entrepreneur stories Kunal Shah

Entrepreneur Stories: The Kunal Shah Edition

Welcome to another episode of “Entrepreneur Stories,” where we delve into the lives and careers of prominent entrepreneurs who have made a significant impact on the world. Today, we’ll be discussing the inspiring journey of Indian business magnate Kunal Shah, who founded CRED and FreeCharge, two of the most successful startups in India.

This episode will guide you through Shah’s early days, struggles, rise to prominence, and the legacy he has created. Furthermore, we will explore 27 key learnings from his business philosophy, which will inspire you to think differently and grow your own business.

Early Days

Kunal Shah was born in Mumbai, India, to a middle-class family. He pursued a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from Wilson College, Mumbai, and later obtained his MBA from Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies. Shah’s academic background provided him with a unique perspective on business, which he would apply to his future ventures.

The First Venture: PaisaBack

In 2009, Shah started his entrepreneurial journey with a cashback and loyalty program called PaisaBack. The platform was aimed at helping customers save money on their online purchases. However, the venture faced several challenges, including low internet penetration and lack of awareness about online shopping, resulting in its eventual shutdown.

The Birth of FreeCharge

Not one to be deterred by failure, Kunal Shah teamed up with Sandeep Tandon in 2010 to found FreeCharge, a platform that provided mobile recharge and bill payment services. The platform offered customers incentives, such as coupons and discounts, for using its services, effectively creating a unique value proposition. Within a few years, FreeCharge became one of the fastest-growing startups in India.

FreeCharge Acquisition

In 2015, FreeCharge was acquired by Indian e-commerce giant Snapdeal for a reported $400 million, making it one of the largest startup acquisitions in India at the time. Shah continued to serve as the CEO of FreeCharge until 2016 before stepping down to pursue other opportunities.

The Idea Behind CRED

After taking a break from the startup world, Shah returned with a new venture called CRED in 2018. The idea for CRED was born out of Shah’s observation that creditworthy customers were underserved and lacked rewards for their good financial behavior. CRED is a members-only app that rewards users for paying their credit card bills on time, offering a variety of perks such as discounts, cashback, and exclusive experiences.

CRED’s Success

CRED quickly gained traction, with millions of users signing up within the first year. The platform’s success is attributed to Shah’s innovative approach to customer engagement, user experience, and brand partnerships. CRED has since become one of the most valuable fintech startups in India, attracting significant investments from venture capital firms.

Kunal Shah’s Philosophy

Shah’s business philosophy is centered around creating unique value propositions that cater to underserved markets. He believes in taking calculated risks and learning from failures to build better and more resilient businesses. His focus on understanding consumer behavior and delivering exceptional customer experiences has been a cornerstone of his success.


Kunal Shah’s journey is a testament to the power of perseverance, innovation, and a customer-centric approach. His entrepreneurial spirit and vision have resulted in the creation of two successful startups that have transformed the Indian fintech landscape. Shah’s legacy will continue to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs to take risks, learn from their failures, and create products that solve real-world problems.

Here are 27 key learnings from Kunal Shah’s business philosophy that can help you grow your own business:

  1. Focus on creating unique value propositions: Shah’s ventures offered something different to the market, setting them apart from competitors.
  2. Cater to underserved markets: Both FreeCharge and CRED focused on segments of the market that were not well served, leading to their success.
  3. Be customer-centric: Understanding consumer behavior and delivering exceptional customer experiences is crucial for success.
  4. Learn from failures: Shah’s first venture, PaisaBack, failed, but the lessons he learned shaped his future success.
  5. Take calculated risks: Don’t be afraid to take risks, but ensure they are well-thought-out and based on data.
  6. Have a long-term vision: Shah’s ventures were built on the foundation of long-term growth and sustainability.
  7. Embrace innovation: Be open to new ideas and continually adapt to stay ahead of the curve.
  8. Build a strong team: A strong team is essential for the growth and success of any business.
  9. Foster a culture of learning: Encourage continuous learning and improvement within your organization.
  10. Focus on execution: A great idea is only as good as its execution.
  11. Be adaptable: Be willing to pivot and change direction when necessary.
  12. Leverage technology: Utilize technology to streamline processes and improve customer experiences.
  13. Experiment: Test new ideas and be open to iterating on your business model.
  14. Seek mentorship: Learn from the experiences of others to avoid common pitfalls and grow your business.
  15. Network: Build relationships with other entrepreneurs, investors, and industry leaders.
  16. Stay humble: No matter your level of success, remain grounded and open to learning.
  17. Be resilient: Persevere through challenges and setbacks to achieve your goals.
  18. Be disciplined: Stay focused on your objectives and maintain a strong work ethic.
  19. Prioritize time management: Allocate time wisely to ensure maximum productivity.
  20. Maintain financial discipline: Manage your finances responsibly to ensure business sustainability.
  21. Invest in personal development: Continually learn and improve your skills as an entrepreneur.
  22. Embrace change: Recognize that change is inevitable and adapt accordingly.
  23. Be data-driven: Use data to make informed decisions and guide your strategy.
  24. Practice empathy: Understand the needs and feelings of your customers, employees, and stakeholders.
  25. Communicate effectively: Strong communication skills are essential for successful leadership.
  26. Be patient: Success takes time, so be prepared to persevere through the ups and downs.
  27. Stay true to your values: Build your business on a strong foundation of core values that guide your decision-making.

Here are some quotes from Kunal Shah that showcase his entrepreneurial mindset, business philosophy, and insights:

  1. “Good companies solve problems; great companies find problems worth solving.”
  2. “People don’t want to be sold what you have. They want to buy the outcome.”
  3. “Failure is a comma, not a full stop.”
  4. “Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.”
  5. “Trust can’t be built overnight. It’s a result of consistent behavior over time.”
  6. “It’s important to question the status quo and not be afraid to think differently.”
  7. “The more you unlearn, the more you learn.”
  8. “Entrepreneurship is not about winning. It’s about finding the right thing to do.”
  9. “Invest in building a strong network. Your network is your net worth.”
  10. “You can’t build a great product without being obsessed with the customer.”

These quotes from Kunal Shah emphasize the importance of problem-solving, customer-centricity, learning from failures, questioning the status quo, and building trust. These insights can serve as valuable guidance for entrepreneurs and business leaders looking to create a lasting impact in their industries.

Kunal Shah’s journey is a shining example of perseverance, innovation, and the power of a customer-centric approach. By learning from his experiences and incorporating the 27 key learnings from his business philosophy, you too can create a successful and lasting impact in your industry. Thank you for joining us for this episode of “Entrepreneur Stories.” Be sure to stay tuned for our next episode, where we will explore another inspiring entrepreneur’s journey to success.

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