This startup is bridging the digital gap in rural India by offering multi-utility bill payments through mobile kiosks
India is a cash driven country and people are dependent on cash to make most transactions. While bill payment has been a major task for most Indian households, many people in urban areas are now slowly shifting to digital methods. And rural households are fast catching up with the next big payment revolution setting in.
Driven to make life simpler in rural areas by providing a one-stop solution to the consumers to pay their multi-utility bills, Rohit Kumar and Bohitesh Misra started XPay.Life in May 2019.
The platform offers a single window to pay bills, and is leading the rural folk into digital payments by using a combination of mobile and kiosks. It is empowering rural folk to make payments either by using cash or any other digital payment channel.
The Bengaluru-based startup has created a blockchain-based transaction framework that covers the complete spectrum of bill payment services such as touch screen kiosks, web, mobile app, PoS device, and mobile ATP Van. The blockchain framework brings government projects, cash disbursements, and payments – all under one roof, so that every transaction is recorded and verified for government schemes to be more effective.
How it all started?
In 2015, Rohit started an IT Services firm called XIPHIAS, which was building software and hardware for payment and utility kiosks. It also offered multi-utility bill payments through touch screen kiosks using cash in various government verticals.
During this time, Rohit met Bohitesh through CIO forums, and they realised that they were equally interested in payments. Having worked in the corporate sector for nearly two decades, Bohitesh has extensive knowledge of various leading technologies with enterprise approach using mobility, cloud, analytics, and blockchain.
At XIPHIAS Software Technologies, the two worked closely on many projects and saw an opportunity to explore new ways of approaching product development and village commerce, combined with an instinct to work for the welfare of the society.
The success of these early experiments, where they could get rural folks to use digital kiosks to make payments, validated the approach of a blended online as well as offline mode of payments, which led them to start XPay.Life in 2019.
How it works?
The startup has conceptualised a mobile van-based bill payment service. It has a touch screen kiosk inside the van, which will visit various strategic places in the remotest part of the villages where collection is a big challenge.
At the kiosk, a user can pay multi-utility bills, including electricity, gas, water, mobile, broadband, landline, and DTH using cash as well as other digital payment channels. The kiosk also has a cash acceptor, which accepts and validates the cash and reduces the possibility of fake currency. A Point of Sale (PoS) device is also in place, which will accept payments through debit and credit cards.
“As per our research, 80 percent of rural population and 35 percent of urban population still do not use digital payments, where our physically installed touch screen kiosk will play a major role. However, for 20 percent of the rural population and 65 percent of the urban population, XPay.Life is offering bill payments solution through online web, mobile app, and hand-held PoS device to collect the utility bill payment,” says Rohit.
To ensure security of the transactions, the startup has integrated a Blockchain-based payment gateway. It follows AMBIC model, which means it has Artificial Intelligence (AI), mobility, Blockchain, IoT, and cloud-based solutions in the form of Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). According to XPay, it simplifies the transaction and end-to-end customer journey through ‘one-click’ processing for transactions in digital channels.
“None of the competitors offer cash-based payments, but a research report shows that India is a cash-driven country where 80 percent of the utility bill payment is done via cash in rural India,” says Rohit.
Under the various government schemes announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, this mobile van, apart from offering a kiosk for payments, will also have a vending machine in which sanitary napkins and condoms will be made available and distributed to rural people free of cost.
Business model and revenues
XPay.Life provides both B2B and B2C services, and takes a part of the billing fee. Under the B2C model, XPay.Life takes a cut from multi-utility bill payments such as electricity, water, gas, mobile, landline, DTH, and broadband through touch screen kiosks, web, mobile app, PoS device, mobile van, and e-rickshaw.
Under the B2B model, it provides a complete ecosystem for entrepreneurs to deploy payment gateway for collecting payment for their business, irrespective of its size. Along with a payment gateway, XPay.Life also offers to integrate and help startups and businesses with software tools such as CRM, ERP, and web portals, which will help them kick-start and boost their business with integrated payments gateway solution.
The startup claims to be currently clocking over Rs 100 crore of financial transaction volume per month. However, it refused to disclose details of the state that uses its touch screen kiosk at present.
“This collection comes from a single biller hailing from one of the smallest states in India. We expect to deploy services for 253 billers,” says Rohit.
Rohit has invested $1 million so far in the venture. Today, the startup has over five lakh consumers who pay their multi-utility bills on a monthly basis. The six-month-old startup’s revenue is less than Rs 1 crore at present, but it hopes to pick up volume as more people in rural areas go digital.
Competition and future plans
At present, XPay.Life competes with the likes of Paytm and PhonePe. Rohit and Bohitesh believe that their understanding of working with governments in rural areas can help them scale faster.
“It’s a complex business wherein the growing importance of innovations coupled with the extensive use of technologies has changed the face of payments worldwide. The fintech industry has grown massively over the last couple of years, and has quickly moved on from its initially modest offerings in back-office operations into areas such as payment, trading, investment, retail banking, and more. The country needs several solutions before people can move completely digital,” says Rohit.
Talking about future plans, Rohit says: “The company plans to deploy 25,000 touch screen kiosks for bill payment by next year, and one lakh touch screen kiosks, PoS terminals, and mobile ATP vans in the next three years.”
(Edited by Megha Reddy)