Fintech startup inai lets businesses set up a global payment stack in minutes
Anantharaman Pattabhiraman and Karthik Narayanan were running UK-based mobile fitness and wellness tech a startup Aura. The subscription-based company operated in a single geography and the founders ran into a roadblock when they decided to expand the startup’s footprint.
From the UK to the US, card payments were the most used – and preferred payment method. But the checkout necessitated different requirements in different countries. For instance, in the US, a registered billing address (separate from the delivery address) was needed. Some countries require other information such as the pin code of where the card is registered and/or email ids.
Karthik and Anantharaman did their research, and realised that global payments presented a problem that needed to be solved.
They exited Aura to Spanish company, and in April 2021 founded Chennai-based fintech startup, a payment orchestration layer that helps merchants to connect with multiple payment processors, local payment methods, wallets, BNPLs, QR code payments, and more - with a single integration.
Inai, a Tamil word, means to connect one or more things.
The founders say all companies need to comply with the law of the land when it comes to online digital payments, which often creates a fallout in the checkout process.
“This was the case for any digital subscription product,” says Karthik, adding that every company spends over hundreds and thousands of dollars to attract customers to their page, and losing potential customers during the checkout process is a massive loss,
“We saw that there was fragmentation in the payment methods,” says Karthik says, adding that this problem needed to be tackled.
He talks about a martech company that integrated marketing technologies into the stack with a single integration.
“We saw the need for a similar product on the payment side for companies seeking to grow from one geography to another,” the founder says.
How does it work?
Karthik shares that checkout drop-offs go up to 60 percent if popular payment methods are not offered, and there’s a need to optimise for these. A wholesome checkout process necessitates work by multiple payment-focused experts, but not every company can afford this.
“We knew we had to do this because we were solving a problem that we had faced ourselves. So that was the evolution of inai,” said Karthik.
Inai acts as a payment integration layer for a company or merchant’s payment process. The single integration for a global payment stack provide connections to multiple payment service providers, wallets, BNPL platforms, open banking providers, fraud, BI, and accounting.
The dashboard allows merchants to build custom workflows without writing any code, enabling a successful checkout process in any country. It also helps manage data of payments, subscriptions, refunds, and chargebacks from a single dashboard.
Inai went live in October and got its first client the same month.
“Inai helps merchants to go live within 60 minutes with an international payment stack that is optimised for every market they want to operate in and lets them take control of their payment data,” the founder says.
In addition, the fintech startup provides a software layer to support different subscription models for ecommerce merchants or SaaS businesses to sell across multiple geographies and localise the checkout experience.
“We are trying to solve problems for emerging markets. These are very challenging and must be seen as separate sets of payment methods and problems. Each country is different,” Anantharaman says.
Clients and revenue model
The fintech works with three kinds of clients. The first includes customers who are largely focused on sales and need a quick payment process and a no-code solution to ensure a smooth and secure process. There is zero engineering requirement from these customers.
The second set includes low touch customers, who need some engineering and tend to “drop some elements from inai’s software to their platforms”.
The last set are the large enterprises who already transact billions of dollars. These customers come with a ready payment stack that needed to be retrofitted. Inai offers customisation to integrate with the stack and allows them to migrate to a more sophisticated process.
The company is at present operational in India, Malaysia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Egypt, GCC, Africa, Ecuador, Panama, and US. Current clients include Zoom Car, Healthifyme, Skill-Lync, and Yummy few in India. It also works with Instant grocery delivery and super apps in Africa and South America.
However, the founders refused to divulge the total number of clients.
Inai charges a subscription starting from $199 per month with a transaction fee of 0.5 transaction for Startup plans and Enterprise plan where it varies as per requirement. It claims to have recorded growth of 20-25X in monthly recurring revenue growth in a year.
“Inai has helped us in scaling our payments internationally,” says Adeetya Prakash, Product Manager, Growth & Payments, Zoomcar. “They have helped in providing a superior experience in payments over what existed in the industry - their vaulting service helped offer a much better experience for our customers.
“The product has helped save weeks/ months of developer time in integration and helped future-proof our payment stack. Scaling from one country to another is now a click away.”
Inai claims customer feedback has revealed that its solution has helped customers free up to 40 percent of their engineering bandwidth.
Funding and the future
The fintech startup was part of Y Combinator’s Summer 2021 cohort.
In September 2021, it raised $4 million in a seed round led by Berlin-based Paua Ventures and 9Unicorns. Uncommon Capital, Soma Capital, Anarko Ventures, Better Capital, and Gemba Capital, along with angel investors Sriram Krishnan, Lenny Rachitsky, Matt Robinson (Founder, GoCardless, Nested), Louis Beryl (Founder, Rocketplace, Earnest), Charlie Delingpole (Founder, Comply Advantage), Naren Shaam (Founder, Omio), and Kunal Shah (Founder, CRED) also participated in the round.
The startup competes with Cashfree Payments, AGS Transact Technologies, and Juspay to name a few.
Inai’s parent company is located in Delaware, US. The engineering team sits in Chennai while sales and product team members are located in the UK, Singapore, and Indonesia. The total team strength is 30 people.
“We have a diverse team across multiple geographies,” Anantharaman says.
According to Statista, the Indian payment gateway market is forecast to grow to approximately $1.71 billion by 2025.
The founder reveals plans to grow 5X in the next year, and expand and scale in Southeast Asia
“We see a huge opportunity in the Southeast Asia market,” Anantharaman says. “We see similar problems in other emerging markets and this is where we see our opportunities. We are also looking to grow the team and revenues.”