By Anusha Ashwin
India is inevitably a hot bed for fin-tech startups as there has been a large-scale uptake of digital payment solutions. Banking and financial experts have understood that the combination of their knowledge and information technology can unlock a vast scope in India’s burgeoning digital transaction landscape.
As Indian startup entrepreneurs are exploring various modes of payment solutions, Bengaluru-based fonePaisa has exploited the QR code as an advantageous payment option.
Banking and financial brains trio – Ritesh Agarwal, C S Prasad Subramanian (aka CSP), and Sharad Hegde – came together three years ago to incorporate fonePaisa. Agarwal has about 18 years of experience in branch-banking and BFSI software industry. He is associated with CSP and Hedge, who were the architects behind Finacle – Infosys’ flagship core-banking software product.
Through fonePaisa, the founders intended to revolutionize the way businesses and individuals send or receive payments. fonePaisa was incorporated to be a one-stop solution, an aggregator of payment solutions based on technology innovation. They brought the worlds of mobile and payments together along with several value-added features such as invoicing, reconciliation and communication on a single platform making payments simple for individuals and businesses.
Voice&Data interacts with one of fonePaisa’s Founder, Ritesh Agarwal to understand the company’s exclusive payments solutions.
A confident plunge
Being in the banking industry, Agarwal closely tracked Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) latest moves and decisions. He knew RBI was very serious about making India strong in mobile payment solutions. “CSP, Hedge and myself got together in August 2014. The three of us were so confident to take an unusual business approach. Most startups first zero-in on the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and review it in a closed group, before launching any company. But, we on the other hand, were so confident and clear in our vision, that we first set-up the company and then developed the product. We were looking at creating solutions that integrated mobile payments and technology. We worked on creating an in-house interface and it took us a year-and-a-half to set up the company and offer solutions.”
The trio pooled in seed capital amongst themselves and more than a million dollars have been invested in the company by its three founders, till date.
Simple payment solutions for the layman
Swiping cards at stores needs hardware and the machines are expensive investment for a retailer in SME segment. Agarwal’s intention, through fonePaisa, is to help merchants reduce their capital expenditure on devices and more easily perform transactions simply using the web browser and the easily accessible QR code.
“fonePaisa works with all payment solutions in the country. The consumer no longer has to carry multiple cards or wallets all the time. Our focus is on engaging the merchants. We have a host of people from tour operators, and Kirana store owners to large corporates on the platform,” modestly says Agarwal.
The company’s fonePaisa app is primarily for consumerswho intend to make payments. fonePaisa Easy is the payments app for merchants to accept digital payments and fonePaisa EasyPay is a quick integration payment button. Apart from the apps, fonePaisa platform offers a multi-currency payment gateway.
Bullish on QR code-based payments
Agarwal has his strong bet on QR code-based payments. He says, the system has an edge over machine-based payments in terms of speed, rapid deployment across locations and more importantly is inexpensive. “A QR code can be reprinted many times whereas a card swiping machine, once broken, has to be replaced and is a very expensive affair. Our Government is a big proponent of QR code-based payments through the Bharat QR and BHIM initiatives,” says Agarwal
fonePaisa’s qrscan.me works on a low-end browser and poor internet connection. qrscan.me invokes the QR scanning mechanism without an app, on the browser and quickly identifies the recipient of payment. In addition to this, Agarwal indicates that the fonePaisa browser uses only 98 KB in bandwidth to load and complete the transaction. This ensures that it works well even in areas where there is poor Internet connection.
As of today, fonePaisa has over 2000+ merchant stores across Bengaluru, Chennai, Chandigarh, Hyderabad, Mumbai, NCR, across Assam among others.
Agarwal, in the conversation recalled that, India’s popular kitchen consumer durables company TTK Prestige was fonePaisa’s first client. TTK Prestige uses fonePaisa to accept digital payments and has also integrated the fonePaisa EASY payment gateway to power its business.
Awards to its credit
In a short span of existence, fonePaisa has garnered key awards and accomplishments. In March 2017, fonePaisa was recognized as the best fintech company in the ‘e-payments category’ at the PICUP Fintech Awards 2017’ for their Unified Payment and Reconciliation platform. The PICUP Fintech Awards 2017 is a yearly event organized by the collaborative effort of NASSCOM, FICCI, IBA and BCG, who aim to bring together disruptive Fintechs, leading bankers, technology experts and policy makers from around the country.
Proving its calibre, fonePaisa earlier bagged the runnerup award at the SISA Summit 2016, a one day payments security event, organized by Payment security company, SISA Information Security.
Eyeing rural markets
Agarwal knows the digital payments business inside out. He has chartered out his plans for the future along with his able co-founders. He says, “We are constantly looking at expanding the definition of payment and also various other avenues where we can add value to our merchants. It includes international inward remittances and distributed ledger technology. Rural India is an important focus area for fonePaisa. The OTP-based authentication mechanism works very well for Rural India. We are continuously working on simplifying payments for the entire country including rural India.”