About three years ago, Aurko Bhattacharya, Uday Somayujala and Akshat Saxena had launched 'ePayLater' - a new age solution which allows customers to "buy now pay later" on various merchant portals.
Even though India added 7.39 million credit cards between January 2017 and January 2018, according to the Reserve Bank of India, taking the total users to 36.24 million, the number is relatively low for a country with a population over 1.25 billion. To change this, about three years ago, Aurko Bhattacharya, Uday Somayujala and Akshat Saxena had launched ‘ePayLater’ – a new age solution which allows customers to “buy now pay later” on various merchant portals.
The platform allows users to take credit on almost all the major merchants including Amazon, Flipkart, Myntra and Uber among others. It also allows customers to book tickets on the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) website and make the payment in the next 14 days. It currently has over 100 merchants on-board, including IRCTC, PVR, Croma, Box8, TicketNew etc. It has raised $2 million in 2016 and this year, ICICI Bank has made a strategic investment in the startup.
In an exclusive conversation with Financial Express Online, ePayLater co-founder Akshat Saxena talked about the company’s origin, it’s journey over the years and future plans. Saxena said that ePayLater wants to ‘reinvent the way the credit business operates in the country’ and also explained how they check the credit-worthiness of a customer.
Here are the excerpts of the conversation –
Take us through the origin of ePayLater. Where did this idea come from and what made you turn it into reality?
ePayLater, the brainchild of Aurko Bhattacharya, Uday Somayujala and I, was founded in December 2015, while the concept ideation started a few months prior. We had been working in complementary sub-domains of BFSI and had a consensus on the potential a mass-market credit offering could unlock. We were amazed at the fact that despite the great strides being made by the economy, and therefore retail consumption, the credit penetration remained abysmally low.
Even as we speak, we have only around 20 million credit card holders in a billion plus population, which in terms of percentage penetration is much lower compared to our Western counterparts, and China. Since credit drives consumption, our combined wisdom pointed us towards the massive multiplier effect we could create if we cracked the code of empowering potentially every fellow-citizen with a credit instrument. And that’s how ePayLater was born.
In order to actualize the same, we chose a path which was non-traditional yet congruent with trends – demographic and technology alike. We decided to build a purely digital credit offering, which would leverage the best of data science and engineering, and deliver an experience which is not just inclusive, but also superior. We developed the capability to underwrite a customer using alternate data, in less than a second, thereby allowing us to be a true checkout credit method at points of sale, whether online or offline. Customers could get a credit limit in real-time, and use it to “Book/Buy Now” and “Pay Later”, irrespective of their geographical presence.
With credit cards, EMI options etc. already in the market, how has ePayLater been able to hit the right chord with the consumers?
We operate in the credit space while EMI is a loan product. Customers typically use credit instruments like credit cards for purchases that are made more frequently (e.g. movies, food, travel) and the expected inflow of funds, including salary or sales proceeds within the credit period, covers the utilized amount. Loans, on the other hand, are correlated with less-frequent purchases such as house, car, gadgets etc. Thus, these are separate categories and there is very little competition with the EMI incumbents.
That said, there are zones of overlap between the two categories. For instance, travel and gadgets can come under the loan or credit category. This is where customer experience becomes the deciding factor. We offer a hassle-free, quick, purely digital experience that’s available right there at the point of sale and thereby a part of transaction experience itself.
Additionally, and more importantly, our algorithms allow us to extend credit to a high percentage of customers, even the ones who are NTC (New to Credit) or first-time borrowers. With a continuous ingress of a younger working population, it becomes pivotal to driving adoption. It also allows us to reach out to those deserving individuals who are otherwise left untouched by banks and other financial institutions due to non-availability of financial history. Further, reach expands and encompasses not just metros but also tier 2, tier 3 and tier 4 towns as well.
Security is the first thing that comes to the mind of Indian customers when they think about credit. How does ePayLater address that?
Our platform is seamlessly secure since there are no bank account or card details required. The checkout procedure is extremely secure and frictionless. Customers just have to click on ePayLater and fulfil their purchase using a simple OTP.
Further, ePayLater consolidates the number of parties involved in a typical card transaction undergoes, thereby reducing the risk of unauthorized information access.
How do you decide if a person is credit-worthy or not?
At ePayLater, we leverage sophisticated algorithms that have the capacity to cater to wide and differing audiences in an inclusive way. ePayLater works with different merchant partners that cater to very different target groups and markets. For instance, IRCTC sees traffic from the biggest metros and the smallest hamlets, catering to customers of different ages that often lack credit histories. In spite of these challenges, ePayLater’s algorithms, created using advanced data science and analytics, have been able to determine their creditworthiness based on several parameters other than credit history, making it possible for us to solve real-life problems by disbursing credit to the right people.
What do you think makes ePayLater different from other market players like Simpl?
I wouldn’t like to comment on any industry peer in particular. In general, we have seen different players having (seemingly) different focus areas and we maintain a dedicated focus to ours.
In our case, we have built a product that’s serving the under-served (NTCs, non-urban residents) as well as it solving the challenges of over-served (urban elites)! While I have spoken about the former which is also a clear differentiator, to the latter we offer a great value proposition too as the transaction experience is made super smooth 1-click checkout vis a vis a long, circuitous experience on the plastic cards. Multiple bills could be paid in one go, limits are higher etc. We have launched India’s first UPI based credit product, which allows our customers to use their ePayLater on all the major merchants e.g Amazon, Flipkart, Myntra, Uber etc.
Going ahead, what can we expect from ePayLater in terms of service?
Since its inception, the company has grown manifold. With a myriad of upgrades in the pipeline, the product is expected to reinvent the way the credit business operates in the country. On the back of its unique product and seamless execution, ePayLater is all set to cement its position as the leading facilitator of Digital Credit aimed at individuals and small businesses.