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Scaling by Staying Banking & Accounting Focussed Achuthan looks to increase head count, on-boarding more SMEs and tap newer markets

By Deepa Vaidya

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Open Financial Technologies
Ajeesh Achuthan, co-founder and CTO, Open Financial Technologies

Ajeesh Achuthan, co-founder & CTO, Open Financial TechnologiesPrivate Limited, developed Zwitch, India's first unified payment stack for developers way back in 2013. As the founder of Asia's first neobanks for SMEs and start-ups, "Open solves business banking challenges faced by SMEs through its core platform Open Money. Open Money provides one single platform that helps them manage everything from banking to automated accounting, book-keeping, expense management, compliance, and payroll."

"Open also saw an increased number of small businesses wanting to embed financial services like banking, payments, lending, cards, and more to increase sales, engagement, and up their revenue stream. This led to the launch of the no-code embedded finance platform Zwitch."

"Similarly, a lot of financial institutions enquired if we could white-label the platform or help them launch digital banking solutions faster. This led to the launch of BankingStack- a cloud-native digital banking OS for banks and financial institutions to launch their digital offerings to customers faster," explains Achuthan.

The techpreneur loves to build products for scale and they have remained focussed on accounting and finance as the core. "This helped us scale our product over the years bringing in other value-added services like expense management, payroll, etc. tied in with the central accounting module. We have focussed on building a robust core accounting engine, unlike other neo-banks focussing on SMEs. Today, we have integration with over 17 banks, which helps us pick and choose the best services for our customers," he says about their differentiation factors.

Explaining their tech code, Achuthan says, "We use a diverse set of technologies. Open systems run on a microservices-based architecture and each of the services is built using different programming stacks ranging from Go, Java, NodeJS, etc. On the front-end, we use AngularJS primarily and are experimenting with ReactJS for a few of our internal tools. We try not to use cloud services for any of our primary use cases, to make our stack non-dependent on one cloud provider, giving us flexibility with deployments across cloud providers."

Having worked on the tech side and being a founder previously too, it is interesting to know his life's lessons while building a fintech. Says Achuthan, "Most of my experience comes from building fintech products, across Citrus, PayU, and now Open. Over the past 10 years, I have been witnessing how technology has evolved in fintech. It is not only fast evolving, but is also highly utilised. It is very crucial for banks and fintechs to adopt new technologies in their stack to solve a wide range of problem statements."

Interestingly, he attributes the very existence of Open to working in a highly regulated environment. SaysAchuthan, "Innovating in such a highly regulated space is challenging, but that is the reason why we are here today. We acquired our ISO-27001, data localisation compliance and strictly comply with all the regulatory requirements that we are supposed to follow. This also helped usconsiderably in gaining the trust of banks and regulators during our journey. We also work closelywith the regulators in a lot of their initiatives and have witnessed their support towards Indian fintechstoo. I would see regulations as an enablerthan a hurdle, to our ecosystem in terms of ensuring that our customers are safe and they trust us as an entity that follows regulations and adheres to compliance."

On his expansion plans, "By the year-end, Open is looking to double the employee count to 1,000+; onboard over five million SMEs and,is also looking to expand to the Middle East and American markets."

On when can neobanks offer Crypto and will Open foray into it, "Globally, I do see neobanks offering crypto as we see regulations being brought in. However, we are at a very initial stage and I am certain it is going to evolve very soon."

However, he asserts, "No,we have no plans of venturing into Crypto."

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