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The Backbone Of MSMEs

BharatPe has focused on democratising access to capital for merchants – in turn, empowering them with the power to grow their ‘dhandha’

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Dhruv Dhanraj Bahl, COO, BharatPe Age: 36 Sector: Fintech, Financial Services

BharatPe has gained traction in recent times as India’s first credit cum debit card. This application is particularly popular with merchants and local grocery stores, as it offers a range of fintech products. While the brand is interesting, the journey of the minds behind it is even more so. This is evident in the experience of Dhruv Dhanraj Bahl, who is the Chief Operating Officer at BharatPe.  

“My early years working at Fortis Healthcare, is a great example of ‘baptism by fire’. An MBA from INSEAD and a transformative stint at Bain & Company helped me grow beyond my comfort zone. The acceleration of the digital-first mindset in recent times allowed me to explore leadership roles,” Bahl says.

The genesis of BharatPe has been the lack of focus on the country’s MSME backbone – the small business and shop owners. Almost all other fintech players were focused on building a consumer offering and customer base, however moving away from this saturated space we focused on the merchants who received these payments by enabling them with India’s first interoperable QR code. In Bahl’s words, “We focused on democratising access to capital for these merchants – in turn, empowering them with the power to grow their ‘dhandha’. This was a conscious departure from earning ‘margin of margins’ in the payment processing model.”

Today, BharatPe has raised over $500 million in equity from marquee investors such as Sequoia, Ribbit Capital, Insight Partners, Coatue, Steadview, and Tiger Global, to name a few. Additionally, the company has raised another $100+ million in institutional debt from the likes of ICICI, Axis, Northern Arc, Innoven Capital and Trifecta Capital. In FY22, BharatPe revenues are up three times from FY21, backed by a strong push across lending and payments.

“By using payment as a source of data rather than revenue, we pioneered velocity-based underwriting in India. By automating traditional credit checks, we reduced the cost of processing a loan application by over 80 per cent, compared to peers. By introducing contextual chatbots on WhatsApp, we transitioned from app-first to conversational-commerce and service,” notes Bahl while describing the brand’s unique selling points.