters’ — aka industry verticals — which allows it not only to develop more accurate metrics for analyzing the potential of a business than the general criteria that traditional financiers follow, but it also helps generate new leads through word of mouth.
“We have used insightful data models and technology to provide affordable business loans to the financially excluded micro enterprises across India [and] CapitalG’s access to Google expertise in scaling businesses using analytics and technology will strongly supplement our approach. We are at an exciting juncture, where the business model has been proven and is also scaling well,” Sanjay Sharma, Aye Finance founder and managing director, said in a statement.
Google’s previously made its first direct investment in an Indian startup when it backed Dunzo, a startup that operates a concierge app, in December 2017. Now CapitalG is catching up with its first deal on Indian soil.