Startups

Months-old Uni raises $18.5 million seed round to expand India’s credit card market

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Image Credits: Jon Hicks (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

The credit card industry in India appears to be stuck. According to industry estimates, between 30 million to 35 million people in the country today have at least one credit card, with up to 58 million being in circulation. Compare this to almost 1 billion debit cards.

One reason the vast majority of the population has not made the cut is because they don’t have a credit score. And so few people have a credit score because banks and credit card companies still rely on age-old methodologies to determine someone’s creditworthiness. For example most banks in India are only comfortable issuing credit cards to individuals who have full-time employment with one of a few hundred companies listed in dated spreadsheets the banks maintain.

Nitin Gupta, a veteran in the financial services business, has co-founded Uni (Image Credits: Courtesy photo, Nitin Gupta)

Nitin Gupta, through his new startup Uni, wants to address some of these issues. And he is one of the few individuals in the country who is positioned to do it. He co-founded PayU India, and then ran ride-hailing firm Ola’s financial services business.

During his tenure at PayU, the startup established a dominance in the payments processing business in the country. And at Ola, he launched Olamoney Postpaid, a service that allows customers to pay for their rides at a later stage. Olamoney, which was valued at $250 million last year, is now one of the largest financial services businesses in the country.

Serious VCs are now willing to bet on Gupta’s new venture.

On Tuesday, Uni announced it has raised $18.5 million in its seed financing round led by Lightspeed and Accel. The startup currently does not have a product, but it took Gupta only two months in the middle of a global pandemic to raise what is one of the largest seed financing rounds in India.

Jayanth Kolla, founder and chief analyst at consultancy firm Convergence Catalyst, said an “$18.5 million seed funding for a two-month old startup without even a product or an MVP yet — based purely on the founder’s credentials and history — is one of the first instances of a pure-play Silicon Valley type funding in India.”

In an interview with TechCrunch, Gupta said at Uni he is joined by two more senior executives — Laxmikant Vyas and Prateek Jindal — who have stellar records in the financial services business.

He declined to reveal what exactly Uni’s product — or line of products — would look like, but suggested that Uni is building the modern age consumer credit card.

“It would seem very obvious when it comes out, and people will wonder why nobody else thought of it,” he said, adding that he is working with multiple banks on partnerships.

The adoption of digital payments has grown exponentially in the country in the last five years, but the credit card business is still struggling to make inroads, he said, adding that he sees an opportunity to expand the credit card base to 200 million over the next five years.

“Nitin and Uni’s team are passionate about unlocking the power of financial services for millions of Indian consumers using new tech-powered solutions,” Bejul Somaia​, a partner at Lightspeed India, said. “We are excited about their mission and proud to support them from day one.”

India’s 9-month-old CRED raises $120M to help people improve their financial behavior

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