You can never predict when the entrepreneurial bug will bite one. Take the case of Sridhar Rao, a senior telecom professional with over 30 years of experience across markets in India, Indonesia and Western Europe. His latest venture, Novopay Solutions, is a bank-backed digital wallet which allows users to pay at merchant shops, pay bills, and transfer money.
“What differentiates Novopay from other similar products is that one can use the wallet with a simple feature phone as well. One can also withdraw cash through a neighbourhood Novopay agent,” says Rao, CEO and co-founder. “Basically, we are seeking to make banking and payments convenient, simple and safe to enable the evolution of the Indian retail ecosystem.”
The Bengaluru-based company is backed by Vinod Khosla Ventures and has partnered with Axis Bank, Bank of India and IDFC Bank. The wallet is being used by 4.5 lakh users and has 45,000 merchants in its network at present. The start-up claims it has clocked 5 million transactions in one year with total transactions worth R400 crore.
Novopay was incubated at Khosla Labs with the founders having worked earlier with Aadhaar, besides telecom and digital wallet companies. These include Srikanth Nadhamuni (chairman, Novopay, and former head of technology, Aadhaar); Gautam Bandyopadhyay (COO, Novopay and former head of Finacle Digital Commerce, Infosys); and Shankar Bali (CSO, Novopay and former COO at MTS, Karnataka and COO at Vodafone UP East circle).
“The success of the telecom industry and Aadhaar gave rise to the thought that electronic transactions delivered over telecom network through a mobile phone can have a far-reaching impact in delivering basic banking services through neighbourhood shops,” says Rao. Rao himself has worked in different positions at Vodafone since 2004, going on to becoming the first CEO of Vodafone M-Pesa, India.
A digital future
Novopay has created a network of over 45,000 merchants across 20 states till now. Through this network, it delivers Aadhaar-based banking transactions and domestic money transfer services to walk-in consumers. It also works with e-commerce companies and other corporates to enable consumer cash/electronic payments to corporate clients.
Rao says Novopay is poised to deliver over R2,000 crore worth of transactions this financial year. The company also offers its new-age technology to strategic partners for payments, assets and liabilities management. Novopay’s technology has been deployed to a great effect in IDFC Bank. “Novopay is poised for sharp growth with new lines of business such as insurance and loans being added to the portfolio,” he says.
Going forward, Novopay expects to consolidate and grow into a large financial services retail network delivering banking, remittance, cash management, insurance and loan services to a wide range of banked and unbanked consumers across the country. “With Aadhaar based transactions gaining momentum and the introduction of UPI, Novopay sees its technological readiness and in-house innovation capability as its biggest strengths to rapidly scale up the business,” Rao stresses.