One of India's leading fintech company dealing in UPI payments and digital money lending for merchants, BharatPe CEO & Co-founder Ashneer Grover in an exclusive conversation with India TV spoke on a range of issues. From describing his journey so far with BharatPe, the motivation for featuring into the e-payments to discussing about future plans, Ashneer Grover shares it all.
Q. How has been BharatPe's journey so far in terms of growth as a merchant lender and e-payments app?
A: We started in 2018 with the vision of building BharatPe as an end-to-end financial services platform for merchants. We were amongst the very few startups that was focused on helping merchants grow their business. We were the first ones to build an interoperable UPI QR code that could enable merchants to accept payments across a range of wallets. However, it was difficult to convince merchants about the value proposition around this, in the initial days.
When we were building BharatPe, we realized that it is the merchant who bears the cost of the transaction. We believe that moving money does not require infrastructure as in the past and hence, it is not justified to charge merchants. We were the first to make the fees on QR zero.
BharatPe is a merchant focused app. We have razor sharp focus on merchants. We offer a range of services including card payments as well as QR. We also have lending products for the merchant community.
Q: What moved you Mr. Ashneer Grover to venture into e-payments business with BharatPe, given the fact that the competition is already stuffed with apps like Paytm, PhonePe, Google Pay, Amazon, others?
A: Speaking on what moved him to entre into e-payments business with BharatPe, given the fact that the competition is already stuffed with apps like Paytm, PhonePe, Google Pay, Amazon, others, Ashneer Grover said that existing Fintech companies have been focussing on consumers based services. What he has done with BharatPe is that its services are more focussed towards merchants with benefits like no transaction costs or providing them with lending services.
Generally, in most of e-payments apps, the merchant ends up bearing the transaction cost, but with BharatPe, the merchant doesn't have to bear this cost, he added.
It is India's first e-service that has Zero Fee Card Machine, 0 per cent transaction charges, with no rental, Grover further said.
Q: How is it different from other e-payments apps, like any exclusive feature of BharatPe that are not available on others?
A: BharatPe, which is a merchant payment and lending service provider is fully focussed towards merchant with razor sharp approach. It's one of main features is lending money to merchants.
With the Bharat loan, it ventures into one of the easiest way for a merchant to access loan. BharatPe offers Bharat Loan within 5 minutes, with the ability to process all the documentation work on phone. Once requested, within 5 minutes, the money will be in merchant's bank account.
Another feature of BharatPe is merchant-to-merchant lending. Like, if a merchant wishes to lend money to another merchant based on some interest, then there is BharatPe to fulfil this demand.
Q. What about customer service, like if a transaction gets failed, how soon, easy will it be for a user to track, and get the money back?
A: At BharatPe, we believe that money is equal to trust. We want to ensure that our merchants have complete faith and trust in us and be assured of the fact that their money is safe with us. Even if the transaction fails, we keep track of the same and ensure that the money is credited back to the merchant’s account, as soon as possible.
In case the money is not credited in the merchant’s account for a specific reason, they can reach out to our 24x7 customer support. We have a full-fledged customer care centre with team of 300 staffs available round the clock to solve the merchant’s problems.
Q: How does lockdown impact BharatPe operations, did it boom or doom?
A: In the initial days, lockdown did hit the business as transactions went down by almost 60 per cent in April but the aversion to use cash currency with the fear in mind whether the currency would carry coronavirus, it drove the use of more QR based payments.
From May onwards, UPI payments... if you are scanning a QR, you are actually touching a phone only, it makes much more sense... UPI payments have actually doubled, it went down to almost .9 billion in April-May and from there it jumped back to1.8 billion in the last month (October), because UPI transactions grew, our business also doubled during this period.
So from initial face of uncertainty, we have actually boomed in the last 6 months.
Q: How does BharatPe earn or generate its revenue?
A: Responding to this, Ashneer Grover said the way I look at business is that we are an alternate lending company. Payments is something we provide for free to our merchants so that we become an integral part of their business and cash-flow and on getting visibility to their business and cash-flow we can lend to them better. So almost 95 per cent of the revenue that the company generates today is from the lending business.
So we are an alternate lender and we earn interest income on all the loans that we give out to the shopkeepers.
Q: How has BharatPe became No. 1 offline acquirer for UPI QR transactions in the country, as claimed by your company?
A: The reason we have become No. 1 even against the competitors... to me it is because of the focus that we have. We are only on the merchant side and we only do offline transactions.
We are not trying to be everything for everyone, we are trying to be something relevant for the small merchant and because of that the level of service we are able to provide to or merchants is much superior to any other competition because the competition is trying to give service to customer, is trying to give service to the merchant, is trying to service online business, they are scattered. But we are very clear that we are only here for small merchant and, therefore, the products that we come out are so much more relevant for the small merchant.
Q: Where do you think Ashneer Grover BharatPe stands in its journey of building it as India's leading merchant payment network?
A: Its very early days for us. I think we have been fortunate enough to capture somewhere around 20 per cent of the market but what that means is that there is 4 times more opportunity available as against what we have already achieved. So I think we are extremely well positioned. We have been able to attract the right set of investors. All of them are very quality American investors, not a single Chinese name with us. We have been able to attract a lot many senior talents from the industry.
So we have people from stock background, financial services and banks, we have people who worked with consultation firms like Mackenzie, BCG... So to me we are very well positioned because:
a) We have the right stake holders in the shareholders that we have.
b) We have the right talent who is really motivated to build something very big here.
Q: What are your future plans on expansion?
A: So, one of the features that we are looking to launch is distributing to retailers financing. I think, to some extent, we have been successful in solving the problem. Between a consumer and a retailer, there is a large and very large market that exists between distributors selling products to retailers and there a lot of working capital is needed.
So, we are working very hard to launch a working capital product wherein a distributor can sell to a retailer and that transaction will be funded by BharatPe. And the retailor can repay the distributor at a later period of time.
The large retailers in India will always have enough or more capital... like Amazon, Reliance, the small shopkeeper does not have much capital. So most of the product we would be launching, we'll make sure that small merchants get access to the capital and, therefore, compete with the large merchants.