Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Mobikwik launches 700 kb payments app that will soon work on SMS

The move reflects how India's startups have been galvanised to build solutions to accelerate the country's shift towards digital finance

Harichandan Arakali
Published: Nov 28, 2016 05:00:26 PM IST
Updated: Nov 28, 2016 05:21:19 PM IST

Mobikwik launches 700 kb payments app that will soon work on SMS
Image:MK photograp55 / Shutterstock

One Mobikwik Systems, a Gurugram based digital payments provider near New Delhi, has launched a “lite” app that is built for India’s masses, which is envisioned to eventually work even without internet connections. For now, it still needs at least a cheap smartphone to connect to the net every once in a while.

The app, Mobikwik Lite, takes up only 700 kb of memory on a phone, can work on low-speed internet connections, such as those on EDGE networks. And the functionality to send money using text messages is to be added soon, according to a company spokesperson.

The app offers a fair number of features, including the ability to recharge phone plans, pay for satellite television subscriptions and so on. Recipients don’t even need to have the app, and can supply a mobile phone number, so they can be sent money in denominations as small as the cost of a cup of tea, for instance.
Mobikwik Lite “can be used by anybody on any kind of phone on any kind of connection,” co-founder and CEO Bipin Preet Singh said in Delhi. “We make a promise that this app will be available not just for smartphones but also on feature phones. All you need is a mobile number.”
India’s smartphone boom is gradually spreading beyond the country’s urban, English-speaking households. And as wireless providers such as Reliance Jio Infocomm and Bharti Airtel expand their data services, digital payments is set to spread beyond the cities into smaller towns and villages.
In August, One Mobikwik Systems said it had raised $40 million from South Africa’s Net 1 UEPS Technologies, a financial technology and payments platform company. The startup, which expects to break-even by mid-2018, is probably India’s largest digital payments company after rival Paytm. Co-founder Upasana Taku said at the launch of Mobikwik Lite that the company had 40 million users transacting on its flagship smartphone mobile wallet, Mobikwik.
Mobikwik also counts Sequoia Capital, Tree Line Asia, American Express, Cisco Investments, and GMO Payment Gateway as investors.
The new app “is really an app made for Bharat”, Singh said, referring to the majority of Indians who still live outside its large cities even though the country is seeing rapid urbanisation. Mobikwik Lite can be downloaded on a 2G connection in a matter of seconds by clicking on a link received via a text message on giving a missed call to 8097180971, a number designated by Mobikwik, he said.
One feature of this app is that users don’t even need to have an email address, unlike apps that one downloads from Google Play, the online storefront of Google, whose Android operating system runs on most of the 150 million or so smartphones in use in India.
“It’s a full app,” Singh added, which currently supports English and Hindi, but will very soon support most of the important Indic languages. The app also facilitates payments via debit and credit cards, and even options such as transactions via India’s new universal payments interface. It will likely benefit a large number of people who have no more than a very small business and a basic smartphone, at a time when the country has banned its two highest denomination currency notes.