We process over 11% of global mo­bile money trans­ac­tions ev­ery day

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—SHAILENDRA NAIDU SOMAROUTHU, CEO, OBOPAY

How has been the jour­ney of OBOPAY so far? OBOPAY started in 2005 in the US mar­ket with a li­cense to do in­ter­state money trans­fer ser­vices us­ing a mo­bile phone. That is the ge­n­e­sis of OBOPAY. We have built our own wal­let way back in 2005 in the US mar­ket. Af­ter a cou­ple of years, the trac­tion was a lit­tle slow, not as per what we wanted it to be. This prompted us to look at emerg­ing mar­kets and thus we en­tered the Africa Mar­ket.

We started our Africa op­er­a­tions in Cameroon and in Sene­gal. We came to In­dia in 2008. This was the year we launched Nokia Money. Nokia Money is prob­a­bly In­dia’s first pre­paid in­stru­ment of a wal­let way back then.

In 2013, a cou­ple of se­rial in­vestors had picked up OBOPAY. Post-2013, we have re­fo­cused from be­ing a B2C com­pany to a B2B com­pany. We re­al­ized that across mar­kets, the tele­coms and the banks are en­ter­ing the space in a big way. It may be a bit chal­leng­ing for a non­t­ele­com and non-bank en­tity to build a brand and build dis­tri­bu­tion be­cause the dis­tri­bu­tion is one of the crit­i­cal suc­cess fac­tors for run­ning any large and suc­cess­ful mo­bile money ecosys­tem

So we started part­ner­ing with large tel­cos, banks and in­de­pen­dents. We have worked with clients in Kenya, Uganda, Zim­babwe, Tan­za­nia, Cameroon, Sene­gal, Mex­ico, In­dia, Bangladesh and in the Mid­dle East.

Last year, we fo­cused on en­ter­ing In­dia es­pe­cially around de­mon­e­ti­za­tion phase which trig­gered the whole In­dian busi­ness jour­ney. While we are look­ing at other

Shailendra Naidu Somarouthu, CEO, OBOPAY dis­cusses his plat­form and how it is mak­ing dif­fer­ence in the In­dian mar­ket

mar­kets, we ap­plied for a pre­paid in­stru­ment li­cense in In­dia last year. We have been awarded a pro­vi­sional pre­paid in­stru­ment li­cense by the Cen­tral Bank. We are go­ing through our cer­ti­fi­ca­tions as we speak right now.

We should be able to start of­fer­ing wal­let-based ser­vices in In­dia pretty soon. While we have been talk­ing about op­por­tu­ni­ties in In­dia, we are work­ing with some key in­ter­na­tional clients who are look­ing at In­dian mar­kets. We have started work­ing with them for the In­dian ge­og­ra­phy.

How are you look­ing at In­dian mar­ket in terms of busi­ness?

In­dia is one of the strate­gic mar­kets glob­ally. One of the most ex­cit­ing things that are hap­pen­ing in In­dia is that the govern­ment has been push­ing dig­i­tal pay­ments in a much stronger man­ner. This is re­sult­ing in a marked change in the con­sumer be­hav­ior, thanks to the govern­ment poli­cies. Dig­i­tal in­fras­truc­ture in In­dia is grow­ing, so lot more places where ac­cep­tance of the dig­i­tal sys­tem is grow­ing in a good man­ner. A lot of in­no­va­tion has also hap­pened here to sup­port this al­ter­nate pay­ment sys­tem as a chan­nel. A lot of new play­ers are also en­ter­ing the In­dian mar­ket. In­dia is such a large mar­ket that hand­ful of play­ers can­not ser­vice the mar­ket.

In ad­di­tion to the re­tail cus­tomers, en­ter­prises are look­ing at try­ing to use dig­i­tal ser­vices and see how they can im­prove their ef­fi­cien­cies and also bring down their cost. So we are work­ing with a cou­ple of en­ter­prises and that’s the mar­ket which we think will pre­dom­i­nantly fuel the

dig­i­tal growth of the whole al­ter­nate pay­ment sec­tor in the In­dian mar­ket.

For ex­am­ple, Al­lianz In­surance is one of our key clients. We are work­ing with Al­lianz In­surance in the health­care seg­ment. The so­lu­tion, which we have pro­vided, is very unique. It is a sav­ings cum health­care prod­uct with in­surance bun­dled into it. They are pi­lot­ing it in Kar­nataka as we speak right now and the op­por­tu­nity should take it across the coun­try once we com­plete the pi­lot in Kar­nataka; and ob­vi­ously take it to other ge­ogra­phies across; es­pe­cially in emerg­ing mar­kets.

What are the ver­ti­cals you are tar­get­ing and how are you tap­ping con­sumers in In­dia?

Our so­lu­tions and con­sult­ing di­vi­sions pre­dom­i­nantly work with en­ter­prises to un­der­stand their re­quire­ments. We have lot of ex­pe­ri­ence with banks; as we are work­ing with over 45 banks glob­ally. In the In­dian mar­ket, I think that the en­ter­prises needed to be given in­no­va­tive pay­ment so­lu­tions. A com­bi­na­tion of a bank and a Fin­tech can re­ally work well for the en­ter­prises be­cause they al­ready have some sort of bank­ing re­la­tion­ship and our so­lu­tions ac­tu­ally, help both the banks and th­ese en­ter­prises in a phe­nom­e­nally dif­fer­ent man­ner. I think that is where we come into the play and that is how we would be look­ing at work­ing in the mar­ket. And the kind of govern­ment poli­cies which are com­ing in, it would make a lot of sense for the en­ter­prises to dig­i­tize a part of the trans­ac­tions. So, we are also work­ing in this field. To en­ter­prises, we pro­vide a tech­nol­ogy over­view as a so­lu­tion busi­ness. Be­cause what we also bring to the ta­ble is just not a plat­form but com­plete man­aged ser­vices. We help them han­dle both the phys­i­cal in­fras­truc­ture as well as the ap­pli­ca­tions and other things. We are present in 4 of the top 5 global mo­bile money mar­kets where most of the in­no­va­tion has hap­pened glob­ally – Kenya, Uganda, Zim­babwe, Tan­za­nia. They are way ahead of the curve com­pared to other mar­kets. We al­ways look for on kind of ser­vices that can click on the mar­ket and how the adop­tion of those ser­vices is go­ing on in the mar­ket. We process over 11% of global mo­bile money trans­ac­tions ev­ery day, that gives us an ad­van­tage as a plat­form what we can do. When we look at the mar­kets, our plat­form is avail­able in mul­ti­ple lan­guages; we are in English, French, Swahili, and Span­ish etc. We have a very ver­sa­tile plat­form.

We are also try­ing to see how we can help smaller set of en­ter­prises es­pe­cially in the sup­ply chain side; to see how they can dig­i­tize the whole pay­ment struc­tures over there. When we go and ap­proach lot of our clients, in most of the cases we end up be­ing the first player to ac­tu­ally ap­proach them. So, it is such a frag­mented mar­ket, I don’t think any­body has the band­width to cover the whole mar­ket with one shot. Lot of them is try­ing to work at dif­fer­ent seg­ments of the mar­ket. That is what would be the norm in the mar­ket; at least for the next 2-3 years.

What will be your roadmap for next 8 – 12 months?

As OBOPAY, we were able to triple our pres­ence in the last one year. We re-en­tered In­dian mar­ket as well. With fo­cused govern­ment poli­cies we see a change in the mind­set of In­dian cus­tomers and en­ter­prises. They are will­ing to lis­ten to al­ter­nate so­lu­tions and work with al­ter­nate so­lu­tion com­pa­nies like us.

Our plan is to gen­er­ate a bil­lion trans­ac­tions in the next year just in the In­dian mar­ket.

We are work­ing with Al­lianz In­surance in the health­care seg­ment. The so­lu­tion, which we have pro­vided, is very unique. It is a sav­ings cum health­care prod­uct with in­surance bun­dled into it

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