Despite losing 95pc of a year’s business in 72 hours, this fintech firm now caters to Reliance Retail, Titan and INOX
Innoviti Payment Solutions has delivered differentiated solutions for payments automation, consumer credit distribution and SME lending. Top banks such as HDFC, ICICI, Axis, SBI and Citibank use the platform to access customers for processing payments and disbursing loans.
Before Innoviti, Delhi-based IIT graduate Rajeev Agarwal, 48, used to work in Sasken Communication where he had plenty of freedom when it came to the creative side of business. The moment he realised his freedom would get restricted due to low focus on product development, he decided to start off on his own.
With just Rs 1 lakh as seed capital, Rajeev set out on his entrepreneurial journey from a 200 sqft office in Bengaluru. A friend helped him with the office space for a rent of Rs 2,000 per month. Rajeev didn’t even have the money to buy a generator, and ended up borrowing from his friend again.
His venture, started in 2002, pivoted from developing hardware products for the telecom industry to providing payment solutions. It was a serendipitous move as the same technology ended up addressing the problem of payment terminus in 2007. Fortunately, this technology was what payment companies had been looking for.
In a couple of years, when the entire retail ecosystem conspired to go online, a comprehensive payment system that was high on reliability and rich in data analytics was the need of the hour.
With most ecommerce players went for payment systems like cashback, the regular bank payment system was nowhere near what was needed.
In 2008, Rajeev launched Innoviti Payment Solutions, which he claims to be the pioneer in the use of technology to solve real-world payment acceptance of merchants.
The company has so far delivered differentiated solutions for payments automation, consumer credit distribution and SME lending.
Rajeev claims that Innoviti processes payment transactions worth more than Rs 20,000 crore annually, including Rs 1,000 crore credit. It can process transactions through any channel — web, mobile, in-store or at time of delivery.
Innoviti’s payment platforms serve a marquee client base of merchants, including Reliance Retail, Titan, Landmark Group, INOX, Indigo, Walmart and several others. Leading banks such as HDFC, ICICI, Axis, SBI, Standard Chartered, Kotak and Citibank use the platform to access customers for processing their payments and distributing loans. Says Rajeev,
Less than 10 per cent of India’s retail payments are currently digital, creating a market opportunity of more than $500 billion annually. Similarly, the shortfall in supply of funds to SMEs is estimated in excess of $300 billion and is difficult to solve in the absence of technology-based solutions.
Innoviti focused on an experience-centric approach to solving these problems through its uniPAY Next and smelending.com platforms. The company claims that its new uniPAY Next platform has driven rapid market acceptance, with Innoviti processing over $3 billion in B2C transactions across more than 50,000 PoS terminals.
The UPI@POS payment gateway enables integration of UPI-app based customer payment acceptance at store, thereby preventing incremental investments in new payment infrastructure.
In the past 12 months, Innoviti has extended the platform to provide lending solutions for small businesses. So, smelending.com provides short-term working capital requirements for small businesses. Using technology to automate all aspects of the lending process, the platform enables loans as small as Rs 30,000 for periods as short as 15 days. Designed as an asset-light platform, smelending.com connects lenders to small businesses and processes more than 150,000 loans annually for over 30,000 such small businesses.
On the payment processing side, Innoviti launched contactless card acceptance for the first time in multiplexes, UPI acceptance in offline retail through its UPI@POS solution in collaboration with NPCI, and an automated acquirer fallback feature to ease the payment procedure for merchants who struggle with store and bank network failures.
It all began with Taj Group’s Epicure
Rajeev was lucky to have Taj Group Hotels as Innoviti’s first customer. The group was running a programme called Epicure and was facing issues related to transaction process in real time. Innoviti got the chance and, keen to bolster their credentials, worked really hard on resolving the challenges. The effort paid off and Innoviti’s partnership with Taj Group of Hotels extended from three months to eight years.
Rajiv recalls a setback the venture faced in 2007. Innoviti initially never had a treasure of capital to play with but worked through reinvestment of revenue. In March 2007, Innoviti lost 95 percent of next year’s business in a matter of 72 hours. Between a Friday evening and a Monday morning, three of their large contracts were terminated as some clients no longer needed their services. He says,
We as a team sat down and our attitude was that what has happened! Employees got jittery and people started quitting. However, we knew that the issue would be resolved. We just had to fight it out.
With no option left to get over the situation, Rajeev and his team pulled up their socks and scouted for new opportunities. In the next seven months, they were back in the game. They immediately reduced costs by shifting into a smaller office; Rajeev took a salary cut as well. However, he says that in all the 15 years Innoviti has been in existence, the company never failed to pay employees.
A second crisis hit the firm in 2013 when RBI stopped EMIs on gold. All payment had to be chip and pin-compliant, which meant they needed certification with all banks.
A lot of reshuffling needed to be done in existing systems, leading to a drop in month-on-month revenue growth. They requested their customers to use bank for the time being, and managed not lose any customer during that time.Soon, Innoviti decided to raise external funds in the market.
Growing from strength to strength
Innoviti currently has about 100 clients and earns on every transaction. With 150 employees, the firm processes transactions from 700 cities, with staff present in almost 22 cities. They have branch offices in Bengaluru, Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Chennai.
Rajeev claims the company spends close to 20 percent of the total expenses in R&D. He declined to reveal the revenue numbers, but said the company has grown by 100 percent.
Recently Innoviti raised Rs 120 crore in a funding round led by SBI-FMO Fund, Bessemer Venture Partners and existing investor NR Narayana Murthy's Catamaran Ventures. Masterkey Holdings, Bangalore, were the exclusive investment bankers to the deal.
In June 2015, the company raised $5 million to re-architect the flagship uniPAY payments platform into a full-fledged enterprise grade product — uniPAY Next — and extend the platform to offer lending solutions to small businesses under the brand smelending.com
In the next twelve months, the company is looking to expand its footprint globally, acquire customers for uniPAY and grow smelending.com platform to provide working capital loans to kirana stores and brand franchisees and expand product portfolio to address payment and lending issues beyond just retail to more businesses across the supply chain.
Website: Innoviti Payment Solutions