Zeta in talks with SoftBank to raise at over $1 billion valuation

Banking tech startup Zeta is inching closer to the much sought-after unicorn status as it engages with investors to finalize a new round, two sources familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.

SoftBank Vision Fund 2 is in advanced stages of talks to lead a ~$250 million Series D round in the five-year-old startup, the sources said. The investment proposal values the Indian startup, co-founded by high-profile entrepreneur Bhavin Turakhia, at over $1 billion, up from $300 million in its maiden external funding (Series C) in 2019.

The round has yet to close, a third person said.

A SoftBank spokesperson declined to comment.

Five-year-old Zeta helps banks launch modern retail and fintech products. The thesis is that banks — largely operating on antiquated technologies — today don’t have the time and expertise to offer the best experience to hundreds of millions of customers and fintech firms they serve.

Zeta is attempting to help banks either use the startup’s cloud-native, API-first banking stack as its core framework or build services atop it to offer better a experience to all customers — think of improved mobile app and debit and credit features. It also offers API, SDKs and payment gateways to banks to work more efficiently with fintech firms.

The startup has amassed clients in several Asian and Latin American markets.

Turakhia, with his brother Divyank, started his first venture in 1998. Along the way, they sold four web companies to Endurance for $160 million. Zeta is the third startup Bhavin has co-founded since then — the other being business messaging platform Flock and Radix.

When the deal is finalized, Zeta would join a growing list of Indian startups that have turned a unicorn in recent months. Last week, social commerce Meesho — also backed by SoftBank Vision Fund 2 — fintech firm CRED, e-pharmacy firm PharmEasy, millennials-focused Groww, business messaging platform Gupshup and social network ShareChat attained the unicorn status.

The story was updated with additional details and to note that the round hasn’t closed.

Pine Labs acquires Southeast Asian startup Fave for $45 million

Pine Labs said on Tuesday it has acquired Southeast Asian startup Fave in a deal valued at $45 million as the Indian firm looks to strengthen its offerings in the domestic and international markets.

Fave helps an offline merchant connect and retain customers by using gift cards and vouchers. The startup allows merchants to accept digital payments by having a customer scan a QR code. Once the payment is made, the customer automatically receives a cashback / loyalty point through the Fave app that can only be redeemed at that specific business during future transactions.

“Customers love us because they get safe money, cashback and rewards for being on the platform. And merchants love us because they get a lot of new and repeat customers,” explained Joel Neoh, co-founder and chief executive of Fave.

This offering has especially proven useful to merchants in the pandemic as they scramble for ways to drive sales from existing customers, said Amrish Rao, chief executive of Pine Labs, in an interview. “Consumers, too, were looking for ways of cost-savings or ways to optimize their purchases.”

Pine Labs, which acquired a gift cards solution provider Qwikcilver in 2019, made its first investment in Fave last year.

Rao drew comparisons between Fave and Honey, saying the Southeast Asian startup is doing to offline businesses what Honey has achieved in the online world. “For the first time with QR, what I realized was you can do a wonderful job when it comes to loyalty, rewards, and the redemption in the offline world,” said Rao.

Leadership of Fave will continue to work at the startup post-acquisition and Rao said the team is working to bring Fave’s offering to customers in 3,700 Indian cities. (This is one of the rare times when a Southeast Asian startup is launching its offering in India.)

Neoh said in an interview that Fave also plans to launch a pay now later product in the next one to two months.

This is a developing story. More to follow…

Equity Monday: Microsoft buys Nuance, Uber isn’t dead, and Austin has a new unicorn

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This is Equity Monday, our weekly kickoff that tracks the latest private market news, talks about the coming week, digs into some recent funding rounds and mulls over a larger theme or narrative from the private markets. You can follow the show on Twitter here and myself here. It is good to be back!

There was a lot to get through, so, in order that we discussed the topics on the show, here’s our rundown:

Don’t forget that Coinbase is listing this week, yeah? Chat soon!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 AM PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts!

Tiger Global goes super aggressive in India

Recent roars from an investment firm, credited to put Indian startups on the global map in the past decade and a half, are turning local young firms into unicorns at a pace never seen before in the world’s second largest internet market.

Tiger Global has written — or is in late stages of writing — more than 25 checks, spanning from a few million dollars to over $100 million, this year alone. About 10 of its investments have been unveiled so far with the rest still in the pipeline for the coming weeks and months.

The New York-headquartered firm, which recently closed a $6.7 billion fund, last week led investments in social network ShareChat, business messaging platform Gupshup, and investment app Groww, and participated in fintech app CRED’s round, helping all of these startups attain the much sought after unicorn status.

(A report in India speculated that Tiger Global plans to invest $3 billion of its new fund in Indian startups. TechCrunch understands the $3 billion figure is way off the mark.)

Tiger Global also invested in Infra.Market and Innovaccer, two other Indian startups that turned unicorn earlier this year. (India has delivered 10 unicorns this year already, up from seven last year and six in 2019.)

Tiger Global is currently in advanced stages to back epharmacy firm PharmEasy, which also turned into a unicorn last week, fintech firm ClearTax (at possibly $1 billion valuation), crypto exchange CoinSwitch, insurer Plum, B2B marketplace Moglix (at over $1 billion valuation), social firms Kutumb and Koo (at over $100 million valuation, per the CapTable), healthtech firm Pristyn Care, and Reshamandi, according to people familiar with the matter.

No other investment firm has written checks of this magnitude to Indian firms this year, and the frenzy has reached a point where dozens of startup founders are scrambling to get an intro with Tiger Global partners.

Tiger Global’s confidence in young Indian firms isn’t newly found. Its investment in Flipkart in 2009 and Ola in 2012 showed the opportunities and level of risk-appetite the U.S. firm was prepared to operate with in India, at a time when both the firms were struggling to raise money from some Indian investors.

Under its former partner Lee Fixel, the investment firm backed several young firms including online grocer Grofers, logistics startup Delivery, fashion e-commerce Myntra, news aggregator InShorts, electric scooter maker Ather Energy, music streaming service Saavn, fintech Razorpay, and web producer TVF.

A handful of startup founders, on the condition of anonymity, recalled their investments from Tiger Global, which they all said concluded within two to three weeks after the first call from the investment firm.

But the firm slowed down its investment pace when Fixel departed in 2019, and for nearly a year focused largely on backing SaaS startups.

Things have changed in recent quarters and Tiger Global has become more aggressive than ever before, said a venture capitalist, who has invested alongside Tiger Global in a few startups, on the condition of anonymity to be able to speak candidly.

The firm is now also exploring investment opportunities in months-old startups. Reshamandi, for instance, is still in its ideation phase.

The investor quoted above pointed to Infra.Market as another example of Tiger Global’s new strategy. It wrote its first check to Infra.Market in 2019, when the B2B startup was just two years old.

“Tiger then wanted to see if the startup can grow and convince other investors to back them. So in December, Infra.Market raised money at about $250 million valuation. Two months later, Tiger Global closed the new round at $1 billion valuation,” the investor said.

While great for startups, it creates a challenge for some investors, another investor said.

When Tiger Global values a startup at a level that much of the industry can’t match, and tends to not lead the subsequent round, there are very few firms that can invest in the following financing round, the investor said.

On private forums and in recent weeks, Clubhouse, a number of investors have cautioned that the recent optimism shared by some investors could prove challenging to materialize. “Tiger Global has traditionally got very optimistic in India every two to three years. The problem is that when it’s not optimistic, we are supposed to pick the tab,” one investor said.

“Under Scott Shleifer [MD at Tiger Global and pictured above], things may be different,” the investor added. Looking at Tiger Global’s recent activities elsewhere in the world, things sure look consistent — and India is positioned to be a key global playground for the firm — and several others — in the next few years.

India, the world’s third largest startup hub, is poised to produce 100 unicorns in the coming years, analysts at Credit Suisse wrote in a report for clients last month. “India’s corporate landscape is undergoing a radical change due to a remarkable confluence of changes in the funding, regulatory and business environment in the country over the past two decades. An unprecedented pace of new-company formation and innovation in a variety of sectors has meant a surge in the number of highly-valued, as-yet unlisted companies,” they wrote.

“The growth in highly valued companies has been enabled by a range of factors: (1) the natural shortage of risk capital in an economy with low per capita wealth has been addressed by a surge in (mostly foreign) private equity: these flows have exceeded public market transactions in each year of the last decade; (2) increase in teledensity and smartphone and internet penetration. Till 2005 less than 15% of Indians had a phone, versus 85% now; 700 mn-plus people have internet access now due to cheap data and falling smartphone prices (40% penetration now).”

“(3) deep-rooted physical infrastructure changes: nearly all habitations are now connected by all-weather roads compared to only half in 2000, and all households are electrified now vs. just 54% in 2001; (4) financial innovation is accelerating, courtesy the world-leading “India stack”, which has innovative applications like UPI built on a base of universal bank account access, mobiles, and the biometric-ID (Aadhaar), helped by greater data availability; and (5) development of ecosystems in several sectors that now provides a competitive advantage versus global peers; for example in technology (4.5 mn IT professionals) and pharma/biotech (several Indian firms can now afford US$200-300 mn of annual R&D).”

Tiger Global goes super aggressive in India

Recent roars from an investment firm, credited to put Indian startups on the global map in the past decade and a half, are turning local young firms into unicorns at a pace never seen before in the world’s second largest internet market.

Tiger Global has written — or is in late stages of writing — more than 25 checks, spanning from a few million dollars to over $100 million, this year alone. About 10 of its investments have been unveiled so far with the rest still in the pipeline for the coming weeks and months.

The New York-headquartered firm, which recently closed a $6.7 billion fund, last week led investments in social network ShareChat, business messaging platform Gupshup, and investment app Groww, and participated in fintech app CRED’s round, helping all of these startups attain the much sought after unicorn status.

(A report in India speculated that Tiger Global plans to invest $3 billion of its new fund in Indian startups. TechCrunch understands the $3 billion figure is way off the mark.)

Tiger Global also invested in Infra.Market and Innovaccer, two other Indian startups that turned unicorn earlier this year. (India has delivered 10 unicorns this year already, up from seven last year and six in 2019.)

Tiger Global is currently in advanced stages to back epharmacy firm PharmEasy, which also turned into a unicorn last week, fintech firm ClearTax (at possibly $1 billion valuation), crypto exchange CoinSwitch, insurer Plum, B2B marketplace Moglix (at over $1 billion valuation), social firms Kutumb and Koo (at over $100 million valuation, per the CapTable), healthtech firm Pristyn Care, and Reshamandi, according to people familiar with the matter.

No other investment firm has written checks of this magnitude to Indian firms this year, and the frenzy has reached a point where dozens of startup founders are scrambling to get an intro with Tiger Global partners.

Tiger Global’s confidence in young Indian firms isn’t newly found. Its investment in Flipkart in 2009 and Ola in 2012 showed the opportunities and level of risk-appetite the U.S. firm was prepared to operate with in India, at a time when both the firms were struggling to raise money from some Indian investors.

Under its former partner Lee Fixel, the investment firm backed several young firms including online grocer Grofers, logistics startup Delivery, fashion e-commerce Myntra, news aggregator InShorts, electric scooter maker Ather Energy, music streaming service Saavn, fintech Razorpay, and web producer TVF.

A handful of startup founders, on the condition of anonymity, recalled their investments from Tiger Global, which they all said concluded within two to three weeks after the first call from the investment firm.

But the firm slowed down its investment pace when Fixel departed in 2019, and for nearly a year focused largely on backing SaaS startups.

Things have changed in recent quarters and Tiger Global has become more aggressive than ever before, said a venture capitalist, who has invested alongside Tiger Global in a few startups, on the condition of anonymity to be able to speak candidly.

The firm is now also exploring investment opportunities in months-old startups. Reshamandi, for instance, is still in its ideation phase.

The investor quoted above pointed to Infra.Market as another example of Tiger Global’s new strategy. It wrote its first check to Infra.Market in 2019, when the B2B startup was just two years old.

“Tiger then wanted to see if the startup can grow and convince other investors to back them. So in December, Infra.Market raised money at about $250 million valuation. Two months later, Tiger Global closed the new round at $1 billion valuation,” the investor said.

While great for startups, it creates a challenge for some investors, another investor said.

When Tiger Global values a startup at a level that much of the industry can’t match, and tends to not lead the subsequent round, there are very few firms that can invest in the following financing round, the investor said.

On private forums and in recent weeks, Clubhouse, a number of investors have cautioned that the recent optimism shared by some investors could prove challenging to materialize. “Tiger Global has traditionally got very optimistic in India every two to three years. The problem is that when it’s not optimistic, we are supposed to pick the tab,” one investor said.

“Under Scott Shleifer [MD at Tiger Global and pictured above], things may be different,” the investor added. Looking at Tiger Global’s recent activities elsewhere in the world, things sure look consistent — and India is positioned to be a key global playground for the firm — and several others — in the next few years.

India, the world’s third largest startup hub, is poised to produce 100 unicorns in the coming years, analysts at Credit Suisse wrote in a report for clients last month. “India’s corporate landscape is undergoing a radical change due to a remarkable confluence of changes in the funding, regulatory and business environment in the country over the past two decades. An unprecedented pace of new-company formation and innovation in a variety of sectors has meant a surge in the number of highly-valued, as-yet unlisted companies,” they wrote.

“The growth in highly valued companies has been enabled by a range of factors: (1) the natural shortage of risk capital in an economy with low per capita wealth has been addressed by a surge in (mostly foreign) private equity: these flows have exceeded public market transactions in each year of the last decade; (2) increase in teledensity and smartphone and internet penetration. Till 2005 less than 15% of Indians had a phone, versus 85% now; 700 mn-plus people have internet access now due to cheap data and falling smartphone prices (40% penetration now).”

“(3) deep-rooted physical infrastructure changes: nearly all habitations are now connected by all-weather roads compared to only half in 2000, and all households are electrified now vs. just 54% in 2001; (4) financial innovation is accelerating, courtesy the world-leading “India stack”, which has innovative applications like UPI built on a base of universal bank account access, mobiles, and the biometric-ID (Aadhaar), helped by greater data availability; and (5) development of ecosystems in several sectors that now provides a competitive advantage versus global peers; for example in technology (4.5 mn IT professionals) and pharma/biotech (several Indian firms can now afford US$200-300 mn of annual R&D).”

Messaging platform Gupshup raises $100 million at $1.4 billion valuation

A startup that began its journey in India 15 years ago, helping businesses reach and engage with users through texts said on Thursday it has attained the unicorn status and is also profitable.

San Francisco-headquartered Gupshup has raised $100 million in its Series F financing round from Tiger Global Management, which valued the 15-year-old startup at $1.4 billion.

The startup operates a conversational messaging platform, which is used by over 100,000 businesses and developers today to build their own messaging and conversational experiences to serve their users and customers.

Gupshup, which has raised $150 million to date and concluded its Series E round in 2011, says each month its clients send over 6 billion messages.

“The growth in business use of messaging and conversational experiences, transforming virtually every customer touchpoint, is an exciting secular trend,” said John Curtius, a partner at Tiger Global Management, in a statement. “Gupshup is uniquely positioned to win in this market with a differentiated product, a clear and sustainable moat, and an experienced team with a proven track record. In addition to its market leadership, Gupshup’s unique combination of scale, growth and profitability attracted us.”

Tens of millions of users in India, including yours truly, remember Gupshup for a different reason, however. For the first six years of its existence, Gupshup was best known for enabling users in India to send group messages to friends. (These cheap texts and other clever techniques enabled tens of millions of Indians to stay in touch with one another on phone a decade ago.)

That model eventually became unfeasible to continue, Beerud Sheth, co-founder and chief executive of Gupshup, told TechCrunch in an interview.

“For that service to work, Gupshup was subsidizing the messages. We were paying the cost to the mobile operators. The idea was that once we scale up, we will put advertisements in those messages. Long story short, we thought as the volume of messages increases, operators will lower their prices, but they didn’t. And also the regulator said we can’t put ads in the messages,” he recalled.

That’s when Gupshup decided to pivot. “We were neither able to subsidize the messages, nor monetize our user base. But we had all of this advanced technology for high-performance messaging. So we switched from consumer model to enterprise model. So we started to serve banks, e-commerce firms, and airlines that need to send high-level messages and can afford to pay for it,” he said.

Over the years, Gupshup has expanded to newer messaging channels, including conversational bots and it also helps businesses set up and run their WhatsApp channels to engage with customers.

Sheth said scores of major firms worldwide in banking, e-commerce, travel and hospitality and other sectors are among the clients of Gupshup. These firms are using Gupshup to send their customers with transaction information, and authentication codes among other use cases. “These are not advertising messages or promotional messages. These are core service information,” he said.

The startup, which had an annual run rate of $150 million, will use the fresh capital to broaden its product offering and court clients in more markets.

This is a developing story. More to follow…

Investment app for millennials Groww raises $83 million at over $1 billion valuation

More than 200 million people in India transact money digitally, but fewer than 30 million invest in mutual funds and stocks.

An Indian startup that is attempting to change this figure by courting millennials announced a new financing round on Wednesday and turned into the newest unicorn in the world’s second largest internet market.

Bangalore-based Groww has raised $83 million in its Series D financing round, which valued the Indian startup at more than $1 billion, up from $250 million in $30 million Series C in September last year.

Tiger Global led the new round, and existing investors Sequoia Capital India, Ribbit Capital, YC Continuity and Propel Venture Partners participated in it, said the four-year-old Indian startup, which has raised $142 million to date.

On a side note, Groww is the eighth Indian startup to attain the unicorn status this year — and fourth this week. Social commerce Meesho turned a unicorn on Monday, fintech firm CRED on Tuesday, and earlier today epharmacy firm PharmEasy announced a new financing round that valued the firm at about $1.5 billion.

Groww allows users to invest in mutual funds, including systematic investment planning (SIP) and equity-linked savings, gold, as well as stocks, including those listed at U.S. exchanges. The app offers every fund that is currently available in India.

The startup has amassed over 8 million registered users, two-thirds of whom are first-time investors, Lalit Keshre, co-founder and chief executive of Groww, told TechCrunch in an interview. Keshre and other former Flipkart executives — Harsh Jain, Neeraj Singh and Ishan Bansal — co-founded Groww in 2017.

Keshre said the startup will deploy the fresh funds to accelerate its growth, and hire more talent. “We now have fuel for longer-term thinking and faster growth,” he said.

More than 60% of Groww users come from smaller cities and towns of India and 60% of these have never made such investments before, said Keshre. The startup said it has conducted workshops in several small cities to educate people about the investment world.

Comparison of fintech market share in brokerage (BCG)

The coronavirus pandemic has also accelerated the startup’s growth as youngsters explore new hobbies. The startup competes with a handful of firms including Zerodha, Paytm Money, Upstox, ET Money, Smallcase, and traditional firms.

“We started Groww almost five years back to make investing accessible and transparent to everyone in India. We have made good progress, but it feels we have just got started,” said Keshre.

India’s CRED valued at $2.2 billion in new $215 million fundraise

Two-year-old CRED has become the youngest Indian startup to be valued at $2 billion or higher.

Bangalore-based CRED said on Tuesday it has raised $215 million in a new funding round — a Series D — that valued the Indian startup at $2.2 billion (post-money), up from about $800 million valuation in $81 million Series C round in January this year.

New investor Falcon Edge Capital and existing investor Coatue Management led the new round. Insight Partners and existing investors DST Global, RTP Global, Tiger Global, Greenoaks Capital, Dragoneer Investment Group, and Sofina also participated in the new round, which brings CRED’s total to-date raise to about $443 million.

TechCrunch reported last month that CRED was in advanced stages of talks to raise about $200 million at a valuation of around $2 billion.

CRED operates an app that rewards customers for paying their credit card bills on time and gives them access to a range of additional services such as credit and a premium catalog of products from high-end brands.

An individual needs to have a credit score of at least 750 to be able to sign up for CRED. By keeping such a high bar, the startup says it is ensuring that people are incentivized to improve their financial behavior. (More on this later.)

CRED today serves more than 6 million customers, or about 22% of all credit card holders — and 35% of all premium credit card holders — in the world’s second largest internet market.

Kunal Shah, founder and chief executive of CRED, told TechCrunch in an interview that the startup intends to become the platform for affluent customers in India and also not limit its offerings to financial services.

He said the startup’s e-commerce service, for instance, has been growing fast. He attributed the early success to customers enjoying the curation of items on CRED and merchants finding the platform appealing as ticket size of each transaction on CRED is higher.

The startup plans to deploy the fresh funds to scale several of its revenue channels and engage in more experimentations, he said.

When asked whether CRED would like to serve all credit card users in India some day, Shah said the selection criteria limits the startup from doing so, but he said he was optimistic that more users will improve their scores in the future.

The startup, unlike most others in India, doesn’t focus on the usual TAM (addressable market) — hundreds of millions of users of the world’s second-most populated nation — and instead caters to some of the most premium audiences.

Consumer segmentation and addressable market for fintech firms in India (BofA Research)

“India has 57 million credit cards (vs 830 million debit cards) [that] largely serves the high-end market. The credit card industry is largely concentrated with the top 4 banks (HDFC, SBI, ICICI and Axis) controlling about 70% of the total market. This space is extremely profitable for these banks – as evident from the SBI Cards IPO,” analysts at Bank of America wrote in a recent report to clients.

“Very few starts-ups like CRED are focusing on this high-end base and [have] taken a platform-based approach (acquire customers now and look for monetization later). Credit card in India remains an aspirational product. The under penetration would likely ensure continued strong growth in coming years. Overtime, the form-factor may evolve (i.e. move from plastic card to virtual card), but the inherent demand for credit is expected to grow,” they added.

CRED has become one of the most talked about startups in India, in part because of the pace at which it has raised money of late, its growing valuation, and the fact that it only caters to select customers.

Some users have also said that CRED no longer offers them the perks it used a year ago.

Shah said CRED is addressing those concerns. A recent feature, which allows customers to use CRED points at over a thousand merchants, for instance, has made the reward more appealing, he said, adding that the startup is slowly incorporating that into its own e-commerce store as well.

“What will soon happen is that customers will realize that these points are asset and not a liability. They will start to see benefits of the points in more places,” he said, adding that the pandemic derailed some of the things CRED had planned for in the real world.

The startup, which bought back shares worth $1.2 million from employees in January this year, told them in an email today that it will soon be buying back stocks worth $5 million. “As the funding helps CRED invest in its future, hopefully the buyback will help some of you do that too,” the email said.

Byju’s acquires Indian tutor Aakash for nearly $1 billion

Why did Byju’s raise over $1 billion last year and is already inching closer to securing another half a billion dollars? We are getting some answers today.

Byju’s said on Monday it has acquired Aakash Educational, a 33-year-old chain of physical coaching centres, as the Indian online learning giant looks to further consolidate its leadership position in the world’s second largest internet market.

The Indian startup paid “close to $1 billion” in cash and equity for the acquisition, which is one of the largest in the edtech space, three people familiar with the matter told TechCrunch. (EY advised the firms on the transaction; Bloomberg first reported about the two firms talking in January.)

Backed by Blackstone, Aakash owns and operates more than 200 physical tutoring centres across the country aimed at students preparing to qualify for top engineering and medical colleges.

The decades-old firm has made some of its offering available online in recent years, but the pandemic’s recent shift to students’ preferences made Aakash and Byju’s explore a deal six-seven months ago, executives from the firm told TechCrunch in a joint interview. (They declined to comment on the financial aspects of the deal.)

Aakash Chaudhry, Managing Director and Co-promoter of Aakash Educational, said the two firms joining forces will offer “very substantial and value-additive services to students.” The leadership at Aakash Educational will stay with the firm after the acquisition.

The acquisition will enable the two entities to build the largest omni-channel for students in India, he said. “Students who have wanted to access physical classrooms have gotten that from us. And those who wanted to access content and learning online has been served by Byju’s. Together, we will leverage the physical location and technology and online learning and offer students that is unique,” he said.

The future of education will blend offline and online experiences, said Byju Raveendran, co-founder and chief executive of the eponymous startup, in an interview. And Byju, a teacher himself (and pictured above), would know. Prior to launching the online platform, Raveendran took classes for hundreds of students at stadiums.

For several of Byju’s offerings such as test-preparation, he said, an online-only model is still a few years away. Monday’s deal is also aimed at expanding the reach of Byju’s and Aakash Educational in smaller towns and cities, the executives said.

Amit Dixit, Co-head of Asia Acquisitions and Head of India Private Equity at Blackstone, which acquired a 37.5% stake in Aakash for about $183 million in 2019, said that an “omni-channel will be the winning model in test prep and tutoring, and we look forward to being a part of the partnership between the two foremost companies in Indian supplementary education – Aakash and Byju’s.”

The userbase of Byju’s — which prepares students pursuing undergraduate and graduate-level courses — has grown substantially since last year, now serving over 80 million users, 5.5 million of whom are paying subscribers. Byju’s, which is profitable, generated revenue of over $100 million in the U.S. last year, Deborah Quazzo, managing partner of GSV Ventures (which has backed the Indian startup), said at a session held by Indian venture fund Blume Ventures last month.

The startup has used the past two years to grow inorganically as well, through acquisitions. In 2019, it acquired U.S.-based Osmo for $120 million, and last year, it bought kids-focused coding platform WhiteHat Jr for $300 million. Ravendran said the startup is looking to acquire more firms. TechCrunch reported last week that the startup is holding acquisition talks with California-headquartered startup Epic for “significantly more than $300 million.”

Facebook-backed Indian social commerce Meesho raises $300M at $2.1B valuation

Meesho said on Monday it has raised $300 million in a new financing round led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2 as the Indian social commerce startup works to become the “single ecosystem that will enable all small businesses to succeed online.”

The new round — a Series E — gives the five-year-old startup a valuation of $2.1 billion, up from about $600 million – $700 million in 2019 Series D investment. The Indian startup, which has raised about $490 million to date, said existing investors Facebook, Prosus Ventures, Shunwei Capital, Venture Highway, and Knollwood Investment also participated in the new round.

This appears to be Shunwei Capital’s first investment in an Indian startup in nearly a year. New Delhi last year introduced a rule to require its approval for a Chinese investor to write a check to an Indian firm.

Bangalore-based Meesho operates an eponymous online marketplace that connects sellers with customers on social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram. Its features include order management, taking care of logistics, online payments, real-time shop updates, and allowing businesses to get their customers to subscribe.

The startup claims to have a network of more than 13 million entrepreneurs, a majority of whom are women, from hundreds of Indians towns who largely deal with apparel, home appliances and electronics items.

Meesho said it will deploy the fresh capital to help 100 million individuals and small businesses in the country to sell online. “In the last one year, we have seen tremendous growth across small businesses and entrepreneurs seeking to move their businesses online,” said Vidit Aatrey, co-founder and chief executive of Meesho, in a statement.

“We have been closely tracking Meesho for the last 18 months and have been impressed by their growth, daily engagement metrics, focus on unit economics and ability to create a strong team. We believe Meesho provides an efficient platform for SME suppliers and social resellers to onboard the e-commerce revolution in India and help them provide personalized experience to consumers,” said Sumer Juneja, partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers, in a statement.

In a recent report, UBS analysts identified social commerce and business-to-business marketplaces as potential sources of competition to e-commerce firms such as Amazon and Flipkart in India.

This is a developing story. More to follow…