When Hareesh Panicker and Soney Jose founded a startup offering services for prepaid payment instruments in 2014, they soon realised that their business idea was not viable due to constant changes in the regulatory environment and acquisition-led models prevailing in the market. The duo decided to leverage their expertise in retail finance and telecom, and using IP built especially for payment systems and various aggregation services, they looked at providing enterprises with a full-scale multi-functional digital platform.
It was during this phase in mid-2016 when they realised that there was a latent demand in the banking industry for a solution that could accelerate the pace of adoption of digital services among customers. “This meant we had another aha moment. We realised we could play the role of a perfect cross-selling platform for financial products for banks/ and financial institutions and for devices, services, etc. for telecom players. And, we had multiple relevant use cases from other industries to showcase how we could help banks and financial institutions,” says Hareesh, CEO and Marketing Head at FTL Technology Systems, who comes with nearly two decades of experience spanning retail finance and telecom. Co-founder and COO Soney has spent 23 years in the banking and financial services sector and has expertise in retail finance, SME lending and is also credited with launching and building the EEG business division of HDFC Bank.
Demystifying Life Time Value and what it means for businesses
Today, the startup has found its ground with a customer engagement platform called Paymetry. Powered by e-commerce and cutting-edge analytics, the platform is integrated with an analytics suite with predictive and reactive modelling for enterprises with large data volumes, and also comes with an intelligent notification tool for websites and mobile apps.
He explains that the startup’s products aim at enhancing the Life Time Value (LTV) of a customer for their partners. Explaining the significance of LTV and how businesses can leverage it to drive growth, Hareesh says, “LTV can be considered as managing returns generated by the organisation at a customer level and doing this efficiently. LTV needs to be one of the key foundations on which an organisation’s revenue channel is identified and built. An important factor which businesses understand is that LTV can be driven only by engaging the customer in a structured manner and providing the right value-adds and convenience. This also means right offering coupled with contextual and intelligent communication is critical to driving LTV.”
This is where Paymetry helps businesses threefold. The first is by helping them increase face time with online customers and to onboard more customers on to the digital channels. The second is by helping businesses better understand customer behaviour using advanced methodologies and prediction modelling. The third is by driving enriched, contextual and real-time communications instead of transactional and traditional models.
Sharing how FTL Technology Solution’s product helps banks, Hareesh says, “Take the example of a typical bank customer. The customer often has a banking relationship in the form of loans, credit cards, savings account, etc. Sometimes the information rests in silos, which means that customers are compelled to go through multiple documentation processes, which means a duplication of effort and dissatisfaction on the part of the customer. Then there are newly employed people who often have a banking relationship, but not a credit relationship. Our platform helps to draw out relevant information and give these customers details about eligible offers in real time, thus helping them avail banking services with minimal fuss and documentation while strengthening their loyalty to the bank. We are also working on utilising the India Stack and alternate credit underwriting methodologies to make disbursement of funds seamless and instantaneous. This will enable the customer to avail credit at the time of requirement and will eliminate the usual long planning process.
Tapping new verticals and geographies
Hareesh says, “Paymetry is now live with four partners, including some of the largest financial institutions in the country. We are looking to go beyond the financial sector and add newer industry verticals, with travel being the top priority segment.”
With three more banks all set to come on board the Paymetry platform, the team is confident that they are now on the fast track to growth. “We are looking at driving a net revenue of Rs 20 million in FY18-19 and in the next three years we hope to achieve more than 100 percent year-on-year growth and turn cash positive,” say Hareesh, adding, “Our northstar metric is the number of engaged users on our platform. We have our roadmap clear. We are looking at new partner acquisitions to build scale on the number of users on our platforms and working on expanding our services to new industry verticals.”
After making headway in the banking sector, they have started working with telecom providers and are actively focusing on other verticals such as airlines and media houses. According to Hareesh, “Our product solutions can be customised, which means in addition to new verticals, we are also keen on expanding our market reach to other geographies. Middle East and Africa are two new markets we are looking at to fuel our next phase of growth.”
Beyond the highs and lows
Today, a major big challenge for them is regulatory procedures of enterprises. Soney says, “Our product is being built for large enterprises and hence technology as well as regulatory challenges exist at every turn. New models and methodologies often face hindrances from the organisation’s standard operating procedures and regulations.”
Among the many factors that has helped the startup overcome hurdles in its journey is the NASSCOM 10,000 Startups programme. “Getting to be a part of the programme has helped us in many ways. We were able to leverage their expertise in navigating the startup ecosystem and getting connected to the right stakeholders. This helped us address issues in hiring, getting the right technology support, and also tap new opportunities to grow the business,” says Soney.
Being bootstrapped for the first few years and changing the focus of the business meant that they missed the funding bus. NASSCOM 10,000 Startups was instrumental in helping FTL Technology Solutions overcome the initial hiccups in financial management and giving them the necessary help to accelerate revenue generation.
The COO says, “Being first-time entrepreneurs, we lacked real connections with the investor community. When we started up, we were a bootstrapped entity, which meant any information, any connections, any organisation that believed in our idea and potential that we had to financial support was critical for our growth. NASSCOM 10,000 Startups helped us figure out the right programmes that we could associate with and even helped in the last mile closure.”
Helming a 14-member strong team which is growing bigger, Hareesh says, “The journey so far has been beyond exhilarating. Being bootstrapped till 2016 and then getting selected for a seed funding programme, and following that up by winning startup contests such as KSUM Idea day and the Kotak Bank NASSCOM Payment co-creation programme, we have definitely some achievements to cherish and many more to aim at winning.”