In India, the Digital payments and wallets space has seen a spurt of new players. Most digital wallet players now have moved on from being platforms for recharges or bill payments, to offering a lot more from offline payments to big-ticket transactions like booking your flight tickets, or even homes.
FreeCharge, which is owned by Snapdeal, is trying to merge the messaging and payments space with a new ‘Chat and Pay’ feature in its app where merchants and customers can connect over chat and just initiate payments. The idea that messaging could evolve into a much bigger platform is not something new. The model has been successfully scaled up by Korea’s KakaoTalk and China’s WeChat prompting both WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger to look beyond messaging, exploring integration of services from Uber rides to airline tickets.
The idea is to make payments convenient for both the customer and the merchants, says FreeCharge’s COO Govind Rajan. “Anybody can sign up as a merchant on Chat and Pay. This removes the need to invest in a machine for the merchant. Be it your college canteen or the petrol pump, the app can serve as the easy solution for making payments,” says Rajan in an interaction with the Indianexpress.com
“We are making a value proposition for the merchant and the customer. The merchant has the option of getting the money sent to the wallet or to a bank account. In case of the wallet, the money is transferred instantly, while in the bank account, it shows up at the end of the day,” he adds.
FreeCharge aims to get 5 million merchants on its platform in the next 18 months. In future, the app will let merchants upgrade their payment limits of Rs 1,00,000 with necessary KYC verification.
‘Chat and Pay’ allows for discovery of a service as well, and a merchant can register based on geo-location. Once you go into the app and click on the tab, it will show merchants who are in the vicinity and have listed their stores. Merchants have to upgrade to the FreeCharge+ account to register themselves. Also in order to send money to your friends over chat, they too will need the app on their smartphone.
“We also have a subscription like feature, where say your regular newspaper guy can just set up an alert system reminding to you to pay your monthly bill. If you have a regular grocer or vegetable vendor, etc they can set up payment requests for monthly bills. The transaction is seamless and the merchant doesn’t have to keep going to each house to collect the payment,” says Rajan. The feature also lets merchants sets reminders for customers for each pending payment.
Freecharge’s COO says their aim is to create a payment OS for India and incentivise the need for digital payments in the country. The app claims to be one of the fastest growing digital wallets in the country.
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