Window of Opportunity is now: Says Mobikwik’s CEO, Bipin Preet Singh in an interview with Let's Talk Payments

What is the Mobikwik story? Please take us through your journey.

Bipin - I started Mobikwik in 2009 after spending 7 years working as an engineer in chip design firms including Intel. The thought of starting up Mobikwik came when I read one of the research reports which mentioned how skewed the prepaid and postpaid market in India is. Later, I realised that I could capitalize on this as the business idea of providing a platform to top up or paying bills is a recurring activity and is scalable.

I observed that people who largely had prepaid connections in India saw topping up the talk time as a commodity. I also observed that the consumers had to go to kiranas to get their top up done but didn’t have a specific platform like a website or a platform to top up. This is where I wanted to start off Mobikwik which could provide a platform for consumers to top up their talk time. The platform started off in the form of a website and later other platforms like mobile were added. The first 2 years of our business operations were slow. I hired my first employee in 2010 and the second in 2011. Over a period of time we offered services which include television recharges, data card recharges and bill payment recharges. We also expanded our payments platform which included IVR, mobile app, website and SMS.

Mobile payments has been in the news for the past 4 – 5 years with limited uptake, what according to you are one or two biggest developments that have happened and what will drive adoption rate of mobile payments in India?

Bipin - Some of the drivers which will increase the adoption rate of mobile payments include:

1. Rise of the android app market - We will soon have the largest hub of android app developers and users even surpassing China. This would naturally lead the users to make transactions over mobile mainly due to ease of use.

2. M-Commerce has become a reality due to introduction of 3G. Internet costs have gone down. Mobiles are not viewed as just a device which is used for talking anymore but mostly seen as your personal computer. This has brought in a paradigm shift in viewing mobiles as entertainment devices which has also led to mobile users shopping and making transactions through their phones.

3. One of the most important drivers is the experience around paying through mobile. Paying bills or topping up through phones solves the needs of a user. As a natural transition if a user likes paying over the phone there is a high likelihood that he/she will buy goods or services over the phone.

Mobikwik news that has appeared in the media says India's first mobile consumer wallet launched by MobiKwik but there have been mobile wallets like Paytm, Airtel Money, Money on Mobile, Zipcash, etc. How is Mobikwik different from them?

Bipin - According to me, Paytm is mostly focused on making it in the digital markets space. I have to give credit to Airtel Money as it was one of the first mobile wallets in India. Airtel Money was successful in the domestic remittance space but not as a mobile wallet service provider. I consider Zipcash to be a white label app and Money on Mobile operates in B2B space and not B2C. Our business model is such that we are mostly consumer oriented semi-closed wallet and we don’t see our competitors in this space. So we have labeled Mobikwik as India’s first mobile consumer wallet.

Can you throw more light on features such as security and 1-click payment and how they will be incorporated into your existing offerings?

Bipin - Transaction processing is done on our dedicated servers and we constantly work on upgrading our security features. We have dedicated personnel looking in to security and most importantly even if the security is breached, users don’t need to panic. While using our mobile wallet app, users don’t input their bank details, only email address and contact number are entered. A hacker can only access a user’s transaction history and contact details. If the breach is due to our negligence, Mobikwik will refund the users’ money.

We’re working on incorporating a couple of features which will enhance the usability of our mobile wallet, which include:

1. 1-Click Payment

2. Transaction Password

3. One Time Password (OTP)

Through 1-Click Payment users will be able to make a payment instantly as they don’t need to re-enter the necessary details to top up or for bill payments or shopping online. Transaction Password is set by the user to enhance security. This acts like a 2 - step authentication process, even if the main password is compromised to make a transfer a user needs to enter the Transaction Password which is mostly static. Coming to OTP, it is a system generated 6-digit password sent to user through an SMS just before initiating a transaction. All the features that I have discussed are work in progress and will be incorporated in our wallet’s future updates.

Banks, device makers and others also plan to introduce their own mobile wallet service in the next few years. How would Mobikwik be affected by such plans?

Traditional banks have known to focus on regulations and not what a consumer wants. Whereas a mobile device maker has focused on hardware and to an extent user interface and user experience. To be successful in this field the payment company needs to focus on attributes such as:

1. User Experience

2. Product usefulness

3. Regulation/s

4. Merchants

5. Acquiring License

Mobikwik as a payments company focuses and has access to all the above attributes which makes us stand out from the banks and the device makers in this space. I do not see both the parties as a serious threat to our business.

What are the challenges that you see at Mobikwik?

Bipin - To keep competition at bay, I know that there is a constant need to do R&D. This is an area of concern for us, we need to do more R&D which will need more investment coming in. We’re also open to raise funds from Indian Investors that can be used to hire quality talent and also improve our R&D efforts.

How do you see the transition from Mobikwik being a closed mobile wallet to a semi-closed wallet? How has the transition affected your customers?

The transition has been smooth so far and we have just made the transition. It is still early days for us to comment the outcome of the transition. Customers who have been with us before the transition have the option of using our additional features which comes with a semi-closed wallet. They just have to accept certain terms and conditions (as per regulations imposed by RBI) on Mobikwik wallet interface and they are set to use our new features.

In the future how many merchants do you plan to tie up with and what categories will they fall in?

Our goal is not to have multiple merchants but to understand what users want and the tie ups will happen appropriately.

How are you identifying what ‘users want’?

We are able to find these details through primary and secondary research. We are using our existing user base to find out what is it that they would like to see added into the wallet and we are making changes appropriately. We’re also looking at the secondary sources to identify where the mobile wallet market is heading so that we can keep up the pace.

What else is Mobikwik doing to become, what you described somewhere as The PayPal of India on Mobile?

PayPal as you know has become a trusted brand. We would like to win. We have followed a consumer driven approach which has worked for us. We would like to stick to it and offer users in India the convenience to make payments and keep the payment platform secure. Most importantly we would like offer them a wholesome experience of making transactions over mobile.

I would like to call our approach to win user base as an Organic Viral approach. I am optimistic that these efforts coupled with good product and user experience will soon make us The PayPal of India on Mobile.

How do you see your business model scaling up?

We have built a self sustaining model , hired experts in the field , generated revenues and have hired more experts. This is the model wihch is in action since inception of Mobikwik which has worked and we plan to continue the same. Mobikwik has also seen a growth of 10x since 2010 and we are able to sustain the growth. We are optimistic that the same trend will continue in 2014. If this does happen, I don’t see a necessity for even external capital for us to grow.

How do you see India as a startup breeding ground in the Mobile Payments space?

According to me, India is the perfect place for a startup. Mobile payments space in India is quite ripe these days. If one plans to startup business in this vertical, this is the ideal time. If started 2 years early, one wouldn’t have achieved their goals and 2 years late, one would have missed the bus which is about to take off.