Indian fintech startup BharatPe has raised $370 million in a new round of financing as it looks to aggressively scale its business in the next two years. It’s the nineteenth Indian startup to become a unicorn this year (up from 11 last year) as several high-profile global investors double down in the South Asian market.
The new round — a Series E — was led by Tiger Global and valued the New Delhi-based startup at $2.85 billion (post-money), it said in a statement Tuesday evening. Dragoneer Investor Group and Steadfast Capital also participated in the new round, which brings the startup’s to-date raise to over $580 million against equity.
Tuesday’s news confirms a TechCrunch scoop from June in which we reported that the four-year-old startup was looking to raise about $250 million at a pre-money valuation of $2.5 billion. BharatPe was valued at about $900 million in its Series D round in February this year, and $425 million last year.
BharatPe co-founder Ashneer Grover confirmed that the startup was indeed looking to raise $250 million until inbound requests from investors prompted an oversubscription. The new investment also includes some secondary transactions ($20 million).
The startup, mired in some sketchy behavior and which has seen some of its high-profile executives depart in recent quarters, also appointed Suhail Sameer as its new chief executive.
“I am happy to appoint Suhail Sameer as the CEO in recognition of stupendous business growth he has delivered during the last 1 year and his ability to lead from the front,” said Grover, adding that he will oversee strategy, product, technology, and capital moving forward.
BharatPe, which counts Coatue, Ribbit Capital and Sequoia Capital India among its existing investors, 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 650 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 7 million merchants in over 130 Indian cities, said it has disbursed close to $300 million to merchant partners. It does not charge merchants for universal QR code access, but is looking to make money by lending.
BharatPe plans to expand its product offerings as well as work with Centrum Financial Services, with which it was recently granted the license by India’s central bank (Reserve Bank of India) to set up a small finance bank. (Centrum Financial Services has collaborated with BharatPe for the license, and the Indian startup says the two are “equal” partners.)
“We now have US$ 0.5B cash on books and are extremely well capitalized to deliver on our mandate to build India’s first truly Digital Bank. Rarely does one witness the original thesis play out without any pivot,” said Grover.
Tuesday’s development further illustrates the growing interest of Tiger Global in India. The New York-headquartered firm has backed dozens of Indian startups, including social commerce startup DealShare, edtech Classplus, Apna (an app that helps blue-collar workers connect with recruiters) and home services platform Urban Company in recent months.
On Tuesday, Infra.Market, an Indian startup that helps construction and real estate companies procure materials and handle logistics for their projects, said it had raised $125 million in a round led also by Tiger Global.