Click a Selfie & Open Your Bank Account: Chillr Redefines Banking Services Exclusive chat with the maker of this banking startup

By Rustam Singh

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We had an exclusive chat with Sony Joy, CEO & Founder of Chillr, that has enabled users to open a new bank account with a selfie and make transfers a breeze

Stuck in those annoying lines waiting to seek your turn, especially longer if you're a guy? A new e-commerce app called Chillr aims to revolutionize all that by enabling you to start a bank account at the convenience of your smart phone. The simple process might be reduced to a simple selfie, a photo of your pan card, and a scan of the QR code of your Aadhar card. The app makes money transfers from your bank account as simple as regular chats.

Chillr was started in April 2015, and has since seen about 75 crore transactions in a month. Its USP stands to make mobile banking easier, rather than add another mobile wallet. Roughly half of all transactions performed on Chillr are person to person.

We had an exclusive talk with the founder & CEO Sony Joy about Chillr. Here are some experts:

Before Chillr, what were your early attempts at entrepreneurship like?

I think I was always inclined towards entrepreneurship more than any other conventional career path. I was pursuing B.Tech in electronics and communication from College of Engineering Trivandrum, when in the 3rd year I and a couple of other friends approached BPL mobile company with a business plan aimed at increasing their penetration in the student community. They believed in our plan and we over achieved the targets set by them. After that there was no turning back and we decided to put the money that endeavor got us to good use.

In our 5th semester we started our own company called Torque (which later evolved into MobMe) which was into mobile content, bulk SMS etc. Initially when we started up in 2006, we faced strong inhibition from our families, as the startup route was not as well ventured at the time, but we had confidence in our capabilities and decided to take this risk.

So did it pay well at your first work gig?

As I was self-employed for my first job, it did not pay that well. In fact as we setup, we would always end up reinvesting our earnings back into the company. This did pay off in the long run as it helped us build and grow our company.

What came first, the need or the market?

After working with MobMe and the banking and telecom space for a good few years, we felt that there was an imbalance in the demand and supply. Many people required simplified banking services however they were not comfortable using online banking because of the complexity and delays. Hence we decided to make banking user friendly and sending money as simple as sending a text. By removing usernames and passwords and by managing various levels of security, we addressed the growing need for simplified banking services.

Have you raised any funding so far?

Initially, our seed funding came from MobMe, post which we raised series A from Sequoia Capital. This later extended to series A+, which along with investments from Blume Venture and other angel investors, which in total sums upto 7.2 million dollars. This series of funding will primarily be used for customer acquisition, growth and marketing of the product.

Is there a story behind the name Chillr?

Chillr means pocket change in many Indian languages. It's something everyone is used to dealing with and making payments with.

What was it that attracted investors to your business according to you?

I think investors liked the fact that we were a multi-bank platform providing standardized services to the user base irrespective of their personal bank choice. Along with this the ease of using the service and our chosen revenue model made investors see our potential.

How do you see the growth scenario is this business?

The growth potential is very high as projections and numbers seem very promising. Our user base is anyone who has a bank account and a smart phone and both these numbers are expected to grow exponentially in coming few years.

Who has been your mentor in your journey?

Kris Gopalakrishnan, co-founder of Infosys guided us in early stages of our journey. One virtue I think I learned from him has been persistence. Going ahead Arun Kumar, founder of one of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the country and a startup investor, had a huge impact on my thinking. He made me understand the importance of focus and metric driven growth.

What has been your biggest challenge since its conception?

For Chillr the biggest challenge we faced was convincing banks to get on board as they already had their own internet and mobile banking apps and websites. But the value addition and the experience that Chillr promised to its users got them interested. Also the fierce, offer based competition in the mobile payment market was something that was hard to overcome in the beginning but now we have gained very good momentum. All of these challenges seemed daunting at the time but by compartmentalizing them and calmly tackling them one at a time, I was able to overcome them.

What changes have you experienced in your own self since the day you started the business till now?

Being an entrepreneur requires you to be an extrovert, which is something that only came gradually to me. I also started evaluating things from a long term perspective and started thinking as a component of a larger team instead of as an individual. It also helped me hone my evaluation and decision making skills.

What're your expectations from this year's national budget?

We're happy with the Government's Startup India initiative and hope that the national budget is also startup friendly and in lines with that. Allocation towards more incubators, more investment in education & technology is definitely something we look forward to. Other rebates on taxes on digital payments is also something that would be appreciated as it would really help startup growth.

What do you think of online banking options? Do you trust middle agents like mobile wallets? If not, do you think such startups would help enable you build a trust in sharing your bank details online? Let us know at our Facebook page Entrepreneur India

Rustam Singh


Tech reporter.

Contact me if you have a truly unique technology related startup looking for a review and coverage, especially a crowd-funded project looking to launch and coverage.

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