Kunal Shah, The Freecharge Founder with an Idiosyncratic Vision

Supriti Tripathy

30th Aug'21
Kunal Shah, The Freecharge Founder with an Idiosyncratic Vision | OpenGrowth


Kunal Shah, the entrepreneur-cum-angel investor, has many tags to his name. He is the unorthodox risk-taker who has successfully launched more than one startup to date. A conversation with him will reveal to you his brilliant persona who has a simple way of solving problems. A man who earned his position talks candidly about his roots, the status-driven society, and the Covid attack on businesses. His latest venture is CRED, a fintech company with a payment app system that credits customers for prompt payment. Let's talk about his first successful venture!

Freecharge is a famous e-commerce company that provides mobile recharge, bill payment among a horde of other financial services. Kunal started Freecharge in August 2010 with his friend Sandeep Tandon after shutting down a promotional discount campaign called PaisaBack. At the time of technology transformation, Freecharge's service caught the market's attention. Rewarding customers for online recharge played its card, and soon the company gained success. With a Series A funding of INR 200 million from Sequoia Capital, in the very next year, the company's transactions surged forward. It claimed to do a business of about INR 2.1 billion in 2012. 

Freecharge built its network and expanded its base after proper research on product enhancement, purchase behavior, and customer brand preferences. In 2011, Pluggd In named Freecharge the most promising technology startup from India. In April 2015, Snapdeal acquired Freecharge for a whopping $400 million as cash and stock. This takeover was one of the most significant sales in the history of tech startups. Shah went on leading the Company till October 2016, when he decided to exit the firm. Soon after, on 27th July 2017, Axis Bank acquired Freecharge for $60 million.


Early Life

Born on 20th May 1983 to a business family, Kunal Shah was keen on finding solutions to people's problems. He started his career as a junior programmer from a BPO and helped the company grow to a 1200 people team in a span of 10 years. It meant great business at that point. He is an MBA dropout but knows everything about tech startups and entrepreneurship. While his first successful company Freecharge earned him stardom, he leveraged the sale amount of Freecharge's acquisition to 80 new startups. Today, he is an angel investor for many startups apart from his ventures. 


The Entrepreneurial Bug

The entrepreneurial bug bit him quite early in his career, and his many ventures are its results. Let's peep into his list of ventures and understand the business ideas of each.



The web portal tied up with big online retailers and directed customers to them in return for a good commission. The customers got a great deal in their purchases, including discounts and cashback and the retail websites got significant traffic.



The idea capitalized around the word "Free," where customers were given free coupons from reputed brands like KFC, Barista, PVR Cinemas, and more if they perform an online bill payment or recharge. The idea was a win-win for many brands, and it featured Freecharge in top-notch websites like Rediff, The Hindu, and ET now to make their success story. 





An Indian fintech company that allows users to make their credit card payments via the CRED app. It has many additional features of house rent payment and reinvests users' money on different platforms. Even though the peculiar business model has struck quite a criticism from tech experts, yet the current valuation stands at $2.2 billion.


Other Thoughtful Endeavours

We often look at inspirational stories of entrepreneurs and celebrate their success with their expanding business ideas and ventures. But what sets Shah apart is his passion for helping other startups in their struggle phases. His humble beginnings and the financial crunch he has faced his entire life make him an ardent fund giver. His tech expertise and far-sightedness bring the best in his work through innovation. He lives with the happiness of helping young entrepreneurs in realizing their dreams. Kunal being a millionaire and successful entrepreneur, still believes in simple living and proudly owns a Vespa. 

Shah connected the dots of the Indian market and made it versatile. He saw what other businesses could not, and his ventures became the end products. We all know what a bank does, but through CRED, he brought convenience to users' doors. The platform ensures making informed choices in investment and helps users understand their financial statements. He beautifully carved the idea of jugaad (a common Indian word meaning using limited resources effectively) in his ventures and mirrored the same by merging retailers and customers in his endeavors. Here are some of his funded startups – Unacademy, Innov8, Lifecare, Razorpay, TinyOwl, the famous Indian video streaming service TVF, and so many others.




The Recipe of Success

Shah's story is motivational and an example to all of us. The recipe of success he has given through his constant dedication to the business field is a reminder that few setbacks can never break the zeal of the hardest worker. The trials and errors, effective communication, the strangest plans of expanding his business base in the social media platforms make him one of the unconventional leaders of all time. With such an impressive resume of life, we can only say,

Not all angels(investors) are women, and not all super leaders wear capes!


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A believer of good things and pursuer of diverse avocation, she is a fiction lover and a simple writer. Supriti has a number of professions to her list and she feels challenges are the only answers to failures.


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