India-based credit card repayment platform Cred has bought back shares worth INR90m ($1.2m) from existing and former employees and secured $81m funding in a Series C round.

This marks the first employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) buyback programme completed by the two-year-old startup.

Cred’s Series C funding round was led by its existing investor, the partners of DST Global.

Other investors including Ribbit Capital, Sequoia Capital and Tiger Global and General Catalyst also participated in this round.

Additionally, Sofina, Coatue, and Satyan Gajwani of Times Internet emerged as participants in the round that raised the company’s valuation to over $800m, according to the latest media reports.

It brought the total amount raised by the company to $230m, following a $120m Series B funding round last year and a seed round in 2018.

As Cred inches closer to unicorn status by nearing $1bn valuation, it follows the likes of Zerodha, Razorpay, BharatPe, and other startups that had launched the ESOP programme for their staff.

In a statement, Cred said: “The ESOP buyback was completed on 1 Jan 2021. This is the first ESOP liquidity programme initiated by CRED, just two years into its operations.

“Employees who hold vested stocks were eligible to sell up to 50% of their vested ESOP shares in the company.”

Founded in 2018 by Kunal Shah, Cred allows users to pay their credit card bills and earn discount points termed as ‘Cred Rewards’.

Users can use an e-commerce platform named Cred Store to buy certain products at a discount using these points.

Cred has onboarded over 1,300 brands, including Samsung, Myntra, and Curefit, among others, as members on this platform.

The fintech startup also allows its users to pay their rent using credit cards.

It offers a range of other features including the ability to track their credit card spending, set up reminders and more.

Customers with a credit score (CIBIL) of about 750 out of 900 can sign up for Cred.

Shah said: “We are committed to enabling wealth-creation opportunities for them and have allocated 10% of our cap table allocated for ESOPs even at the Series C stage.”

Last month, Cred forayed into the direct-to-consumer (D2C) market by launching a new offering called ‘CRED Pay’.