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Indian Trio Reap $500 Million Each Selling Payments Startup

  • Founders held a combined 31% of BillDesk, which Prosus bought
  • BillDesk ‘steered clear of the grow-big-at-any-cost’ model
BillDesk Co-founder Srinivasu M.N.

BillDesk Co-founder Srinivasu M.N.

Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

When three consultants from Arthur Andersen LLP set out to build a digital payments company at the turn of the millennium, the first institutional backer they found was an Indian state-run lender. This week Prosus NV bought BillDesk for $4.7 billion, netting the trio half-a-billion dollars each for their combined 31% stake.

The story of M.N. Srinivasu, Ajay Kaushal and Karthik Ganapathy runs counter to rules in India’s startup textbook. In an age where every funding round is touted in press statements and staff parties, Prosus-owned PayU found itself having to take complete charge of the acquisition announcement because BillDesk had never employed a PR firm.