In the Indian startup firmament, credit card payment company CRED is a prominent fixture. It is the brainchild of startup superstar Kunal Shah, previously the founder of Freecharge, the mobile recharge company that was sold for US$400 million in 2015. It was India’s largest e-commerce acquisition at the time. CRED also generated massive buzz for its astronomical seed round astronomical seed round The Ken Three-card Monte: Kunal Shah’s CRED plays the “follow the money” game Read more and Series A funding Series A funding The Ken CRED’s uncertain path from credibility to confidence Read more . But most of all, CRED has been a much discussed startup for its business model business model The Ken Navigating CRED’s existential crisis Read more , or seeming lack thereof.

In today’s interview, Kunal Shah talks at length about CRED—its founding principles and goals, its funding and product philosophy, and for the first time ever, its business model and drivers. The following excerpts have been edited for length and clarity.

Q. Kunal, let’s start from the end. Or rather the end of your first company Freecharge. While everyone knows the Freecharge journey, the thing I wanted to ask you is, what happened when you actually got to the exit? You were 35 years old, Rs 100 crore-plus (~US$13.3 million) in the bank, your whole life in front of you. If you think back to that time, what was the overwhelming emotion you felt after the acquisition?

Surprisingly, no one has ever asked me this question before. But if I look back to that time, the overwhelming emotion was actually of pain.

Q. Pain?

Yes. Not just the first moment; the entire first year after the acquisition was extremely painful. I remember the next day I could not get out of bed. I felt my purpose was stolen and I had nothing to look forward to.

Not many exits had happened at that time in India, so I had very few people to talk to. I met the Braintree Braintree Braintree A US-based payments platform which was acquired by PayPal in 2013 founder in the US, who had been through an exit a few years earlier. He coached me and told me how the journey was likely to be. He told me about the Astronaut Syndrome Astronaut Syndrome Kate Laack Astronaut syndrome and why we do what we do Read more —when founders who go through an exit feel similar to an astronaut returning from space because suddenly a big purpose is taken away.


Sumanth Raghavendra

Sumanth is a serial entrepreneur with more than eighteen years experience in running startups. He is currently the founder of Deck App Technologies, a Bangalore-based startup attempting to re-imagine productivity software for the Post-PC era. Sumanth’s columns appear regularly in leading publications. He holds MBA degrees from the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore and Thunderbird, The American Graduate School of International Management, USA.

View Full Profile

Read this story. Subscribe Now

This story is available across both editions. Subscribe to the one that’s most relevant for you. Questions?

Pick an edition


Annual Subscription

12-month access to 200+ stories, archive of 800+ stories from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 2,750


Quarterly Subscription

3-month access to 60+ new stories with 3-months worth of archives from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 1,750


Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

Rs. 500


Annual Subscription

12-month access to 150+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 120


Quarterly Subscription

3-month access to 35+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 50


Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

$ 20



What is The Ken?

The Ken is a subscription-only business journalism website and app that provides coverage across two editions - India and Southeast Asia.

What kind of stories do you write?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics.

We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

What do I get if I subscribe?

For subscribers of the India edition, we publish a new story every weekday, a premium daily newsletter, Beyond The First Order and a weekly newsletter - The Nutgraf.

For subscribers of the Southeast Asia edition, we publish a new story three days a week and a weekly newsletter, Strait Up.

The annual subscription will get you complete, exclusive access to our archive of previously published stories for your edition, along with access to our subscriber-only mobile apps, our premium comment sections, our newsletter archives and several other gifts and benefits.

Do I need to pay separately for your premium newsletters?

Nope. Paid, premium subscribers of The Ken get our newsletters delivered for free.

Does a subscription to the India edition grant me access to Southeast Asia stories? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

Do you offer an all-access joint subscription for both editions?

Not yet. If you’d like to access both editions, you’ll have to purchase two subscriptions separately - one for India and the other for Southeast Asia.

Do you offer any discounts?

No. We have a zero discounts policy.

Is there a free trial I can opt for?

We don’t offer any trials, but you can sign up for a free account which will give you access to the weekly free story, our archive of free stories and summaries of the paid stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

Do you offer refunds?

We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Please write to us at detailing the error or queries.