Zeta, a banking technology start-up co-founded by serial entrepreneur Bhavin Turakhia, on Monday announced a USD 250-million fundraising from Japanese investment major Softbank, which will help it accelerate its global expansion efforts.
French employee benefits company Sodexo, a strategic investor that had invested in 2019 at a valuation of USD 300 million, also put in USD 10 million in the current round.
This is the first institutional fundraise for both Zeta and its Chief Executive Officer Bhavin Turakhia, a billionaire who has four ventures under his belt. The company offers a full stack technology back-end for retail and commercial lenders which is cheaper and faster than the legacy platforms, its founders said, pegging the addressable market at USD 300 billion annually.
‘Our goal is to scale as rapidly as possible. We wanted both the capital and also the right connections in an investor,’ Turakhia told reporters in a virtual meeting.
Softbank, which has backed a slew of Indian start-ups including Ola, Paytm, Delhivery and Flipkart, will get a 17.25 per cent stake and a seat on the board of the company.
Turakhia said the promoters and employees continue to retain a majority 70 per cent stake in the company even after this fundraising exercise. He has pumped USD 40 million in the venture, while Sodexo has put USD 30 million.
The company, which is in its investment phase right now, aims to become profitable at an operational level by 2023-24 and the capital raised will suffice at least till then.
He said the company plans to use the funds to accelerate its global expansion efforts over the next year, Turakhia said, specifying countries in the Middle East, Latin America, Southeast Asia and Asia-Pacific as the key markets where it wants to go.
The 41-year-old Turakhia, who is born and raised in the financial capital and started coding at 10, said the global expansion would have otherwise taken over two years, and the capital infusion will accelerate it to under 18 months now.
It is also keen to deploy the capital for inorganic growth opportunities, which would also be a first for Turakhia, all of whose ventures have grown organically till now. He specified firms offering niche capabilities and market access as the most likely acquisition targets.
Its co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Ramki Gaddipati said the company is not like any fintech and stressed that the work which they are doing is fundamental which was considered as one where only the big boys play.
Softbank Managing Partner Munish Varma said, ‘Most banks still employ technology which is significantly older than their customers, impacting user experience and engagement. Zeta’s modern Omni Stack will drive banking software upgrades catering to the digital consumer, and innovations in financial services globally.’ Turakhia said the platform built by Zeta, most of whose 750 employees are stationed in India, helps banks increase its revenue streams through higher cross-sell and transaction capabilities, and also save on costs as a lender does not need to have a physical infrastructure and hardware. The banks are billed on per user and transaction basis.
Till now, many experts have lamented the dearth of product or platform companies to come out of India, which boasts of a USD 200 billion a year tech industry that largely undertakes services work for the world.
Zeta, which counts on domestic lenders like HDFC Bank, Indusind Bank and RBL Bank, as among its clients is already present in eight countries and has 10 million active cards and accounts in place. Even without signing any new business, this number is slated to grow to 70 million in up to five years, Turakhia said.
Turakhia said one can build a full-service bank in 90 days using its products and services. He also claimed that banks are slow in innovating because of their reliance on legacy systems and take upwards of 12 months to launch a single product or a service at present.
Turakhia started his journey as an entrepreneur at 18. He launched Zeta in 2015, after selling Directi, which he had started with his brother in 1998, for USD 160 million. The brothers had sold their stake in a slew of ventures in 2014, including Media.net which was sold for USD 900 million.