Who is Kunal Shah? Founder and CEO of Cred transformed Indian fintech

  • Kunal Shah’s entrepreneurial trajectory, marked by ventures like PaisaBack, Freecharge, and Cred underscores his resilience, innovation, and commitment to transforming the payment industry.
  • Shah’s leadership saw Freecharge’s acquisition by Snapdeal in 2015, validating their innovative model in India’s fintech sector. His insight into consumer behaviour led to Cred’s launch in 2018, propelling it to become one of India’s most valuable fintech startups, reaching a $2 billion valuation in 2021.
  • Kunal Shah’s vision with Cred has transformed credit card management in India. From simplifying bill payments to offering exclusive rewards, Cred has quickly become a favourite among users, processing a significant portion of the country’s credit card transactions.

Kunal Shah is a standout figure in India’s start-up world, particularly in the fintech sector. One of his most famous ventures was FreeCharge, a platform that allowed users to recharge any prepaid mobile card and get a coupon of equivalent value. In 2018, Kunal Shah founded another startup called Cred, which focuses on rewarding the prompt payment behaviour of credit card users in India.

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Early life

Kunal Shah, born on May 20, 1983, in Mumbai, Maharashtra, hailed from a family where his father worked as a businessman, and he often assisted him. When Shah was just 14, his family faced financial difficulties due to his father’s struggling business. To help out, he began working at the age of 15.

He completed his Bachelor of Arts in philosophy from Wilson College in Mumbai. Although he started an MBA (master of business administration) at Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies in Mumbai, he decided to leave the program.

Shah’s journey into entrepreneurship showcases his unwavering determination and love for innovation. Growing up in Mumbai, India, he showed an early interest in technology and business. After finishing his studies, Shah set out on his entrepreneurial path.

His journey began with PaisaBack, his first startup, launched in 2009. Initially focusing on promotional discounts, it laid the groundwork for his future endeavours. Following this success, Shah, along with Sandeep Tandon, co-founded Freecharge in 2010.

Their goal was to revolutionize the payment landscape by offering a simple way for users to recharge their phones and pay bills online. Then, in 2018, he established Cred, a platform for managing credit cards that rewards users for responsible card usage.

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Kunal Shah


Under Shah’s guidance, Freecharge rapidly gained popularity, attracting millions of users and catching the eye of investors. In 2015, the company made headlines by being acquired by Snapdeal, a major Indian ecommerce platform, in a groundbreaking deal worth over $400 million. This acquisition was a significant milestone for Shah and Freecharge, confirming the success of their innovative business model and positioning them as leaders in India’s growing fintech sector.

A key factor contributing to Freecharge’s rapid growth was Shah’s keen understanding of consumer behaviour and market trends. He identified the increasing demand for digital payment solutions in India, driven by the widespread use of smartphones and internet access.

Building on this insight, Shah and his team created a user-friendly platform that simplified the recharge process and rewarded users with cashback and discounts, a novel concept at the time.

In 2018, Shah ventured into a new endeavour by launching Cred, a platform that incentivizes users to pay their credit card bills on time. With Cred, Shah aimed to tackle the rising issue of credit card debt while offering exclusive benefits to users. Once again, Shah showcased his ability to identify untapped market opportunities and develop innovative solutions. The platform’s premium membership program offers exclusive rewards and benefits to its members.

Cred quickly became one of India’s most popular financial apps, with over 10 million downloads and processing about 20% of the country’s credit card payments. Its unique approach to credit card management, combined with its focus on building a community of high-creditworthy individuals, resonated strongly with users nationwide.

Cred has millions of members and is one of India’s most valuable fintech startups, with Shah leading its growth and expansion. With $200 million in funding, Cred achieved a $2 billion valuation in 2021.

Kunal Shah and FreeCharge

In 2010, Shah leapt and established FreeCharge, a digital payments firm offering discounts and cashback to users for their transactions. Initially focusing on mobile recharges, he swiftly broadened its scope to encompass other services like bill payments.

Through his innovative approach and unwavering determination, Shah transformed FreeCharge into a widely recognized name in India’s digital payments sector. The company experienced rapid growth, attracting investor interest and culminating in one of the largest acquisitions in India’s startup landscape. In 2015, Snapdeal acquired FreeCharge for an impressive $400 million, solidifying Shah’s reputation as a prominent entrepreneur in the country.

Kunal Shah and Cred

Noticing the confusion many Indians faced with credit cards, Kunal Shah identified an opportunity to simplify credit card management and improve financial control. In 2018, he established Cred, a platform rewarding users for responsible credit card usage.

Because of Shah’s vision, Cred has become one of India’s most popular financial apps. Its user base has grown swiftly, and the platform now offers services such as credit score tracking, bill reminders, and convenient payments for multiple credit cards. Cred’s premium membership program also provides exclusive rewards and benefits.

Cred allows users to make house rent payments and offers short-term credit lines. By April 2021, the company had attracted over 5.9 million users and processed around 20% of all credit card bill payments in India. Cred introduced six products, including Cred Rent Pay, Cred Cash, and Cred Pay.

In August 2021, Cred launched Cred Mint, a Peer-to-peer lending feature aiming to monetize its 7.5 million users. Cred served as the official sponsor of the Indian Premier League (IPL) from 2020 to 2022.


Yun Zhao

Yun Zhao is a junior writer at BTW Media. She graduates from the Zhejiang University of Financial and Economics and majors in English. Send tips to s.zhao@btw.media.

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