Tala, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based startup that builds a credit profile to provide unsecured loans to millions in emerging markets, has raised $110 million in a new funding round to enter the l India’s booming fintech space.
Series D funding for the five-year-old startup was led by RPS Ventures, with GGV Capital and previous investors IVP, Revolution Growth, Lowercase Capital, Data Collective VC, ThomVest Ventures and PayPal Ventures also participating in the round.
The new round, which brings the startup’s total fundraising to more than $215 million, has valued it at more than $750 million, a person familiar with the matter told TechCrunch. Tala also raised $100 million in additional debt, including a $50 million facility led by Colchis last year.
tala reviews a customer’s SMS and call logs, merchant transactions, overall app usage and others behavioral data through its Android app to build their credit profile. Based on this information, its machine learning algorithms assess individual risk and provide instant loans in the range of $10 to $500 to customers.
This model is different from how banks and most other online lenders assess a person’s eligibility for a loan. Banks look at a user’s credit score while most online lenders check financial history.
Tala is also much faster. It approves loans within minutes and disburses the money through mobile payment platforms. The startup has loaned over $1 billion to over 4 million customers to date – up from issuing $300 million in loans to 1.3 million customers last yearShivani Siroya, founder and CEO of Tala, told TechCrunch in an interview.
The startup, which employs more than 550 people, will use the new capital to enter India, said Siroya, who built Tala after surveying thousands of small and micro businesses.
Ahead of the India launch, Tala launched a 12-month pilot program in the country last year to conduct user research and understand the market. It has also set up a technology hub in Bangalore, she said.
“Opportunity is very big in India, so we spent time customizing our service for the local market,” she said.
According to the World Bank, more than 2 billion people worldwide have limited access to financial services and working capital. For these people, many of whom live in India, getting a small loan is extremely difficult because they have no credit score.
In recent years, several major digital payment platforms in India, including Paytm and MobiKwik, have started offering small loans to users. Traditional banks are still slow to serve this segment, according to industry executives. (Outside of India, Tala competes with Branch, a five-year-old San Francisco-based startup that has raised over $170 million to date and earlier this year signed a deal with Visa.)
Tala goes further and takes responsibility for any unpaid returns, Siroya said. More than 90% of Tala users repay their loan in 20-30 days and are repeat customers, she added.
The startup also forwards positive credit histories and rankings to local credit bureaus to help people secure larger, longer-term loans in the future, she added.
Tala, which charges a one-time fee as low as 5% for each loan, relies on referrals and marketing through radio and television to acquire new clients. “But many of these users come because they heard about us from their friends,” Siryoa said.
As part of the new funding round, Kabir Misra, founding general partner of RPS Ventures, has joined Tala’s board of directors, the startup said.
Tala said he will use part of his new fund to expand his footprint and team in his existing markets – East Africa, Mexico and the Philippines – and also to create new solutions.
Siroya said the startup has identified other markets it wants to serve. She did not disclose the names, but said she was considering more countries in South Asia and Latin America.