Only 3 in 100 Indians have a credit card — this former PayU India cofounder is hoping to change that

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Only 3 in 100 Indians have a credit card — this former PayU India cofounder is hoping to change that
Laxmikant Vyas, Nitin Gupta and Prateek Jindal, founders of Uni.Uni
  • Uni claims to have issued 20,000 cards to date, with 1,000 new additions per day.
  • The company aims to issue one million credit cards by the end of June 2022.
  • It raised $18.5 million from Lightspeed and Accel last year, nine months before officially launching its product.
India’s credit card system is a mess to say the least. You need a credit score to get a credit card, you need a credit card to get a credit score. The loop continues.

Now PayU India’s former chief executive (CEO) and cofounder Nitin Gupta — who also led Ola Financial Services — has embarked on a journey to make this process simpler with his latest venture Uni. He is joined by Prateek Jindal, who previously built Ola Money, and Laxmikant Vyas, who has previously headed Bajaj Finance.

Founded last year in October, Uni is a fintech startup that offers a special Visa 1/3 card, in partnership with RBL Bank and Mauritius-based SBM Bank, to its customers. This offering works pretty much like a credit card, but divides all of the customer's transactions into three installments that have to be repaid over a period of three months without any interest.

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The customers also have the option to extend the timeline of these installments by paying a small carry forward fee. This carry forward fee is one of the sources of income for Uni, along with the interest they are charged. Like a credit card, Uni too earns on each transaction carried out by these 1/3 cards.

Uni — which launched its first product in June 2021 — claims to have issued 20,000 cards to date, with 1,000 new customers being added every day. The company is aiming for a 10-fold growth by June next year and issue a million such cards.

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The one-year-old startup seems well funded to do so. Even before Uni was officially unveiled in October last year, the company had raised $18.5 million in seed funding from Lightspeed India and Accel. The company is estimated to be valued at $40-45 million.

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One of the major perks of having a credit card is the cashbacks and rewards one earns on each transaction. Uni definitely lacks that to a large extent. A customer gets 1% cashback as reward if they choose to repay their entire bill in lump sum, instead of opting for three installments.

This is still a lot less compared to the points and cashback you get on each transaction carried out by a regular credit card. The company plans to launch an in-app reward store next month.
Popular credit cards in IndiaPerks
Axis Bank Ace Credit Card4-5% cashback on bill payments, mobile recharges, Swiggy, Zomato, Ola. 2% cashback on every other spend.
Amazon Pay ICICI Card3-5% cashback on all purchases on Amazon. 1% cashback on each transaction, 2% reward points on recharge and bill payments.
HDFC Regalia10,000 Reward Points on spending ₹5 lakh and priority dining facility in top restaurants across the country.
SBI BPCL Octane Credit Card7.25% value-back on BPCL petrol pump. Ten reward points on every ₹100 spent on groceries, department stores, movie tickets and dining.

Commenting on the same, Gupta told Business Insider that a credit card is for people that want rewards whereas the one-third card is for people who feel cash flow crunch in certain months of the year.

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“Most households face cash flow issues one or two months of the year. It’s a ₹30-50,000 gap. They don’t want to take a personal loan and deal with EMIs. What do they do? They tap into their fixed deposits or they borrow money from friends or family,” Gupta said, adding that one-third card allows them to avoid that all together with no interest or annual fees.

Uni further added that their upcoming credit card range would also offer similar rewards.

Uni is looking to launch its credit cards too — but many already exists

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Gupta agrees that there are several credit card companies in India and the customers have abundant options to opt for a credit card. But the reality is that only three in 100 Indians have a credit card. One of the major reasons behind this lag is the reliance on credit score.

The former PayU India co-founder proposes to use newer methodologies and underwriting techniques to offer credit cards to Indian consumers. Uni offers its payments cards on the basis of credit scores as well, but will also tap into the following mechanisms from November onwards.

Proposed underwriting mechanisms
Accessing customers phone data to understand customers’ spending behavior and financial activities.
Accessing bank data to get better insights into customer’s earning and spending activities.
Reading into digital trails to understand the customers spending behaviour online
Like the ‘Buy Now Pay Later’ mechanism, start with a smaller credit limit and increase the limit as customers stay punctual to past payments.
Traditional credit card issuers do read into the banking data before issuing a credit card, but this has to be done at a more proactive basis, Gupta added.

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But having said all this, Uni may still face tough competition from dominant credit card issuers like State Bank of India, HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, Axis Bank and more. The company is also in competition with Bengaluru-based Slice and neo-bank Finin.

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