Tiger Global backs bots startup Gupshup at US$1.4b value

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[NEW YORK] Tiger Global is investing in messaging bots startup Gupshup at a US$1.4 billion valuation, the latest in a string of major startup deals in India's fast-growing mobile arena.

The US$100 million investment is the first since 2011 for Gupshup, which helps companies from Amazon.com to Xiaomi develop customer-relations chatbots on websites or services like WhatsApp. More investors will join Tiger Global in the funding round, to be disclosed later, the startup said in a statement.

The financing for Gupshup - co-founded by Indian-born Beerud Sheth - is the latest nine-figure investment unfurled this year after pandemic lockdowns accelerated the country's mobile and internet boom. Since the start of the month, Indian startups in fields from online retail to food delivery and fintech have scored almost US$2 billion of funding from major backers including SoftBank Group, Facebook and Temasek Holdings. That bonanza has officially minted at least five new unicorns or billion-dollar firms this week alone.

The ramp-up in private investments comes as a growing number of bigger and more established startups from Walmart's Flipkart to InMobi Pte prep initial public offerings this year. Longer term, friction between the US and China could enhance India's appeal to global tech investors - so long as the government addresses longstanding roadblocks including excessive red tape, according to a report last month from the Asia-based Hinrich Foundation.

Gupshup, which got its start in text messaging, intends to use the funding to build out its service globally, Mr Sheth said in the statement. The startup's annual revenue run rate hit US$150 million in 2020 and its software tools now help more than 100,000 clients deliver 6 billion messages monthly. "Customers expect to converse with businesses the way they do with friends," he said.

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