With more than 600 million active mobile phone users in India and the subscription base growing rapidly, it is safe to assume that going forward, mobile phones will be one of the key tools for processing electronic payments all over the country.
Of course, in terms of technology, Near Field Communication (NFC) is the best bet since it is a short-range, high-frequency wireless communication technology that can enable contactless credit/debit card payments. But even though tech experts and industry insiders believe that NFC will be the cornerstone of m-commerce in near future, India presents a different scenario altogether. For one, the technology has not been tested on a large scale. Then there is the cost aspect and finally, you will find only a few NFC-enabled handsets in the market as of now. Until these issues are sorted out (which may take a while), credit/debit cards will remain the first choice â€“ even when you are making a payment via your mobile device.
"Plastic money is here to stay, at least for a while, as the mobile industry does not evolve as rapidly as one might imagine. Just because something is technically possible, it doesn't mean that it will be implemented immediately," said Sanjay Swamy, managing partner at AngelPrime.
Still, in tune with the global trends, the mobile payments market in India has been heating up for some time and a number of companies have either launched/are soon going to launch mobile PoS (point of sale) solutions â€“ ranging from apps which accept card details to card readers which can be used to turn a simple feature phone into a PoS terminal for swiping credit/debit cards or even for some simple bank transactions.
Here's a list of the companies offering mobile PoS solutions across the country.
Founded in 2006 by Ajay Adiseshann (founder and MD), PayMate offers a wireless transaction platform and its mobile payment interface allows a user to link his/her mobile phone to a bank account, credit card or a prepaid accounts, thus turning it into a secure payment tool.
Earlier this year, the company has launched PayPOS, an app that enables small businesses to accept and process electronic transactions (via credit and debit cards) directly on their mobile phones at the points of sale (PoS). Any merchant who have a smartphone can sign up with PayPOS and receive a merchant ID, as well as a device ID. For on-mobile payment of products, one has to enter the mobile number of the customer and the chargeable amount. After that, the buyer has to enter his/her card details and password. The transaction is processed in real time and a receipt for the same is mailed to the customer.
"According to latest research data, there were 21 million smartphones in India in January 2012 and the number is going to increase manifold in the next few years. This is definitely an indicator of the apps' potential," said Adiseshann.
All transactions made by a merchant are logged and tracked by the app and one can also access relevant data like transaction history and sales reports (on mobile and online). The app comes with a fully equipped merchant centre that allows merchants to manage their accounts, and also enables them to create and manage promotions that they can send out to their customers.
The Mumbai-based startup offers Swipe, a mobile phone-based PoS service for small merchants that enables plastic card payments via mobile phone. The company provides an Mswipe card reader that can be attached to any mobile phone (be it smartphone or feature phone) via a 3.5mm headphone jack. Once attached, the card reader converts the mobile phone into a card acceptance device. The only requirement is a GPRS mobile connection.
Mswipe was launched in March 2011 by Manish Patel and essentially targets small & medium enterprises (SMEs). It claims to have 100-plus merchants on board and has tied up with Prizm Payments and Axis Bank (for the service). Boston-based Roam Technologies has provided an exclusive licence to Mswipe for its South Asia operations. The service starts from Rs 2,999 (in addition to monthly rental and transaction fee) and different price packages are also available. Post sign-up, a merchant will receive a mobile phone with the PoS app pre-loaded, as well as a swiper and a SIM card.
Last year, Mswipe received angel funding from private investors including Praveen Chakravarty (CEO of Anand Rathi Financial Services), Deepak Shahdadpuri (MD, Beacon India PE) and one unnamed foreign investor. Currently, the company is looking to raise around $5 million, Patel told Techcircle.in.
Focused on the mobile payment market in Asia, Ezetap has launched a mobile PoS solution across devices like feature phones, smartphones and tablets â€“ so that these can be converted into PoS terminals, in-store, on the road or at the customer's doorstep. This is done by adding the Ezetap Card Reader to the headphone jack of the devices.
This device, which the company claims to have designed and manufactured in India, is compatible with feature phones (such as Nokia S40), as well as smartphones running on Android, iOS and Windows Mobile platforms. It is priced at Rs 1,500 and can capture signatures electronically, thus doing away with paper receipts.
The Bangalore-based startup was founded in 2011 by Abhijit Bose (CEO), Bhakta Kesavachar (CTO) and Satheesh Vattekkat (VP, engineering). It had earlier raised an undisclosed angel funding from AngelPrime, a startup incubator launched by serial entrepreneurs Shripati Acharya, Bala Parthasarathy and Sanjay Swamy. As part of the investment, all three had joined the Ezetap board.
According to Swamy, while the card penetration in the country is 300 million and growing, the PoS terminal penetration is only around 600,000, which indicates adequate growth opportunity in this space. He also mentioned that mobile PoS terminals could be used for a number of other activities, such as field logistics workflow management and utility bills payment.
The company is also offering a software development kit (SDK) that others can use to integrate their apps. "If a merchant has developed its own app for bill collection, Ezetap just becomes a vehicle to integrate payments into that app."
Founded by ex-Nokia Money team, this Bangalore-based (it also has offices in the US and Kenya) mobile payments solutions provider has launched a platform to facilitate payments for both consumers and enterprises. Its flagship is iKaaz M-POS, which can replace expensive PoS equipment with just a feature phone, the company claims. For the same, it provides an NFC tag (which costs less than $2) that can be installed in any feature phone, turning it into a PoS facilitator. A customer can link the iKaaz NFC tag to his/her bank account, pre-paid account, debit or credit card, and once that is done, the device acts as an extension of the account.
The company also offers an app called Tap & Pay. Using this app, bank account holders can transfer money while consumers can complete merchant transactions or pay bills via their mobile phones. Additionally, the app (which leverages the NFC technology) enables merchants to receive payments from customers with just a tap of a phone at the checkout terminal. Also, there is the iKaaz Consumer Wallet that allows banks, operators and merchants to provide mobile wallets to their customers.
"Customers can transform their mobile phones into a mobile wallet (using a smart iKaaz NFC tag) and complete payments faster at merchant locations. Additionally, merchants can also benefit by significantly reducing the transaction processing fees," said Soma Sundaram, founder and CEO of iKaaz.
(Edited by Sanghamitra Mandal)