India is full of small vendors – streets are always buzzing with shopkeepers on both sides. For quite some time, commerce is still done the old-fashioned way with cash. I moved to India after spending more than 17 years in the US and have continued to wonder why even some of the largest merchants in India don’t accept cards. At the time, only 1.1 million terminals existed for more than 60 million merchants.
After spending years in the corporate world, my cofounders and I decided to do something about it. During extensive research and conversations with these merchants, we learned the challenges of limited digital payment acceptance was partly habit and partly that their resources were insufficient. The offline merchants did not want to handle the complexity of dealing with a bank, work through harsh rules and regulations, or invest in hardware without being certain that cards would work for their business. We also discovered that they lacked institutional finance and credit, a key hook for them to transact digitally.
As advances in fintech picked up steam, we too became hooked on solving this problem. We developed ftcash – a mobile-based payment and lending platform that allows any merchant in the country to sign up and start accepting digital payments in less than five minutes. Using our technology, merchants have options to text customers a unique link to settle their payments, let them check out in its mobile app or scan a QR code. The idea is to provide them the flexibility of choice.
On the back end, ftcash consolidates the technology behind accepting payments from credit and debit cards, net banking, mobile wallets, UPI and some digital wallets so the merchants can focus on what they do best –managing their businesses and fostering relationships with customers. In some cases, getting the job done requires additional funding in the form of capital loans. ftcash uses these merchants’ transaction history and other pieces of data to provide loans that can be repaid back by future transactions – similar to a merchant cash advance.
The convenience and value ftcash provides to merchants is clear – we have grown 100x in the last 18 months and have more than 25,000 merchants on the platform. To ensure we are thinking one step ahead of the industry, we are currently participating in the Mastercard Start Path program to leverage the company’s expertise to scale up rapidly. Our goal is to reach a million merchants in India with our digital payments and lending services in the next three to four years. Though still at relatively lower absolute levels of digital advancement, the Digital Evolution Index 2017 shows that India is poised for growth.
It is thrilling to be part of the tremendous change that fintech has sparked in the way merchants in India are able to conduct business, and we look forward to what’s ahead. Stay tuned for the next ‘Fridays with Fintechs’ blog series on September 15, 2017.