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.
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.