Truecaller acquires Chillr to start mobile payments services

Venkatesh Ganesh Varun Aggarwal Bengaluru/Mumbai | Updated on June 13, 2018

Nami Zarringhalam, Co-Founder, Truecaller

A little over a year after the integrated caller ID service Truecaller announced its foray into the digital payments segment in India, the Swedish firm has acquired Chillr, a mobile payment app provider. With this, Truecaller has sounded the bugle to take on WhatsApp, Paytm, Tez and others in the world’s second largest smartphone market.

With 150 million users in India, Truecaller is the third widely used app — used mostly for verifying callers, according to App Annie, a company which ranks apps. Now, with payment features built into the Truecaller app, a person can transfer money as low as ₹1 to any of the contact on their phonebook, pay bills and do recharges.

Why fintech start-up?

As Truecaller was readying this launch, its Founders, which included Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer, Nami Zarringhalam met Chillr, an offshoot of the Kochi-based technology firm MobME Wireless Solutions in Singapore.

“Last year, we met Chillr at a start-up event and found that their approach towards building a business, as well their company culture matched with ours,” said Zarringhalam.

“We’ve always viewed payment as a part of our complete communications offering. And since trust and safety is so core to the Truecaller product, that offers a possibility to offer payments in a different way — both entrance into payment but also continuous use of payments, where you can integrate it into communications and services we are already offering in our complete communications package,” Pierre de Boer, VP of Engineering at Truecaller, told BusinessLine.

A booming sector

While the deal size was undisclosed (and is an all-stock deal, which the company did not confirm), it needs to be seen in the backdrop of the evolution of fintech in India. According to data, India is seeing 190 million digital transactions per month, due to initiatives such as UPI. The number of mobile payment users in India went up from 32 million in 2016 to 56.2 million in 2017 and is expected to grow to 77.8 million or nearly 30 per cent of India’s total number of smartphone users in 2018. Chillr, uses UPI’s technology (APIs) to connect to 52 banks in India, such as HDFC Bank.

Post the acquisition, founders of Chillr, Sony Joy, Anoop Shankar, Mohamed Galib and Lishoy Bhaskaran will join Truecaller to chalk out the future roadmap for the product (Chillr brand will be absorbed into Truecaller).

As a part of this roadmap, Truecaller will not take the incentives route to lure customers but instead will rely on its “verification” capabilities that act as a layer of security for users.

“They will have an edge initially as they have an established user base but companies like Paytm have a first mover advantage,” said Bhavik Mehta, Director of FinREQ, a start-up that disburses loans digitally. Whether they will be forced to lure customers through “cashback” kind of incentives remains to be seen, he added.

While the lure is strong, there is also the question of establishments hopping on to the bandwagon to help customers pay for things such as utility payment, recharges and the likes.

Published on June 13, 2018

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