Peepul Capital, previously known as iLabs, has invested Rs 100 crore ($22.3 million) in Chennai-based UniverCell Telecommunications India Pvt Ltd. UniverCell is a mobile retail chain which currently has a presence in South India. The investment took place in four tranches since 2007, reports HinduBusinessLine. MobileNXT is another funded player in this segment, and has raised funding from TV18, Avendus and some angel investors.

With the funds in place, UniverCell is now in an expansion mode and plans to raise the number of its outlets from 167 now to over 300 by March next year. UniverCell had 10 stores in 2006 and plans to increase it to a 1,000 stores by 2010 with a national presence. It reported revenues of Rs 350 crore for FY08. UniverCell has also started some new initiatives. It has tied up with Spencers' to establish shop-in-shop at Music World outlets. Also it has just announced a tie up with Oriental Insurance Co to offer its customers theft and damage cover.

Peepul Capital currently has $325 million under management and raised a $214 million fund last year. Its most recent investment was in waste management company Kam-Avida. It has also invested in MedPlus, a pharmaceutical retail chain.

Mobile retail chains is becoming a very competitive market in India with big corporate houses like Aditya Birla Group and Reliance ADAG planning their entry into this segment. The total size of the handset market in India is estimated to be Rs 70,000 crore. There are already some big players such as Subhiksha Mobile, RPG, Spice Group's Hotspot and Pantaloon.

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