The Serial Fintech Entrepreneur
The company is adding about 50,000 SMEs every month, as per Achuthan, and aims to on-board close to 2 million users by mid-2021
Ajeesh Achuthan is a true serial entrepreneur. He founded two companies back to back during his under-graduation days at the University of Kerala: InLoc8, his maiden project, followed by developer focussed payment platform Zwitch Payments that used tokenization to create a seamless payment checkout. Zwitch was later acquired by CitrusPay that was ultimately acquired by PayU India.
Achutan says building Zwitch was one of the key highs in his career. “When over 3,000 startups adopted Zwitch, it gave me a major morale boost and motivated me to make a mark in the fintech space,” says the 29-year-old.
It is perhaps for this reason that in spite of bagging the role of a lead engineer at PayU, where he built several products ground up and led a team of engineers, Achuthan left his lucrative job to build his next venture in the financial technology space, Open.
Open is a neo-banking platform that provides digital banking and bookkeeping services to small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
Automating bookkeeping and banking for SMEs
Having worked closely with small businesses and startups during his stints at Zwitch and PayU, Achuthan well understood SMEs’ various pain points relating to bookkeeping and overall finances. “I have worked with SMEs from the start of my career and realized the challenges small business owners face in managing their day-to-day business finances by using multiple platforms,” points Achuthan, CTO and co-founder, Open.
“Small businesses face multiple challenges while tracking and forecasting their cash-flows, managing their account receivables and payables, dealing with multiple interfaces for payment gateway and payroll and hardly have any tools that would help them with their day-to-day business finances.”
To solve this, Achuthan teamed up with his former colleagues from PayU, Anish Achuthan and Mabel Chacko, and Deena Jacob, former CFO of TaxiForSure, to create a unified platform where businesses could manage all their finances in one place.
Open offers automated accounting, unified banking, and integrated payments services to its SME users on a single dashboard.
As part of its banking services, the platform allows users to connect all their bank accounts to reconcile and manage their banking on the go and also offers APIs and third-party plugins to integrate banking into business workflows. Further, it takes away the daily effort out of manual bookkeeping by giving its SME users automated cash flow reports, balance sheets, and profit and loss statements, and even smart payroll that lets them process and run payroll automatically.
More importantly, Achuthan points out that by using Open SME business owners can save humongous time on tracking payments using UTR (unique transaction reference) numbers as the platform lets them receive bulk payments seamlessly via virtual accounts. Similarly, they can make online payments to vendors through the platform’s integrated payment gateway.
Open also issues corporate cards in partnership with Visa.
The Bengaluru-headquartered company has so far tied up with 15 private sector banks and served about 700,000 SMEs.
Achuthan says the COVID-19 led disruption has helped the company grow its user base by 75 per cent in the last one year. “During the lockdown, a new segment of freelancers, dance tutors and teachers taking online tuitions emerged that started using Open platform.”
The company is adding about 50,000 SMEs every month, as per Achuthan, and aims to on-board close to 2 million users by mid-2021. “This year we plan to expand to global markets and focus on strengthening our lending and wealth management offerings,” he added.
Open works on a software-as-a-service (SaaS)-based revenue model that includes both free and premium features. About 80 per cent of the platform’s services are free to use, while the premium features are available through annual subscription packages. The subscription-based income helps in managing business finance needs, whereas the company also earns from alternative sources, such as per transaction fee (2.2-1.8 per cent), issuer commission for cards, etc., says Achuthan.
The fintech company has raised a total of $37 million in external funding from some of the marquee investors, including Tiger Global, Beenext, 3one4 Capital, and Unicorn India Ventures, among others.
Ajeesh Achuthan made it to the list of Entrepreneur India’s 35Under35 list of 2021.