MobileGullak makes your money talk for seamless and inclusive m-payment

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Your money talks, and if you are using the MobileGullak app you can hear it beep.

A normal way of paying with credit & debit cards at a store is sluggish. Once done with the shopping, customer searches for their cards and swipes it at the checkout counter. Once the transaction is done, the merchant needs to print a slip. The customer has to sign on the merchant receipt and keeps own copy. While this may appear as a straightforward process, with the infusion of technology, processes are becoming a lot more streamlined and time is being saved wherever possible.

Let us introduce you with a Bangalore based fintech startup that is trying to make ‘Any Phone Pay’ instantly with just a beep sound.

Kumar Abhishek the founder & CEO of MobileGullak tells YourStory, “We’ve come up with a product that works on sound. It utilizes the microphone and speaker on the phone to transfer money. On top of that we’ve integrated a wallet service. Now we enable wallet payments. We really wanted to show how easy mobile banking can be.

In India, cash is the preferred mode for a transaction (for the masses). “Cash is the pain point. The pain is there with the merchant and with the customer. I moved from Amsterdam, because I wanted to come and build something valuable. We didn’t build this product in a boardroom. We’ve built a solution and simplified it to the core. When you bring innovative product, there is an adoptability issue. By making it seamless we are trying to achieve adoptability,” added Abhishek.

How does it work?

MobileGullak works without an internet connection. It is quick and cheap, requires no additional hardware for mobile devices and POS terminals. All payments are done in EMV standard tokenization. It utilizes the microphone and speakers of the phones for data transmission. The startup claims the point-to-point data exchange is encrypted with their patent pending protocol called Proximity-SSL & Anti-Duplication algorithm for financial transactions. Each tone is encoded and tagged to identify each other.

In a process that takes less than one second users can make debit or credit transactions or cash transfers. All smart and dumb-phones can use this technology as long as they are capable of playing a sound, the default format is mp3 but other formats are also supported. Earlier Microsoft Research had showcased similar idea on Near Sound Data Transfer (NSDT) called ‘Dhwani’.

Kumar Abhishek the founder of MobleGullak had used Airtel Money while it was launched. For him, it was not friction less experience. That made him think it would take a lot more than this to make everyday-people in India to be interested in digital payment. He & his team built couple of prototypes. With a main premise of, in order to replace cash transaction by digital, the process has to be as simple as paying by cash. Two months back they’ve raised an undisclosed amount of Angel round.

MobileGullak’s wallet application first went live on May 2014. “We are not a service guys who want to push our application. Our wallet application was launched just to showcase the capability of our product. We don’t have mobile wallet license. We partnered with ZipCash. The whole idea was not to build another wallet application, but a product that can be used by any mobile wallet application or any banking application. When we did that we started seeing traction of Rs. 2,00,000 worth of transactions daily. Average transaction Rs. 300/-”

Kumar describes it as “An Apple Pay like payment experience on non-Apple device & on non-NFC device.” He adds “Apple globally has only 14% of market share; 86% are still on non-apple devices. Our single SDK enables all those phones same payment experience which Apple provides. We are rolling it out as an SDK for developers”

Early in 2015 MobileGullak wants to host hackatons at their lab in Bangalore. ToneTag SDK will be given to developers for free, (The first 10,000 transaction for free) anything above that (x) amount of fee. With the SKD, developers can also do other things apart from payment. It can enable IoT services, you can play certain tone and door opens for you. It transfers small amounts of data over short distances like swapping business cards. There is a wide range of use case as long as it has an element of proximity-based interaction.

According Kumar, either Airtel money or Vodafone M-Pesa can implement MobileGullak’s SDK and start using mobile money to pay without users being asked their phone numbers each time they transact.

To prove their point, the folks at MobileGullak have partnered with ZipCash to do a wallet integration. When they go to pitch their product and get asked to show a demo of how it works. It makes it easy for them to demonstrate the working version. MobileGullak is not interested in the retail game. They are interested in licensing their product for other payment services providers ie. Banks, wallet providers, Banking Correspondents. We guess that is why Citi bank was interested in them.

Recently Citi bank held a global event at New York. Where MobileGullak presented their product and selected to be one of the finalists. That has given them global visibility. There were only two companies selected from Asia and they happen to be one of them.

Kumar says “This is already a global product. We’ve already signed MoU with a bank in South Africa. We’ve signed MoU in U.S., also with biggest card issuer in Singapore. These MoU are still early stage. This happened because of the visibility we’ve got from the exposure at Citi bank event.”

Thoughts on RBI

RBI is creating an opportunity for Payment Banks. Kumar says “There are some issues in payment landscape. Regulatory is not an issue. In fact, regulatory aspects have brought some advancement to this country. US is going today to EMV, we had it one year back in India. Mastercard showed lots of flop in a way they handled 3D security. OTP through SMS is an innovation from India, which people started to use across the globe. Regulation has nurtured lots of aspects.”

“RBI understands the challenge, they are opening up which is a good sign. RBI is playing a good role. Supporting initiatives like NPCI. If a service provider comes and says RBI is a bottleneck. Then I would ask if the product you are building has a solid use case, period” he added.

Our take on this

NFC based mobile payments are in their infancy in India with a few early movers like iKaaz. This tone based proximity payment, if it gets adoption can be useful for users and merchants in the near term. NFC requires new smartphones or stickers & chips. Wider NFC adoption in India could take another 3-4 years, using this tone based technology of MobleGullak can enable service providers to cater for the users of today. When NFC grows this technology becomes a complimentary technology.

One thing we don’t yet know, how the audio works in crowded and noisy Indian market places.

Internationally the idea has been tested though the scale hasn’t been that much. Naratte technology, clinkle.com in the U.S, in France TagPay and Alipay in China have tried. Even if the idea sounds simple, to educate the consumers on the usage is an uphill task that MobileGullak has to solve.

 

[Update] MobileGullak, founder & CEO Abhishek Kumar has updated us with the following.

1. Our SDK can handle both Sound as well as NFC-based payments. So depending upon the device hardware customer can either pay through tone or NFC(tag). Hence, our single SDK enable proximity payments on mobile devices of today as well as of the future.

2. Our SDK have been tested in very loud ambience including Malls, Office canteens, pubs and music concerts. It works seamlessly due to our patent pending algorithm. Even at Citi mobile challenge event we demo the transaction with DJ playing music on stage.

Website: MobileGullak

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