Dhoni Takes Guard As KhataBook Brand Ambassador and Investor
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In the latest instance of a celebrity backing Indian start-ups, former captain of the Indian cricket team Mahendra Singh Dhoni has decided to come onboard as an investor and brand ambassador at KhataBook.
Founded in 2016, the Bengaluru-based start-up offers a digital ledger mobile app to micro, small and medium businesses. Available in 11 languages, merchants ranging from mobile recharge shops to jewelers across more than 5,000 Indian cities currently use the app.
Dhoni, who is known as one of the most successful captains in international cricket, is investing into the company at a time when the number of merchants with the app has crossed 20 million. The company said the new funds will be used to expand its product portfolio and further develop its technology and capabilities.
KhataBook raised a $25 million Series A round from Sequoia India, Tencent, Kunal Shah among others in October. Y-Combinator is also an investor in the start-up.
“We are thrilled to welcome Mahi to the Khatabook family. He embodies the spirit of true sportsmanship and entrepreneurship - the ability to adapt, evolve and be a leader, focusing on a larger cause beyond his success,” said co-founder and chief executive officer Ravish Naresh in a statement.
Naresh added that the company aspires to build the same level of trust, agility, and reliability among merchants and business partners.
On his thesis behind being associated with the start-up, the World Cup-winning skipper said while there were many new-age companies, very few like Khatabook were making a difference at the grassroots.
“Having grown up in small-town India, I saw friends and family struggle with outdated modes of doing business and tracking finances. Khatabook has had an outsized impact on the lives of India’s small merchants and retailers,” said Dhoni.
The company set aggressive growth targets for expansion across smaller towns and villages, with an aim to onboard another 20 million merchants over the next 12 months. The app has recorded cash transactions worth over INR 3.7 lakh crore in the last one year. It also claims to have organically acquired merchants in Nepal, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.
Ved Prakash, vice president of marketing at Khatabook, said the company’s initial growth came organically and that it currently has a market penetration of 25-30 per cent.
According to him, now the idea is to drive trust and reliability at a large scale, which is why the brand campaign with Dhoni is a great fit and could increase penetration by 50-60 per cent. “We will now focus on deepening our relationship with the merchants by creating more use cases and cementing relatability with the brand,” he said.
The company faces a stiff challenge, however, as India’s most valuable unicorn Paytm recently launched a similar feature - the Paytm Business Khata - to help merchant partners maintain a digital ledger for all their transactions.
Other Indian cricketers who have backed start-ups include the likes of Sourav Ganguly and Yuvraj Singh.