The challenges faced during the COVID-19 pandemic have unmasked the shortcomings and evident failures within the debt financing ecosystem. Specifically, in the case of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), the situation remained dire as they were starved of capital and forced to shut down. This problem is rarely noticed in large-scale corporate companies as they enjoy a better rating and access that allows them to raise debt successfully.

The obvious demand for a better solution to simplify the process of raising debts for SMEs has given rise to companies like CredAvenue, a technology-centric platform that prioritizes building a connection between lenders and borrowers. Borrowers searching for working capital, bond issuance, and even supply chain financing can use this platform for facilitating transactions. 

Gaurav Kumar, Founder & CEO, CredAvenue, said “At CredAvenue, our objective is to revolutionize the debt market through technology and innovation. We are the only enterprise debt platform offering all forms of debt, both in India and globally and this reflects in the scale of business done by our platform since inception.”

Founded by serial entrepreneur Gaurav Kumar, CredAvenue has transacted more than $11.3 billion across different verticals under his leadership. Recently, the Chennai-based early-stage venture turned unicorn after raising $90 million cumulatively in a Series B funding round. In the following, we shall analyze its origins, services, market growth, financial details, and future plans to deduce whether CredAvenue is a profitable venture or not.

A Serial Finance Entrepreneur and a Subsidiary Turned Unicorn

Gaurav Kumar, the 39-year-old, serial entrepreneur is the brains behind CredAvenue. He has been involved in the lending space for almost 16 years establishing companies one after another in Chennai. After completing graduation from a rural management institute, Kumar worked overseas for a brief while. He realized quickly that debt services in India are largely unexplored and there is a need for a platform that handles all forms of debt.

“New entrepreneurs must be able to evaluate how large the need/problem is which they are trying to address, how transformative is the function and operation of the startup, and what is the culture of the organization,” Gaurav Kumar, Founder & CEO, CredAvenue said.

First, he founded IFMR Capital in 2008 which is now known as Northern Arc Capital, a financial services company addressing a diverse range of credit services such as providing debt finance to businesses as well as under-served households. Kumar was joined by fellow entrepreneur Vineet Sukumar in founding IFRM Capital but the duo faced a few challenges while scaling the business.

“Our own reflection was that the debt capital market is today where the equity market was 20 years ago,” said Gaurav Kumar.

For example, a number of asset classes were inaccessible to debt capital markets including microfinance, SME finance, and even convenient housing finance. Both of them could not shake the idea that debt capital markets needed to go online rather than being mainly over the counter mainly to fulfill the need for price discovery.

2017 came and the duo quit Northern Arc only to focus their ideas and skills to co-found a digital capital markets platform thoughtfully named Vivriti, meaning progress or development. Enterprises that needed to borrow back then had to spend a lot of time and resources to find and compare the available offers from different types of lenders. Vivriti was set up to ease that process for enterprise finance with three different parts (or subsidiaries) which are:

  • CredAvenue
  • NBFC
  • Vivriti Asset Management

Gaurav Kumar believed the biggest trend-setters in co-lending are the largest HFCs and NBFCs which could bring a lot of velocity within the market.  The NBFC raised  $86.5 million (in 2020) via two successful financing rounds.

“This is my fourth startup and I have spent over 16 years in the lending space,” Kumar said in an interview with TechCrunch. “The deepening in the debt market is not happening.”

For Gaurav Kumar, CredAvenue was not a simple transactional platform but a dependable intermediary which keeps lenders updated about their portfolio. This particular platform provides lenders a constant credit update on their portfolios until the last of their penny is paid back to them. This strength comes from CredAvenue’s technology which helps with execution without having to solve underwriting issues. 

“Once a partner — whether it’s a bank on the lender side or a borrower — integrates with us on our operating system, you get access to everyone sitting on our network. At the core, our offering is about interoperability. We are paving the way for India’s debt market to realize its full potential, and we plan to soon be a leading player in the global debt markets with our unique and diversified product suites.” said Gaurav Kumar.

By giving the lenders a chance to have a credit and portfolio view on CredAvenue, Kumar has also put together an expert risk team that takes care of the customer via constant monitoring. Customers are required to interact with this team during due diligence and give a clearer picture of their business model and industry. Owing to these processes, the platform is able to identify issues when a borrower’s important parameters show any sign of problems. 

Gaurav Kumar had clarified back in 2020, that Vivriti’s main objective would be bringing a humongous investment on CredAvenue. Now, after two years, this startup has joined the list of unicorns with a total valuation worth $1.3 billion. 

CredAvenue Products Portfolio

For Indian debt market participants, the CredAvenue platform was designed as a vital credit infrastructure that provides a plethora of solutions related to exploring, evaluating, and executing transactions continuously. CredAvenue can also be used to get real-time notifications on transaction stages and execute all transactions across debt instruments online with a single click. c

“Massive investment in tech and data science. That is the future. That is where you will see the scale. If you are not able to solve for transactional aspects through technology, I don’t think you can scale in a debt marketplace,” Kumar added.

Kumar’s organization has added 5 exceptional products to its portfolio, all of which are useful for both investors as well as borrowers. 

  • CredCo-Lend

As the name suggests this product simplifies term lending and provides working capital solutions for enterprises. It is a link between NBFCs and Bank in loan origination so that joint loans can be disbursed to the borrowers through a fully integrated platform. Around 450,000 loans are disbursed on a monthly basis using CredCo-Lend.  

  • CredLoan

Dubbed as India’s largest debt marketplace has gained the trust of over 500 lenders who use to access a functionally complete debt ecosystem. It offers features like 5 times quicker transaction times, tenor between 3 months and 1.5 years with a quantum of $654,000 to $65.4 million. An integrated approach is available to help borrowers and lenders alike through all stages of the debt lifecycle. 

  • Plutus

Plutus is a bonds platform offered by CredAvenue which has facilitated transactions worth hundreds of millions of dollars. It is used by both individual users and institutional entities. Comprehensive debt tracking is an important part of Plutus' offerings because it implements portfolio risk management so that every transaction is safe.

  • CredSCF

This particular product of CredSCF is considered the most advanced one for trade and supply chain finance platforms. Being an end-to-end trade and supply chain, CredSCF brings more efficiency, less risk, and updated monitoring capabilities. This product is also perfect for dynamic discounting and finding vendor finance solutions. 

  • CredPool

CredAvenue aims to revolutionize the asset-based securitization market with the help of a comprehensive CredPool product. Its capabilities include fulfilling a plethora of requirements across securitization and DA lifecycle for enterprises. CredPool is great for a data-driven approach to ABS deal-making. 

“We are currently at 450 employees, 80 percent of whom are covered under the ESOP program. Going ahead, we would like to extend this to all our employees,” said Gaurav Kumar.

Competitors, Market Growth, Investors, and Partners

As discussed earlier, the Indian debt market has tremendous growth opportunities as it is still under development. But unfortunately, this market segment has not grown due to the lack of infrastructure, according to CredAvenue’s founder and CEO.

Currently, it is valued at 65% of the country’s GDP while the global average is around 150%. The irregular flow of cash dealt a blow on SMEs which were hanging by their last thread during the COVID-19 crisis. 

At $1.9 trillion, the Indian debt market is still underserved. CredAvenue will help automate and increase efficiency.”

After raising up to $90 million (in Series A) from various investors like Lightspeed, Sequoia Capital India, Lightrock, and TVS Capital, CredAvenue is leading as a securities infrastructure and debt exchange with revenue of $2.5 billion (2021). In its series B funding round, CredAvenue raised $137 million from Insight Partners, Dragoneer, and B Capital Group.

Kabir Narang, founding general partner, B Capital Group said “Debt in India is still under-penetrated as a percentage of gross domestic product at about 60%. This creates a massive opportunity for a leading player like CredAvenue. 

As of now, CredAvenue has successfully facilitated around $9 billion via its platform and has been involved with more than 1,500 institutional borrowers, 750 investors, and a total of 1 million retail borrowers. CredAvenue also has a loanbook worth up to $1.1 billion. In the past, CredAvenue has also taken a majority stake in a digital collections startup called Spocto.

“CredAvenue is a unique solution that not only simplifies access to credit for borrowers ranging from a BB to AA rating but also improves access to multiple debt products like bonds, supply chain financing, etc. on a single unified platform. We believe, it has the opportunity to become the platform of choice for borrowers and lenders operating in the debt market," said Sakshi Chopra, MD, Sequoia India.

CredAvenue has 2-3 direct competitors all based in India and active in the lending ecosystem. We have put together a detailed overview for the top two called OkCredit and Khatabook. 

OkCredit

OkCredit is headquartered in Bangalore, Karnataka, and serves as an online ledger application that provides credit account management solutions to merchants. From a funding perspective, OkCredit has raised a total of $96.1 million under the leadership of its co-founder and CEO Harsh Pokharna. Yearly revenue for OkCredit is close to $3 million.

Khatabook

Co-founded by Ravish Naresh, Khatabook has been recognized as a promising India-based bookkeeping platform that helps SMEs to keep a track of all their business transactions safely. The main headquarters of Khatabook is located in Bengaluru, Karnataka, and has 200 employees. Khatabook has acquired up to $186.5 million from a number of investors until now. It generates close to $3 million in revenue annually.  

$227 Million and 2 Funding Rounds

Since being established in 2020, CredAvenue has raised a total of $226 million from 9 different and globally-famous investors including the likes of Sequoia Capital India, TVS Capital, B Capital, and Insight Partners. Being involved in a constantly growing space has attracted both long-term and short-term investors towards this early-stage venture turned unicorn worth $1.3 billion (last valuation after Series B). CredAvenue’s post-money valuation is close to $1.31 billion.

“Our capital is good to go for 2-3 years. The funds raised will be largely used towards developing the technology platform, the data platform, and building a network of clients and investors,” says Gaurav Kumar.

A total of 2 successful funding rounds, the startup’s value proposition, and their mission to provide access to debt and ease age-old issues within the system are paving a smooth path ahead of CredAvenue. The same can be a reason to be concerned about this venture as shown by the Oddup Score for CredAvenue which is nearly 68.41. A lower score means that after long and thorough research, our experts have concluded that its present success does not guarantee a stable future.

Series A - $90 Million

The series A funding round was announced back in September, 2021 when the startup had a pre-money valuation worth $320 million. A total of 6 well-known investors participated in this financing round including Sequoia Capital India which led the round. Other investors include Stride Ventures, Lightspeed India Partners, Lightrock, CRED, and TVS Capital Funds. The Series A round closed with raising $90 million. All of the 5 investors except CRED also onboarded the CredAvenue team of advisors and board members. 

Gaurav Kumar, Founder & CEO, CredAvenue, said “We are delighted to welcome the Series A investors to our journey. They will catalyze our mission with capital and guidance, to keep expanding our lead in this market,"

Series B - $137 Million

Under the guidance of Kumar, CredAvenue has recently closed another successful series financing round. The Series B round was announced in March 2022 as the company completed 2 years of being functional and hitting new milestones in facilitating enterprise debt processes. Total money raised in the Series B round was close to $137 million and it was ed by Insight Partners as well as B Capital Group. Other participating investors were Sequoia Capital India, Dragoneer Investment Group, Lightrock, etc.

“By leveraging a next-gen business intelligence and data-collection platform, CredAvenue enables efficient match-making and minimizes manual and recurring efforts in underwriting, executing, and monitoring debt,” says Insight Partners managing director Nikhil Sachdev.

What Comes Next for CredAvenue?

CredAvenue is going ahead with its plans to expand further in the next couple of years. The founder and CEO have stated that they are close to doubling the pool of capital to introduce Employee Stock Ownership Plan worth $65.5 million. As the Chennai-based company has recorded a 3X jump in its post-money valuation (from $410 million to $1.3 billion), there is a lot of expectations from both investors and users.

“India’s debt market will go into hyper-growth mode over the next week years, provided digital debt infrastructure supports the growth,” Founder and Chief Executive Officer Gaurav Kumar said in an online interview with Bloomberg. “It’s the equivalent of the boom in India’s equity markets in the 1990s.”

The capital raised will be used to build on its collection of infrastructure gradually. A part of the capital would also be used to invest in deep technology innovations like A.I. machine learning, and also data analytics to support the platform.

Currently, CredAvenue caters to clients active in almost 29 different sectors and it has also unlocked a new technology center in Bengaluru, Karnataka to allow debt servicing platforms to make a hold of the Indian Silicon Valley. It is evident that CredAvenue has plans to grow domestically.

Gaurav Kumar added, “Even as the lending environment continues to improve, Kumar is confident that many green shoots are being seen. “Demand for debt is coming back due to the large infrastructure projects… we are also seeing demand across categories such as consumer durables, electronics, and housing.”