Indian Startup Wants to go Rural

India’s Suvidhaa Infoserve (SIPL), a payment and remittance firm, today announced that it acquired point of sale (POS) startup Aasaanpay. The deal amount remains undisclosed.

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Aasaanpay was started by engineering dropouts Sainath Gupta, Pruthvi Sabbu, and Shashank Sahni in 2011. Its technology helps carry out transactions via smartphone instead of a traditional bulky POS machine. The startup secured seed funding from Tvarita Capital three years ago.

Suvidhaa is one of the country’s largest payment management companies, with 80,000 retail locations across India. Currently, it handles remittances and payment transactions worth INR80 billion (US$1.2 billion) annually.

Suvidhaa plans to use Aasaanpay’s technology to tap into the 150 million cards issued by the Indian government under the Jandhan Yojana. This acquisition will fast-track Suvidhaa’s plan to reach small merchants, especially in rural areas.

"The acquisition will lead to a new customer experience, enable instantaneous conversions for service providers such as ecommerce companies, and will also cut out the hassles of collecting cash for various businesses. The technology will help small time retailers – who are not yet entirely connected to the debit and credit transactions," the company said in a statement.

Banking on unbanked

Besides making card payment transactions, point of sales tools allow for cash withdrawals and money transfers. They serve as a micro-ATM, allowing a customer to walk into a shop and withdraw cash using their PIN.

The central bank in India has recently enhanced the cash withdrawal limits to INR2,000 (US$30) for rural areas from the previous INR1,000 (US$15). It has introduced rules to ensure a consistent experience online and at POS locations. This includes two-factor authentication as well as chip and PIN card security.

India has 650 million card holders but only 200,000 ATMs and one million point of sales outlets.

"Any technology that cuts out the infrastructure bottleneck as well as reduces cost will be a game changer. With our experience of handling 30 million unique customers at the bottom of the pyramid over the last seven years, this technology acquisition will accelerate our merchant acquiring capabilities several times," Suvidhaa founder Paresh Rajde said.

Rajde is confident that this will bring in a behavioral change and reduce dependencies on cash-based transactions.

Suvidhaa has some high profile backers including real estate tycoon Shapoorji Pallonji Mistry and others like NVP (USA), Reliance Capital, IFC (World Bank Group), and Mitsui.