The Chillr Story - Evolution of a startup from Telecom to FinTech
The Chillr story
2003-2007, College of Engineering,
2nd year - Bored of Electronics! Pocket money selling t-shirts,
fireworks, books, mobile phones
2005: Sold 14k SIMs across 65+ B.Tech colleges in Kerala for
BPL Mobile in 3 months. Zero marketing cost, pure viral,
>10L in profits!
After 3 months of partying figured that building a business is
more ‘scalable’ fun!
Bit by the
Co-founded MOBME with Sanjay & Vivek when starting up
was not fashionable.
Raised 250k USD angel investment while in 3rd year of
USSD/SMSC/Voice Solutions, VAS, M-Governance
Clients: BPL >> Hutch >> Vodafone; Airtel + Aircel :: Ops in
5 years, 200 people company, 5M USD topline
2006-2011 Witnessed 90M to 900M mobile subscriber growth first hand :: SCALE
What mobile customers want & what they don’t :: UX
Working with large enterprises, governments & regulators :: EXPERIENCE
Income > Expense :: PROFITS
No interoperability, No network effect :: WALLED GARDENS
Everything gets white-labeled :: BRAND
Vendors not treated as partners :: ATTITUDE
The GOOD, the BAD & the Ugly
Carrier billing was a bad idea!
Customers had lost trust due to force billing & other unethical practices
Telco wallets weren’t suited for India
We are not Kenya, we have RBI & government won’t let a parallel economy to exist
Regulatory environment is pro-banks
You want to do banking? Get a banking license!
Telcos hate the phrase ‘dumb-pipe’, but!
Multiple telcos agreeing on one model & helping it grow, not happening!
They couldn’t envision beyond wap portals & wallpapers @ Rs 10
Digital money, the pending dream!
Rules of the game changed, tables turned!
Voice/SMS revenue impact on telcos
Margin pressure on vendors
WAP portals died, apps bypassed telcos
Network effect & interoperability
App Stores are BIG!
2012 - Smartphones going mainstream
Focused on Banks as alternate source of revenue
Did a bunch of projects for banks around mobile banking
Won them a few awards, learned the basics
Bumped into IMPS, NPCI. Beautiful platform, but no uniform
Banks had almost written off IMPS due to MMID
We got the idea of Chillr for the 1st time in mid 2013
Took it to NPCI
Send money to anyone in your phonebook without having to
know account number, IFSC code, MMID or even which bank
they bank with.
They said NO, since they are a bank facing organization and
not a consumer facing one
Advised us to do it on our own by partnering with banks
Chillr could have ended up being a software service project if
not for that answer!
NPCI was planning to revamp the IMPS layer to make it ready
for the app world (UPI v0.1)
The million dollar
Randomly pitched the idea to an Italian bank & they loved the idea
Advised to spin off the product into a separate company
Expressed interest to invest if we could go live with a couple of banks
B2B2C again; then telcos, now banks
No bank will let you create your own brand
They will ask for ‘white-labelled’ solution
Multiple banks on one common 3rd party platform is impossible
You will need approval from RBI
Dec’13 - Feb’14
5 people team from within MOBME starts working exclusively
on the idea
Chillar, Chillara, Chillarai & its variants in 7 Indian languages
inspired the name ‘Chillr’
prototype ready in 3 months with SMS backend bounced
off with friendly banks
Quick iterations based on feedback
Eat, Sleep, Code,
Pitched to half a dozen small banks
Assumed them to be nimbler and more risk taking
Figured that’s not necessarily true
meets the road!
Pitched to half a dozen medium to large sized banks
+ve responses in 90% cases, but no definitive yes
Most banks asked for ‘exclusivity’ / ‘white-labeling
Higher focus on digital
Huge brand value & large tech savvy audience
USP - Instant fund transfers directly from your bank account, no more loading money into wallets!
HDFC Bank was the 14th to listen to our pitch
Signed agreement in September, launch planned for December
Good response from employees and customers
MD’s mail goes out to bigger audience, 40k downloads in under a week
Launch email went out in 1st week of February
Letter from RBI with go-ahead; Registered Backwater
Technologies (P) Ltd
From 2 day long on-boarding process to under 5 minutes
Adding use cases: Mobile Recharges, Remittance
Getting the second bank was as tough as getting the first
In hindsight, going live was the easier part
Bank of Baroda came in 2nd
Andhra Bank, CSB, PMC, Bharat, Federal etc came in later
Time to expand operations, MOBME had commitments to other business units too
Got 6M USD term sheet from Sequoia in July 2015 when at 2k txn/day
Raised a total of 7.5M USD with Blume, Uniqorn & Kunal Shah (Founder, Freecharge)
The Silk Route to tipping point
Early Adopters: Salaried employees in the 22-35 age group having smartphones
Where: Corporate campuses with good density of partner bank customers
Incentives: Tried everything from Flipkart/Ola/PizzaHut vouchers to cash backs
Failure: Nothing had the pull or the virality we expected
Learning: People wanted instant gratification
What worked: Dairy Milk Silk
100,000+ users activated in just a few months
The beginning! Now
>80% traffic from major metros
100 Cr worth transactions processed
in all of 2015
Rs ~9500/user/month (~7x)
Multiple hundreds of crores / month
60% customer acquisition via Referral
Dozen plus direct bank partnerships
30+ banks to go live with UPI integration
<50% volume from top 8 cities
4.4 rating on Play Store, ‘Best of 2015’
Recognition by Apple App Store
It’s just the tip of the iceberg
By 2020, 350M+ people are likely to experience
Opportunity : Reimagine Banking!
>90% of Chillr
~40% of them go
balance by ~20th
of the month
20th to 23rd - we
observe a small
spike in P2P
1st week of next
were going back
Pattern >> Opportunity
mostly in <15
It’s a bridge
Paying a fee is
better than the
Ultra short term
100% digital process
Coming soon: Chillr Credit
We love BANDRA
Bandra (W) is the most happening place in Mumbai & we got a lovely office
It’s in the midst of all the fun hangout/dine-in/party places, close to airport, middle of
South Mumbai & Malad
But Bandra is expensive, especially apartments
Long commute = High stress, low productivity, less working hours
We started Bandra Allowance for everyone, to stay within 15 min from office
Now for majority of the team members, office is walkable distance!
Work hard, party harder!
Options Purchase Scheme for everyone in the team.
Weekly townhalls to update progress & sync up on goals ahead.
Chillr Thursdays - Internal TEDx like talks every week!
Work Culture, Equity, Townhalls et al
Just decide what portion of salary should be in cash & how much in equity