This fisherman’s son launched a fintech startup amidst the pandemic and clocked transactions worth Rs 1 Cr
Chennai-based fintech startup IppoPay is a payments aggregator that enables small businesses, SMEs, freelancers, and homepreneurs in Tier II, III, and rural areas to collect payments with its POS software.
The digital economy has led to a spurt in fintech startups that facilitate payments, lending, insurance, and personal finance management., , , , Google Pay, and have taken centre stage as they drive India’s fintech boom.
But a few companies are eyeing the next billion users, and trying to bridge the gap in non-metro cities and rural areas. Enter Chennai-based, a payment aggregator that lets businesses collect and accept payments from customers.
“Ippo in Tamil means NOW. So IppoPay means Pay Now,” says Mohan K, Co-Founder and CEO of Chennai-based IppoPay.
Mohan explains that the fintech platform lets businesses accept payments via its POS software. It also helps businesses to get invoices along with statistics on business, engagement with customers, and more.
IppoPay needs no payment terminal, POS, or swiping machine. Merchants can generate QR codes using its mobile app.
“The problem with other popular payment options is that there is no business book record. IppoPay lets businesses manage payments, track payment details, and send a payment link via SMS/email to customers.
“Our platform can also be used to manage subscriptions, automate recurring billing, and get notified for all payment-related activities. There is no setup fee; we have a flat unit pricing model,” Mohan says.
The founder adds that most payment aggregators focusing on APIs and small-scale entrepreneurs are not adequately acquainted with the process of virtual transactions and find technology integration overwhelming.
“IppoPay directly targets merchants and vendors, exposing them to digital payments with its simple, user-friendly interface,” he adds.
The founder claims that the platform has done transactions to the tune of Rs 1 crore within two months of launch. It is seeing month-on-month growth of 40 percent, with the pandemic “only adding to growth rather than impacting it negatively”.
From programming to starting up
Mohan hails from a family of fishermen residing in Thamaraikulam, a small village in Rameshwaram, which is about 500 km from Tamil Nadu’s capital Chennai.
“I did my schooling from the government secondary school in Tamil medium. In 2006, I graduated from Md Sathak Engineering College and came to Chennai to make a living,” he recalls.
Mohan joined a small company as a programmer, but he was always keen to do something of his own. In 2010, he launched a web development company, which started garnering revenues shortly after launch. Not long after, he became the “local fintech guy”.
“I integrated more than 50 payment gateways. As time went by, I was getting more involved in fintech, wondering how things work…by that time, my web development company had taken the shape of a software development company,” Mohan says.
In 2018, Mohan went to a fintech event in the UAE with the express idea of getting more clients and funding. He met Dubai-based entrepreneur Omar Bin Berk, who invited him to become Co-founder and CTO of a company called Foloosi and build the tech to solve last-mile fintech problems in UAE.
Foloosi enables businesses to get paid using QR code, payment link, or payment gateway without the need of a POS machine.
“I was expecting an income prospect, but this opportunity required an investment as a CTO who would build a team in Chennai and get the product out in UAE,” Mohan recalls.
Foloosi was a bootstrapped venture, and Mohan only had personal savings at that time. “I decided to transfer the savings – a few lakh - to the company and started working on building Foloosi in April 2018.”
Mohan says it took him one year to develop the payment gateway product. Foloosi was officially launched in February 2019. “The first month fetched us transactions of 10,000 AED and we crossed 15 million AED over 12 months,” Mohan says.
The venture worked, and soon onboarded about 1,000 merchants and garnered angel funding of half a million dollars to expand the business in UAE.
Mohan then had an epiphany: why wasn’t he bridging this gap in India?
He soon decided to create a similar fintech solution focused on small businesses for Bharat, starting from his home state, Tamil Nadu.
“All payment aggregators are from Bengaluru, Mumbai, or Gurugram and support businesses in English or Hindi. That led me to think that our gateway should be in a local language such as Tamil to be user-friendly,” he says.
Mohan quit Foloosi and launched IppoPay in June 2020 to cater to Tamil Nadu. He roped in his childhood friend JaiKumar as a Co-founder and CTO, and set up a team of 15 members. IppoPay is a bootstrapped startup and the founders have invested Rs 50 lakh into the company so far.
Targeting small merchants and SMEs
The Chennai-based entrepreneur says some of the IppoPay’s clients include milk vendors, newspaper boys, chit fund companies, and others in Tier II and III cities in Tamil Nadu.
“These people manage their payments only through paper. We decided to create a mobile app and offer a subscription plan in their language,” Mohan says.
Mohan says the team also surveyed freelancers and SMEs, who need to buy invoice software to accept payments.
“They have to use invoice software like Zoho, QuickBooks etc to manage payment details and spend around Rs 2,000 per month. We made an innovation, developed the invoice software with quotation, pro forma, and invoice to accept payments.
“We provide proper accounting software, customer management with a complete book record, and tracking of payment details,” Mohan says. “We provide an Android/ iOS app to handle all payment-related activities in the mobile app.”
Challenges and the market
Mohan says when his team did not face many challenges when it began onboarding businesses as the sellers had trust in IppoPay, a fintech app that spoke their language.
“Local merchants are excited to use us. Fintech is all about creating trust, so they want local providers. We are slowly converting our merchants from Razorpay, Cashfree, and Payu.”
IppoPay is completely free. The business model as of now focuses on the transaction fee, with businesses paying only when the customers pay through the company’s payments gateway.
Mohan says it is very early to share financial details, adding that he is confident that his entrepreneurial experience will help him to turn the company profitable soon.
In terms of market prospects, Mohan says: "I feel there will be exponential growth in this sector, especially UPI volumes. The social commerce industry is very big as people want to bring their offline business online."
Plans for the future
Going forward, Mohan wants to diversify the offering and help businesses in Bharat. Proud that his startup is in in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for an Aatmanirbhar Bharat, he shares that IppoPay is currently working on simplifying social commerce so any entrepreneur is be able to create an online store in minutes.
“In Tamil Nadu, most married women are homepreneurs. They need an ecommerce platform but hiring a development company is tough. Platforms like Shopify are available, but they need to pay. IppoPay fills that gap – in Tamil,” he says.
Mohan says the company’s vision is to enable small businesses, freelancers, and homepreneurs, especially in Tier II, III, and rural areas to run a digital business. He aims to focus on Tamil Nadu for now, and then enter other states.
“We want to focus on our market, scale up our business and technology, find our mistakes, and overcome them. We want to be the market leader in Tamil Nadu by the end of 2021 and go pan-India later,” Mohan says.
Edited by Teja Lele