From a minimalistic website to proprietary flagship products, how Instamojo upped its product game
Like most fintech startups, Instamojo, once a payments platform in its most basic form, has now turned into a full-stack digital services platform from.
Founded in 2012 by Akash Gehani, Sampad Swain, and Aditya Sengupta, Instamojo aims to bridge the gap between MSMEs, who find it difficult to leverage the right technology and developers to reach out to relevant app users.
The founders of Instamojo (L to R): Akash Gehani, Sampad Swain, and Aditya Sengupta
When it first started in 2012, Instamojo was just a minimalistic fintech website, Akash Gehani, the COO of the company, in a conversation with YourStory, says.
"It had a simple flow which made and delivered a promise with no frills. We had to strip down our problem statement to the bare minimum so we could prototype and pilot it within a month's time,” Akash adds.
At present, the startup has two flagship products to its name – MojoCapital, which helps disburse bite-sized short-term credit loans worth $2 million, and MojoXpress, which helps MSMEs deliver products to their customers. The former caters solely to its merchants every month, and the team claims that this number is growing at 25 percent month-on-month.
MojoXpress, the logistics arm of Instamojo, is reported to be touching close to 1,000 shipments every month. In an earlier interview, Sampad Swain, CEO, Instamojo, said that it is just scratching the surface. He added that he is looking to build a platform that will bring its 700,000 registered MSMEs on to one unified platform.
Instamojo is now helping MSMEs go online by having created more than 11,000 online stores.
Instamojo started from a seed idea that the co-founders had while they were working on different products. Once the prototype was out, the team says, they put in a lot of effort to get the word out, talk to users, and understand if their hypothesis was correct.
"The first three to five months was only spent on getting feedback, and then we incorporated some of that into the product. The product remained in alpha mode and was crude, but it worked for the simple use-case we had in mind. Overall we spent almost a year doing this."
During early to mid-2013, the website started to get some traction. Akash says, there were a lot of issues with the product, but users still persevered and were enthusiastic about using Instamojo. This compelled the co-founders to redesign the product entirely.
During the first two years, thanks to the constant tweaking, refactoring, and architecting the system, the startup's tech team was able to define the problems better. For the next 12 months or so, more features use-cases were added to the product.
"It was a simple product, targeting a single use-case, yet it looked, felt, and worked so much better. After we defined the problems better and were able to solve them, we got better traction," he says.
As of 2019, Instamojo is looking to add secondary features like invoicing, QR payments, business cards, missed call marketing, branding, advertisement, and analytics tools to the platform, making MSMEs at par with other businesses in the country.
With an attractive market opportunity, comes amplified competition. The Instamojo team, however, says they are unaffected by the competition and are set to close FY20 with 1.5 million merchants.
Earlier in January 2019, the Bengaluru-based startup raised $7 million as part of its Series B funding round led by Japanese investor AnyPay. Additionally, Gunosy Capital, Kalaari Capital, and Beenext, among others, also participated in the fundraising. The Tokyo-based firm had earlier invested $4 million in the startup.
The need for better technology always comes from various sources. For some founders, it might just be the user-behaviour and the needs it brings, while for some, it could be the growing ambition and clarity on what the founders want to build.
For Instamojo, it was the latter, which further gave rise to different requirements in analytics, reliability, and performance.
"For example, a couple of years back, we felt the need to change our support tool. That led to a lot of changes related to data flows and information reporting," Akash says.
The core technology used by Instamojo was built in-house. Akash says, the founders are very product-centric and are always looking at owning and improving the user experience. He says it led to a strong focus on certain technological aspects that can only be built in-house.
The COO adds, "Acquiring the team is about knowing what we want to do, and identifying the gaps in terms of what we have and don't have. At times, it is the specific skills that we lack and at times, it's about growing on the skills that we already have. When you know what you're looking for, it is simpler to look at identifying the apt people who can help you."
Thanks to technology, the team at Instamojo figured out two significant growth hacks – customised lead qualification and contextual promotions within the product and outside. With the first one, a tech and ML-enabled system increased the efficiency of the sales team and allowed them to operate with a lean team, resulting in the doubling of the return on investment (RoI).
As for the contextual promotions, Akash says, they were fully tech-driven and scaled without any human intervention. He adds that it improved the engagement and adoption of Instamojo's features on a massive level, subsequently with a hockey-stick growth.
Learnings from building the tech
"As someone who is building the product and technology, we are fascinated by some things which the user doesn't always see or even care for. It is important to understand the broader implications of how everything you do impacts the user's experience. After all, it’s the user’s problem getting solved and not yours," Akash says.
He further says that there have been multiple times during the startup's journey where they built something with a particular problem or use-case in mind. But later, observed that the users were leveraging it in ways they could not even anticipate.
Instamojo had a post-transaction notes feature which was primarily built to thank and acknowledge the customers for using the product. Over time, the merchants had figured out ways to initiate new conversations altogether and run interactions among each other.
"This led us to build a messaging feature internally, which was very well received by them. Sometimes such instances also open your eyes to new problems and markets," Akash concludes.
(Edited by Suman Singh)