By Srinath Srinivasan
Digital financial services saw a huge growth during the lockdown early this year as more and more MSMEs started transacting digitally. This was due to the demand for contactless transaction and need to generate cash fluidity. Even otherwise, there has always been a huge scope to organise small businesses and automate their workflows.
Solving for all this, Chqbook builds digital financial control centre for small and medium businesses. “We started with digitising book keeping (Khata) and it gradually led us to automating other aspects of a small business’ finances, namely, tracking transactions, lending/loans, insurance, credit cards, banking and rewards, with relevant tax compliances,” says Vipul Sharma, co-founder and CEO, Chqbook. The startup acts as a one-stop interface for banking and has collaborated with ICICI Bank to implement the same. Rewards can be redeemed at partner retailers/service providers as needed. Chqbook acquires customers by working with some popular wholesalers and organically, via referrals.
Chqbook currently has 3,00,000 users. Technology plays a key role in the functioning of the platform. “While the whole platform is hosted on cloud, some features are designed to work offline as well. We are a tech company first and so we have to be mindful of our app’s users which is both challenging and rewarding,” says Sachin Arora, CTO, Chqbook.
The target market for Chqbook is largely unorganised. Hence there are certain limitations to the way the application is used. “It is not just enough to add more languages to the app. The users are not digital native and it is also important to make the user interface simple. When an app gets more features it becomes very cluttered and a typical user in our market will find it difficult to go back and forth within the app. In order to retain customers, we tried to make the app as simple and familiar as the Khata book they use and the features decluttered,” says Arora. The app also uses some data science.
While technology helps attract new customers, it is innovation in business model and building trust that are important, says Sharma. Another common challenge for neo banking offerings is the lack of regulations today. “RBI has been one of the best regulators in the world. As more people start using digital financial services, this space is going to see a surge in users. Given the volume of small businesses we have, it is important that the apex bank regulates it like it does for all the other banks,” he adds.
Chqbook raised $5 million in Series A funding from Aavishkaar Capital in early 2020. Other investors include cricket commentator Harsha Bogle.