Indian fintech startup BharatPe is in advanced stages of talks to raise about $250 million in a new financing round led by Tiger Global, two sources familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.
The new round, a Series E, is giving the three-year-old New Delhi-headquartered firm a pre-money valuation of $2.5 billion, sources said, requesting anonymity as the matter is private. The round hasn’t closed, so terms may change, sources cautioned.
BharatPe, which prior to the new round had raised about $233 million in equity and $35 million in debt, was valued at about $900 million in its Series D round in February this year, and $425 million last year.
Indian news outlet the CapTable first reported about the talks between Tiger Global and BharatPe and said the round would value the startup at over $2 billion. BharatPe, which counts Coatue, Ribbit Capital, and Sequoia Capital India among its existing investors, declined to comment.
BharatPe operates an eponymous service to help offline merchants accept digital payments and secure working capital. Even as India has already emerged as the second-largest internet market, with more than 600 million users, much of the country remains offline.
Among those outside of the reach of the internet are merchants running small businesses, such as roadside tea stalls and neighborhood stores. To make these merchants comfortable with accepting digital payments, BharatPe relies on QR codes and point of sale machines that support government-backed UPI payments infrastructure.
The startup, which serves more than 6 million merchants, said it had deployed over 50,000 PoS machines by November of last year, and enables monthly transactions worth more than $123 million. It does not charge merchants for universal QR code access, but is looking to make money by lending. And it should now be able to achieve many of those goals more easily.
Becoming a bank
On Friday, India’s central bank RBI granted an in-principle licence to Centrum Financial Services, which acquired a struggling bank earlier this year, to set up a small finance bank. Centrum Financial Services has collaborated with BharatPe for the license, and the Indian startup said in a statement that two are “equal” partners.
In a statement, Jaspal Bindra, Executive Chairman of Centrum Group, said the two firms will work to create a “new age bank.”
The startup is additionally also working to launch two new apps, one of which is called PostPe and enables credit on QR UPI,
while the other B2C app will facilitate peer-to-peer lending at up to 12% interest (without any collateral; though BharatPe will serve as an intermediator), another source familiar with the matter told TechCrunch. The new products will launch as soon as this month, the source said.