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Why this Indian bank is partnering with startups

Tarush Bhalla
11th Mar 2016
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HDFC Bank on Thursday announced the companies that it would partner with to use their tech products to empower and benefit the bank's customers. The five companies were the winners of Digital Innovation Summit, conducted by the bank.

The process started in January this year, where the bank chose 30, out of the 105 applicants, to pitch and showcase their products to the senior leadership of the bank.

Winners of the Digital Innovation Summit Challenge (left) with . Nitin Chugh, Country Head - Digital Banking (3rd from Right)
Winners of the Digital Innovation Summit Challenge (left) with . Nitin Chugh, Country Head - Digital Banking (3rd from Right)

Speaking to YourStory, Nitin Chugh, Country Head, Digital Banking, HDFC Bank said that the idea behind this initiative was not just to empower the customers but also to provide market linkage to the shortlisted businesses. While the engagement being strictly solution-led, the bank will not put any money in the businesses. However, there will be informal mentoring as well as reverse mentoring (from the businesses to the bank) as a part of the project. The gain to the winners would be in terms of the scale they would achieve from associating with a bank that is in a mature stage of the adoption cycle and digital aspects of transactions.

Judged on parameters of compatibility with HDFC Bank's systems, uniqueness and innovation, business potential and usability with scale, the winners range from verticals of artificial intelligence (AI), marketing, payments as well as quality assurances.

Here is a quick introduction to the winner startups:

Senseforth Technologies (AI)

Working on AI, Senseforth Technologies venture is essentially a conversation platform. Deploying customer response systems, the bot or machine can talk to millions of consumers to address their queries, and also to guide and help them with shopping through recommendations. Their bot is called AIRA, standing for Artifical Inteligence for Response and Action.

Started in November 2012 and based out of Bengaluru, the business has customers in the BFSI, telecom, healthcare and hospitality space.

NotifyVisitors (customer engagement SaaS)

Started in 2013 as a referral friends programme, the business has now taken the shape of a SaaS-based customer engagement platform. The company automates pop-up and push notifications, personalising user experiences across platform.

Having three offerings, the firm’s products are split between InviteReferals for e-commerce firms; NotifyVisitors.com automating in-app pop-up, push and browser push notifications, as well as AnalyticsMobi, which provide real-time analytics reports on engagements to mobile app companies.

Co-founder Siddharth Gupta explains a use case: if a customer is taking too long to fill in a credit card application form, HDFC Bank, through NotifyVisitors, will launch a pop-up asking the person’s details, to later help him through the process. This could be seen both in apps and websites.

Presently, the firm is associated with over 10,000 businesses, with 70 percent of the demand coming from foreign markets. Some of the bigger clients for the business include Shopclues, Times Group, EduKart etc.

Talking about the Digital Summit, Siddharth says,

“Being bootstrapped we not just get brand push and scalability but also a lot of support when it comes to visibility in the market. It is not everyday you get to pitch your idea in front of the whole leadership of the bank.”

NetVigil Software (mobile QR code payments)

With its flagship product S2Pay, the business is trying to replicate the cash transactions by introducing QR code-based mobile payments. In this case, the solution integrates with the vendor’s application (in this case HDFC Bank) where the consumer doesn’t require any Internet connection on their phone.

On putting in the amount to be paid with the personal pin, the application creates a 24-digit pin with a QR code that could be transmitted to the merchant through PoS (Point of Sale), NFC, QR code or sound for the merchant to capture the code. Once captured the payment is already made.

This holds even merchants in good stead as they don’t need any hardware (swipe machines) to accept payments. Just a smartphone can be used. Banks are also saved from installing a PoS terminal, which enables digital acceptance of payments for merchants where transaction numbers or values aren’t very large.

As a separate offering S2Pay needs to be downloaded as an application where all the customer’s cards are linked (including debit, credit, loyalty cards) without a customer having to sacrifice critical information in shops or malls .

Bug Clipper (Quality Assurance, in-app reporting tool)

Also a part of Target’s third Accelerator batch, Bug Clipper essentially helps report bugs sharing screenshots and screen recordings.

Bug Clipper captures screenshots to avoid time wasted to spot a problem and allows individuals to record a video by shaking the device. An enterprise solution now, this especially helps teams of testers and developers who work remotely and usually take multiple rounds of communication to fix a bug.

In HDFC Bank, according to co-founder Puneet Sharma , the platform also aims to empower consumers to report any bugs on the app. Based in Mumbai, the firm has BFSI clients like ICICI, Kotak, and Yes Bank, as well as others like Reliance and Tata Motors.

Tapits Technologies (biometric payments)

HDFC Bank will be the first to integrate Tapits Technologies' solution on its platform. It took one-and-a-half years to build the biometric payment solution with which a consumer can shop only with their biometric fingerprint, without needing any cash or credit card.

During the transaction there is biometric authentication, including a personal pin, which is chosen as a default (could be ATM, net banking etc.) to make payments by the account holder.

On the backend, the fingerprint goes to the Aadhaar, which on authentication is passed to the bank for approval. The co-founders claim that it takes roughly seven seconds for the transaction to process.

Based out of Indore, Tapits is also looking to innovate further to enhance the experiences for customers.

HDFC bank is not the only bank that is looking to partner with MSMEs and startups in the fintech space. With the launch of Unified Payments Interface (UPI), ICICI also launched its 'Appathon', inviting fintech startups and developers to be a part of the event.

According to Nitin, HDFC Bank has been aggressively tracking newer technologies and integrating with them for a long time. He says

We just think a lot of ideation and innovation is happening in this space, looking as though banks are more open now to partnerships. We internally have a team called the 'innovation team' which was established one-and-a-half years back, which always looks at market developments and newer technologies entering the space.

The bank's interest in new tech could be seen with HDFC making technology inroads with 30-minute paperless auto loans using biometric technology, 10-second personal loan on net banking and instant loans at ATMs to power its digital offerings.

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