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

by February 1, 2018 0 comments

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

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 non-telecom and non-bank entity to build a brand and build distribution because 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 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 is 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 digital system is growing in a good manner. Lot of innovation has also happened here to support this alternate payment system as a channel. 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 Indian market. For example, one of the large clients of our is Allianz Insurance. 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 lot of other markets. We always look for on kind of services that can click in the market and how 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.

Who will be your competition and what is your strategy to deal with them?
A similar player like us can be our competitor. But the way we look at it is that the Indian market is such a huge market. I don’t think one player can actually cover the whole market. That is why our strategy is to choose the sectors and become a true solution provider for that sector.

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 at one shot. Lot of them are 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.

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