On Tuesday, Truecaller launched Truecaller 8, an all-inclusive communication app that will also have a payment integration with Truepay. YourStory had a chance to meet the founders and get a picture of their India plans.
“My daughter was born in 2013. I remember when my friend called to congratulate me, he told me that the year would be significant for me because of it.” Little did Alan Mamedi, Co-founder and CEO, Truecaller, realise that the year would indeed mark a significant change in his company's fortunes.
Getting Indian investors
Mohit Bhatnagar and Shailesh Lakhani from Sequoia Capital India called Alan and Nami Zarringhalam, Chief Strategy Officer and Co-founder, Truecaller, and asked them if they had any plans for the country. “We didn’t have any; we didn’t even know the kind of market presence we had here,” said Alan.
When Mohit and Shailesh asked the founders if they could meet, they responded with, “Sure, please come to Stockholm." Everything after that, like they say, is history. Today, Truecaller has 150 million-plus users in India and 250 million-plus users globally, and according to Alan's tweet, this January was their strongest growth month ever, with paid user acquisition at $0.
With its new launch, Truecaller has combined Truedialler and Truemessenger into one, introduced the Truecaller identity for feature phones, and entered the payments space in partnership with ICICI. But this idea has been in the works for a while now. Explaining this, Alan says,
“Both Nami and I onboard every new person who joins Truecaller ourselves and there is one thing we tell them — while for the outside world Truecaller might be like a caller ID and call blocking app, what it really does is add an identity to a phone number.”
India, their second home
Friends since their college days, 31-year-old Alan and Nami have founded a total of three startups — a home solutions furniture website, a recruitment firm, and finally, Truecaller.
Speaking about his entrepreneurial journey, Alan adds,
“I have two kids at home. My girl is turning four this year and my son is seven months old. This is my third baby — I am so proud to represent what my team has been working on and putting out. It is my second family. Lots of times you hear entrepreneurs talk about their journey and everything is amazing. Of course it isn’t. There are a lot of ups and downs and there are challenges and changes at the last minute. But it is still so fun. And that’s what keeps us going. If it is not fun you should stop.”
What stood out about the launch was Truecaller's entry into the payments space. While Alan says that the idea of entering the payments space in India had been brewing since 2014, their efforts doubled after demonetisation.
“I was here the day demonetisation was announced and I saw the kind of impact it created. Recharge makes a lot of sense to have in your dialler. The way we look at it is that payments shouldn’t be made through a separate app, but from your contacts," said Alan.
The founders added that they are approaching Truepay — which completes direct transactions in real time through the UPI interface — differently. One doesn’t have to move the money anywhere to make payments. Truecaller will be able to aggregate the virtual payment address (VPA) so that the next time you have to make a transaction their VPA is present in the contact list.
Truepay has a two-layer approach of authentication — in the first layer you have Truecaller authenticating that you are making the payment to the right person, with the second layer being the bank.
Truepay has been launched in India only. Nami says,
“We could look at a global launch, but we are still a company of 85 people and the focus is the most important thing for us and India being our second home we need to take care of it and make sure that we keep innovating.”
While an individual can initiate a payment through the contact list, the actual transaction happens only on the bank side.
“We don’t have any insights — we don’t touch and see anything. That is the way we prefer it as well because it is a lot of people’s money at stake. We take it very seriously and that’s why the UPI system is perfect for any developer who wants to get into the space,” says Nami.
For the next 12–18 months, Truecaller will be focusing on small businesses in India as many of these entrepreneurs rely on the app for daily communication. With Truecaller, they should be able to represent their businesses better and make sure that they can communicate and transact with their customers more efficiently.