This Start-up Helps Offline Merchants Accept UPI Payments Via QR Code
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Following demonetisation, India witnessed a dramatic growth in its digital payments space wherein use of peer-to-peer, digital wallets- and Unified Payments Interface (UPI)-based transactions increased manifold. Since the boom, National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI)-developed UPI—a real-time payment settlement virtual infrastructure—has been growing steadily.
Recently, NPCI revealed that UPI recorded 1.31 billion transactions in December 2019. With this the total yearly UPI transactions came to 10.78 billion for 2019. This marks a 1.87 times growth compared with 3.7 billion UPI transactions in 2018.
Leveraging the growth of UPI, BharatPe—a QR code-based payments app for empowering offline retailers and businesses—was built. Offline businesses can register and receive UPI payments directly into their bank account for without any charges using the BharatPe QR code.
Speaking to Entrepreneur India, BharatPe’s co-founder and CEO Ashneer Grover said the start-up is working towards making payment acceptance simpler and thus offers a single interface for all UPI apps such as PayTM, PhonePe, Google Pay, BHIM and Mobikwik, among others.
“We were the first ones in the country to build an interoperable QR code for offline merchants to accept payments. We made it absolutely simple and there is no need for integration or documentation. One just needs to download the app and use bank account number and IFSC code to register and start accepting payments in bank accounts within two minutes,” Grover said.
BharatPe is focused on making payments easier for offline merchants. It closely works with its partner banks to develop custom APIs. According to the company, the integration of the QR-code and banks drives the business.
In 2019, BharatPe announced its entry into offering small-value, short-duration loans for merchants. The start-up partnered with a NBFC company, Apollo Finvest (India), for this offering. According to the company, it has already begun disbursing loans to merchants. The start-up aims to become the utility app for more than 20 million offline merchants in India.
Apart from this, it also launched UPI Bahi Khata, a full-stack service and networking app for all merchants which allows them to track payments in real time, maintain ledger (khata), request payments on SMS via UPI payment links, avail loans and track supplier payments by uploading bills.
Delhi-based BharatPe was founded in June 2018 by Grover and Shashvat Nakrani. According to Grover, the company processes approximately 1.3 to 1.5 million transactions per day. BharatPe has established operations in 20 cities, serving over 2 million merchants across Bangalore, Delhi, Hyderabad, Pune, Mumbai, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Indore, Bhopal, Nagpur, Chandigarh, Jodhpur, Ludhiana, Surat, Patna and Mysore, among others. The company aims to serve over 4 million merchants on its network by the end of FY19.
Grover explained that the payment services on BharatPe is free. No costs are levied on either party for transacting on BharatPe platform. Thus, the company’s entire revenue comes from their lending business.
According to the company, it has raised four rounds of funding worth $67.5 million till date. Various media reports revealed that BharatPe raised $50 million Series B funding, led by Ribbit Capital and Hong Kong-based Steadview Capital in August 2019. Prior to this, the start-up had raised $15.5 million in its Series A funding round from Insight Partners, Sequoia and Beenext.
Recently, it was reported that the company has created employee stock options (ESOP) pool of around $20 million with an aim to attract high-level talent from the industry. According to reports, it will now allow its employees to vest 25 per cent of their pool after completion of the first year and 75 per cent post that over the next three years.
While covering payments and fintech during his stint with American Express, Grover got a deeper understanding of the payments space in India. Following this, he was a part of the founding team of Grofer where he gained experience as an operator in a start-up and learned how a business and team is built.
With this experience, Grover launched BharatPe to solve payment issues for offline merchants. The company has grown to acquire 10 per cent of overall UPI payment in the country, since its inception.
According to Grover, BharatPe was launched at a time when the market was ready for the service. “We came one-and-a-half months post demonetization. At that time digital wallets were just starting to decline because UPI was picking up. So, for us, like the market was actually pretty well set in the sense that, you know, GooglePay, PhonePe were picking up as they were primarily riding on the UPI network while the wallet companies such as PayTM and MobiKwik were going down,” Grover said.
Plans for BharatPe
“Our plan is to build digital banks for small merchants in India. Not only we would enable pay in and pay out for small merchants in a very simple manner but also help them get loans in much easier format than banks,” Grover explained.
According to the founder, BharatPe is aimed at providing services such as a bank to small merchants but in a much simpler way. Thus it wants to become a mobile-first digital bank for small merchants in India.