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Did Not Have Money To Finish MBA, Slogged To Build His Start-Up Then Sold It For Rs 2,700 Cr!

Failure can never overtakes your determination if it is strong enough. Today’s story proves this statement. He is someone who came from a lesser-privileged background but left no stones unturned to change his fate. Kunal Shah dreamt of something very simple yet powerful. He did not want to work for earning his bread after the age of 35.

Kunal was very persistent towards his dreams since early on and moved forward with a solid mindset. From dropping out of college because of financial crunch to setting up a company worth crores. Here’s the story of the founder of FreeCharge, an online mobile recharge website. 

Born and brought up in a middle-class family in Maharashtra, Kunal graduated in Arts from Wilson College in Mumbai. After his graduation, he took admission in MBA. However, they did not have enough money to fund his education, due to which he had to quit his studies and get a job.

Like other successful entrepreneurs, Kunal’s journey also started at a very young age. He rejected to join his family business and decided to work as a junior programmer in a startup in the year 2000.

During the course of his work, he met Sandip Tandon, who was an investor in the company and had stayed in America for some years. He was very impressed with Kunal’s work and decided to promote him as a business head. Kunal worked for the company for 10 years.

While working with the startup, Kunal started a website named PaisaBack, a B2B venture that provided cash-back promotions for organized retailers. The website became successful and Kunal was motivated. He then decided to do something big and different.

In the year 2010, he shared an idea with Sandip which he liked and decided to fund, too. That was when FreeCharge was launched, which provided facilities like prepaid, postpaid, DTH, metro recharge and utility bill payments for various service providers. At that time, there were various mobile recharge websites and Kunal decided to do something different. So FreeCharge started giving away coupons and vouchers along with recharges. This concept started working gradually and FreeCharge became one of the most used recharge portals.

Kunal Shah with Sandip Tandon

However, the path was not easy as many mobile phone operators were not open to the idea during those days and many of them even blocked FreeCharge. A year after its launch, FreeCharge got a funding of Rs 200 million from Sequoia Capital in 2011. In 2014, it received $33 million (Rs 3.3 crore) Series b Funding from Sequoia Capital, Sofina, and Ru-Net and another $80 million (Rs 8 crore) from Hong Kong-based fund and other investors.

Eventually, millions of people started using it and it became one of the most successful Indian startups. Five years later, online shopping portal Snapdeal started trying to buy FreeCharge to make their place in the mobile market and compete with Flipkart. It was hailed as one of the largest deals in the Indian consumer internet space. In April 2015, Snapdeal bought FreeCharge for whopping Rs 2,700 crore.

Even when Snapdeal undertook the venture, Kunal was appointed as the CEO. Recently, FreeCharge has started a wallet service. Today, it has is one of the biggest companies in the country. Kunal has also invested in startups like TableHero, Razorpay, LifCare and Zilingo.

Kunal’s hard work and persistent made his dream come true. He has proved again that you o not need to have a degree from any renowned institution to be successful. All it needs it a working plan and the determination to execute it. 

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