Exclusive: SoftBank-backed True Balance raises fresh capital from ICICI Bank

Exclusive: SoftBank-backed True Balance raises fresh capital from ICICI Bank
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3 May, 2019

Gurugram-based Balancehero India Pvt. Ltd, which operates mobile wallet and utility payments app True Balance, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from private-sector lender ICICI Bank Ltd, a top company executive told TechCircle.

This infusion marks the closure of True Balance’s ongoing Series B2 funding round. In April last year, the company had raised $23 million (Rs 150 crore at the time) as the first tranche of the Series B2 funding round from a clutch of investors. Line Ventures Corporation, the venture capital arm of Japanese mobile messaging firm and WhatsApp rival Line Corp, as well as its South Korean affiliate Naver were among the investors. South Korean lender Shinhan Bank and TS Investment were among the other investors in that round.

The company will use the fresh capital to strengthen its data team, bolster its technology engine and to overall expand its business.

“The freshly infused capital highlights the Indian fintech market’s high potential for steep growth and would serve as a new global platform for fintech players. We will strengthen our mobile payment services and provide better financial services to the next Billion Indian users,” Charlie Lee, founder, True Balance, said.

In February 2017, True Balance had raised $15 million in a Series B round led by SoftBank Ventures Korea. IMM Investment Group, Mega Investment, Korea Development Bank and Capston Partners had also put in money in that round.

True Balance had raised its Series A funding round in March 2016 from SoftBank Ventures.

The company was originally an application where users could check their balance and make quick recharges from telecom companies. Besides, it allowed users to manage their phone bills and offered them information on their data consumption, mobile balance and next due recharge date with just a swipe. It later pivoted its business model to the fintech segment by launching a mobile wallet and peer-to-peer transfer service.

In March this year, the startup launched a ‘buy now, pay later’ service named True PayLater which offers users a 14 day-period to pay for any transaction purchased on its app. Users will have to pay only a service fee at the time of purchase. With its proprietary credit scoring system, it determines users’ repayment capabilities and calculates credit limit based on past transactions. True PayLater can be used to pay electricity, gas and phone bills as well as make DTH recharges.

The company claims to have registered half a million transactions for the service within two months. Overall, the Android app claims to have 70 million users and does 8,000 to 10,000 transactions daily.

True Balance was founded in September 2014 by Lee, who is an alumnus of the University of Chicago. The company’s India operations were launched in April 2016. The Korean entrepreneur had a previous stint in India when he led the country operations for Internet streaming media delivery firm Real Networks in 2002.

ICICI’s fintech bets

This is not ICICI Bank’s first investment in a fintech startup.

Interestingly, India’s second-largest private-sector lender had picked up a minority stake in Mumbai-based mobile payments startup ePaylater as part of its push into the fintech sector in July last year. The bank picked up a 9.91% stake in the startup by investing Rs 8.72 crore.

ePaylater, operated by Arthashastra Fintech Pvt. Ltd, gives customers the option to ‘buy now and pay later’ on online shopping portals with just one click. The customers get 14 days to make the payment. Within that period, they can make more transactions via single-click checkouts and can bunch them all together to make a single payment at the end of the period.

In February 2018, the lender invested in Mumbai-headquartered mobile payments startup Tapits Technologies Pvt. Ltd.

In an interaction with TechCircle.in last year, B Madhivanan, chief technology and digital officer at ICICI Bank, said the bank had set aside a Rs 100-crore corpus for investments into fintech startups. Out of that, Rs 40 crore had already been used.

He added that the bank's other fintech investments include FingPay, which enables merchants to accept digital payments through biometric authentication using Aadhaar-enabled payment systems. It is currently used in ICICI Bank’s Eazypay app. ICICI, which co-created the product, picked up a 10% stake in the company.

Likewise, it had also agreed to pick up a 10% stake in Arteria, which offers supply chain solutions on cloud and payment integration services to original equipment manufacturers and their supply chain network.