We Want to Create an Open Payments Ecosystem For a Billion Indians: PhonePe's Rahul Chari The company has differentiated itself with two key aspects – an open ecosystem approach and a platform-first approach

By S Shanthi

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Rahul Chari, co-founder and CTO, PhonePe says that the company's challenge was and still is to build offerings for a billion Indians who have the means to transact but either don't know or don't understand digital payments and services such as insurance and financial services.

In order to serve a billion Indians in a truly inclusive manner and remove the so-called digital divide, we are experimenting and building new user experiences, launching new use cases that drive daily/weekly/monthly payments

Given there was no legacy infrastructure to build on top of in the country, the company realized early that tech was the only way to a digital India. "And secondly, for all problems we applied the 'solve it at scale' lens (Example: The thinking of scaling our product to the entire population was something we prepared from day one). We took a good 8-9 months before our app launch, and were constantly working on the first version of the product with a lens to scale it to 10 or 30 million users within a short period of time. And as it turned out, that is what really happened," he says.

Further, the company claims to have retained this maniacal focus on trying to improve at scale. "Our payments success rate is a classic example, which has taken years of patiently plugging away and making continuous improvements. This has resulted in increased trust and a usage preference for the PhonePe platform among the users," he says.

Since 80 per cent of the startup's consumers come from Tier II, III cities and beyond, every decision it makes has that lens to it. There is an effort to leverage tech to make the product simpler for these customers, who may be coming onto the platform for the first time. The first thing such customers try is usually payments before they move on to high value purchases or e-commerce.

The company has differentiated itself with two key aspects – an open ecosystem approach and a platform-first approach. "When we launched, incumbent digital payment players had been using a closed ecosystem approach, where consumer choice and merchant choice for acceptance were constrained to a financial instrument like the wallet. In contrast, we decided to go with an open ecosystem approach where a consumer could choose any financial instrument of their choice be it a direct debit from a bank account, their debit or credit cards or a prepaid instrument like wallets and gift cards," he says.

Moreover, the company's platform-first approach meant that it invested in an intelligent, scalable and flexible payments mechanism that could support different kinds of money flows across one or many financial instruments to complete a transaction or to reverse a transaction.

The company's vision is to create an open payments ecosystem for a billion Indians. It believes that since early adopters are all now in the ecosystem, bringing in the next half a billion is going to depend on building awareness, creating trust and creating simple and new UX form factors to reach every single Indian. "As we do this, we will also need to stay relentlessly focused on execution especially as the organization scales both in terms of our products as well as the value we bring into the customer," says Chari.


  • Total funding raised so far: NA
  • Year of inception: 2015
  • Key investors: Walmart, General Atlantic, Ribbit, Tiger Global among others.
  • Number of employees: 4400+
  • Number of customers:
    • Registered users: 450 Mn
    • Merchants: 35+ Mn
S Shanthi

Senior Assistant Editor

Shanthi specializes in writing sector-specific trends, interviews and startup profiles. She has worked as a feature writer for over a decade in several print and digital media companies. 


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