Serial Entrepreneurs on the way to create India's Stripe, meet Zwitch

Never stopped being Entrepreneurs and never left the Payments space, meet Zwitch founders Anish Achuthan and Mabel Chacko. Anish is a true startup guy, decided really early that he wanted to build a company of his own. He went through the real struggle, has slept in creepy places, and eaten temple Prasadam to make the two ends meet. His never fading smile reflects the enthusiasm that an entrepreneur must wear everyday. Infact, on this entrepreneurial journey he met his soulmate, and business partner Mabel Chacko. Its like the Romeo and Juliet story 2.0 from the tech world (ask them when you meet).

What I really liked about Anish/Mabel is that when one idea didn't work they moved on to do crazier things and never got afraid of trying out. India startup scene is changing in more ways than one could imagine. Thanks to people like Anish and Mabel who believed in Pivoting. 10 years back in India, lot of entrepreneurs would stick to the what they started even after the technology or business became outdated as long as the revenue kept kicking in. To pivot or to close-and-start-afresh was not a very popular proposition in India. Similarly new entrepreneurs in India are building global products and businesses from India. Zwitch has plans to go international. They are looking to raise funds to fuel that growth.

CashNxt, ahead of its times - Would you believe me if I told you that in 2007 somebody was offering a voice recognition based payment system in India for proximity commerce and mobile banking? Well, Anish along with his partners founded a firm called CashNxt - a network of low-cost ATMs (manufactured by Vortex Engg.), Smart Teller Machines (developed jointly by interns of IIT-Varanasi and SKIT, Jaipur), E-POS terminals, and a mobile and branchless banking gateway to offer services like cash withdrawal, depositing cash, printing cheque books, etc. Watch a video of how it worked. Pre-cursor to CashNxt, the same company was called by a different name Mobeo Technologies. They changed the name to CashNxt in 2008-2009.

Ahead of its times and with some practical issues they had to close the venture. Only the technology platform was sold to a South American company. These were early times in India not only in terms of consumer adoption but even banks in India were not ready to use an alternative contactless technologies other than NFC (backed by Visa and MC). Forced to close down due to unfavourable market conditions, non-clarity of RBI regulations at that time with Business Correspondent model, and viability of PBM hardware distribution, many would have given up by now. But they didn't give up!

Just before Zwitch - In 2010, this duo founded Neartivity Wireless that offered an NFC based mobile money platform that enabled mobile operators, financial institutions and trusted service managers (TSM) to offer contact-less mobile banking services to mobile phone users, especially in remote areas where banks are generally not easily accessible. The service enabled the users to perform various banking services like opening a bank account, cash withdrawal, money transfer , utility bill payments, etc. through neighbouring retail stores. The service was based on NFC technology which uses radio frequencies to transfer data. Facing the challenge that only a handful of handsets, like few NOKIA ones, had NFC functionality, the company had developed an innovative NFC platform, SIMPAISA, that offered NFC functionality on any existing mobile phone through a NFC sticker. Due to low adoption they had to wind up the company.

Fast forward to 2013:

Indian e-commerce has grown at a CAGR of 30% since 2009, and is expected to be a $18 Bn (approximately Rs 1,116,00 Cr) opportunity by 2015, according to a report by Macquire Equities. Zwitch, a payments company that offers an innovative platform for businesses as well as developers to accept payments, seeks to tap into this lucrative space.

Let's Talk Payments team recently had the opportunity to catch up with the founders – Anish Achuthan and Mabel Chacko – to ask specific questions about Zwitch Payments.

Q.1. What was the idea behind the company?

Zwitch is a developer payment platform that enables developers and businesses to seamlessly accept payments on their website or mobile with just a few lines of code. With Zwitch all the merchant has to do is sign up for an account online and Zwitch handles the entire payments stack— from storing cards to direct payouts. The entire process takes less than 24 hours to go live with the requirement of minimum documentation.

The founders saw an opportunity in this space for a good payment platform targeted at developers and small business owners on the lines of Stripe or WePay in the US.

Q.2. How did the team of founders get together to start the firm and what’s their background?

Zwitch is founded by serial entrepreneurs Anish Achuthan and Mabel Chacko who were previously founders of mobile payment start-ups Cashnxt and Neartivity Wireless. The founders have been in the payment space since 2006 and Anish has also been part of payment gateway PayU and Onmobile Global. The other founders in the team include Ajeesh Achuthan who heads Technology and Vimal Vijayakumar who heads Products.

Q.3 What are the problems that your product solves?

The major USPs of Zwitch include a fully online, quick and seamless onboarding process that enables merchants to accept payments in less than 24 hours of signingup and seamless APIs that allow developers or merchants to design their own payment forms as well as enable customers to stay on the merchant website for checkout. All the merchant has to do is, add the Zwitch.JS javascript and few lines of code on their website to accept payments seamlessly on the website, without using an i-frame or a widget or redirecting to a payment gateway page. The seamless integration feature is powered by a technology called tokenization wherein all sensitive data is encrypted from the client browser to the processing environment reducing the scope of PCI compliance.

Seamless integration is also available for in-app payments for both Android as well as iOS in the form of native SDKs that enable developers to collect card payments directly on their mobile app. Zwitch also provides APIs for card storage, refunds as well as ready to use payment apps that let merchants accept payments on blogs, social media, email or missed calls without requirement of too much technical knowledge.

Q.4 How is the company growing and how are you funding that growth?

Zwitch has currently 300+ customers utilizing the platform and is targeting 500,000 small and medium businesses to be on its platform in India, Asia and African markets in the next 3 years. The company is looking to raise funds which will be used for scaling up the technology platform, Sales & Marketing as well as expanding internationally.

Q.5 How big is your team?

Zwitch is currently a 10 member team based out of Bangalore.

Q.6 Do u see any competition in this area?

The target audience of Zwitch is mostly developers and small website owners who currently require a simple tool to integrate and accept payments, as well as compete with traditional payment gateways.There are close to 5 million freelancers and 25 Million SMEs whom Zwitch is targeting with the platform.

Q.7 Any new product launch up your sleeve? (or any upcoming product/service launch)

Zwitch is in the process of launching a fully automated payment platform for marketplaces that lets marketplaces process payments and manage seller payouts through APIs.

Zwitch is also piloting a white-label m-commerce platform that lets brands and retailors launch their own mobile payment service using the Zwitch mobile payment SDK.