6 Important Announcements from 2 Asian FinTech Hubs

NPCI Implements Unified Payments Interface:

National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) initiated the unified payment interface to simplify and provide a single interface across all systems. The new project will go live in April.

NPCI, the operator of RuPay’s payments network that competes with MasterCard and Visa in India, is testing the interface in association with Axis Bank Ltd., said AP Hota, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of NPCI, in an interview on Tuesday.

Twenty-nine other banks have also agreed to start UPI-based services to their customers starting with the first quarter of the next financial year, he added.

The new interface is designed to enable all account holders to send and receive money from their smartphones with a single identifier – Aadhaar number, mobile number, virtual payments address – without entering any bank account information, NPCI said at a conference to The Hindu.

The unified payment interface will make paying and receiving payments as easy as swiping a phone book entry and making a call on a mobile phone. Anyone with an account is eligible to send and receive money from their mobile phone with just an identifier without having any other bank/account details.

This unified layer, which offers next-generation peer-to-peer immediate payments just by using a personal phone, uses existing systems such as IMPS, AEPS, to ensure settlement across accounts. The usages of existing systems ensure reliability of payment transactions across various channels, said AP Hota, MD & CEO of NPCI.

NPCI also presented live demo transactions involving a few select banks during the event.

500 Startups Launches $25M India Fund Focused on Early-Stage Companies:

Investment firm 500 Startups has recently launched a $25-million regional fund focused on India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

The fund – called 500 Kulfi – will focus on early-stage companies with product-market fit and demonstrated traction. Although the fund is sector-agnostic, it will focus on startups dealing in FinTech, EdTech, Health & Wellness, Data Analytics, Content and SaaS/SMB.

"While the industry has been tweeting and blogging about doom and gloom hitting unicorns and startups alike, we believe the long-term opportunity remains as solid as ever. We see market changes as part of a natural cycle. While some good companies may have a harder time raising money this year, others will find it easier to get great talent. Some consolidation and stepping back from irrational exuberance is a good thing. In an environment like this, the Warren Buffett investor will thrive because they look for value. We hope to continue to find value in many verticals across India," Pankaj Jain, a partner at 500 Startups who also runs the 500 Kulfi fund, wrote in a blog post on the company's website.

Barclays All Set to Launch Its Rise Program in India:

UK banking giant Barclays is ready to launch its FinTech innovation hub Rise in India by June 2016. Rise, a network of physical spaces and a virtual community designed to work with innovative startups to pioneer the future of financial technology, will have its hub in Mumbai.

With this, Ian Buchanan, Group Chief Information Officer of Barclays, is hoping to create an ecosystem of FinTech-focused startups that will help the bank solve some of its tech-related problems as well as give access to startups to a banking culture.

India will be the fifth country where Barclays will be launching this program. Launched in 2015, Rise’s first hub was in London, followed by New York, Manchester, Tel Aviv and Cape Town.

The banking sector has always been the first to face disruption from technology. With these centers, the intent is to connect with the startup ecosystem so that problems that we need to solve can be shared. We feel that a lot of startups and smaller company can come in and help to accelerate this. I think they can be the change agents for us and our partner ecosystem, said Buchanan to Business Standard.

Indian FinTech Startup Capzest Raises Seed Funding Led by Lion Ventures:

Digital lending FinTech startup Capzest has raised a seed round of $200,000 led by Lion Ventures along with HNIs. Investors who participated in the round include Anurag Mehrotra & Varun Dua, Co-founder and CEO of Coverfox; Amit Tambe, former Senior Partner at Trilegal India; and Vikas Jhunjhunwala, among others.

Founded by Sayantan Sarkar and Rohan Adlakha along with three others, Capzest – which has partnered with banks and NBFCs – provides personal loans and business loans to small and medium enterprises.

Delhi-Based Lending Platform Raises Angel Round Funding From an HNI: is a unique platform which combines credit advisory, state-of-the-art analytics, process automation and last-mile connectivity in the lending space. They deal primarily in credit cards, loan against property, housing, personal, auto and business loans, and have already partnered with around 20 leading banks and NBFCs.

This Delhi-based FinTech startup is being run by seasoned professionals from diverse backgrounds including Satish Grover (Standard Chartered), Tarun Bhool (Hire pro), Nupur Agarwal (UBS) and Kirti Kholsa (Ark's consultancy). They will use the funds to enhance customer experience by leveraging technology, scaling up the marketing function and ramping up operations.

HK $17Bn Poured Into FinTech Startups by the Financial Secretary of Hong Kong:

HK $17 billion has been pledged by the Financial Secretary of Hong Kong as part of spending initiatives to begin building the key infrastructure necessary to support FinTech startups.

John Tsang Chun-wah put significant focus on financial technology, or FinTech, which has been highlighted as a potential growth area for startups in the city.

He said the Steering Group on Financial Technologies – announced in last year’s budget – had recommended measures to develop the sector, including encouraging overseas talent to come to Hong Kong.

Tsang said the government would encourage the financial industry to explore blockchain technology – the transaction record behind the digital currency bitcoin – to reduce suspicious transactions.