Mobile Payments are the flavour of the season and are perhaps here to stay for a while. Indian startup NOCOINZ, however believes that NFC enabled tap-n-pay solutions afford a friction-free payment system without the requirements of internet, smartphones or people being necessarily tech savvy, particularly in a country like India. Co-founder Vishal Goel speaks to Networked India about the inspiration behind NOCOINZ’s NFC-based payment solution, the challenge Indians’ love of cash poses to any adoption of banking technology and how tap-n-pay can revolutionise transit systems.
Networked India (NI): Tell us a bit how NoCoinz was started – the thought process behind it.
Vishal Goel (VG): Indians love cash. There has been no digital payment system that has been able to create adoption because of the ease of use of cash. NOCOINZ was started with the intent of introducing a simple cash like digital payment mechanism that could ease problems of cash transactions while retaining the simplicity of cash.
The key factor is how to make the payment friction-free. Right now when we design the smartphone-based solution, there are many environmental factors like the presence of smartphone is required, the network is required, plus the person who is using the system must have the know how and the comfort to use it. So it makes it difficult for the end users to make the payment. Moreover, even if all of these are in place, the steps required to make the payment are quite a few and there are multiple points of failure. So the environment for smartphone-based payments is not optimum at the moment.
NI: What is the cashless product and how does it work, since you claim it does not require internet or smartphones?
VG: The product involves a small pocket sized POS device for the merchants and simple NFC cards for the consumers. There is no need for an internet connection at the point of transaction. The customer just taps to pay on the device.
NOCOINZ NFC cards can be topped at any merchants, stores which operates with our device. Other retailers who sell SIM cards and recharge cards act as our agents to top up NFC cards.
NI: Which sections of consumers are you targeting through the product and what are the benefits to them?
VG: We are mainly targeting small daily payments through the system. Lack of denomination and change availability problems will be solved using the system. We are seeking to create a transit payment system. The inspiration for this is the Octopus Metro card, tap and pay solution used across Hong Kong. Using this card one can also make payments at all sorts of small stores and is the most preferred mode of payment there. Users need to simply tap and pay and move on, providing a very friction-free mode of payment. It is very omnipresent across Hong Kong and used everywhere even surpassing mobile wallets and online payments.
This is the model we are seeking to replicate across Indian cities. This is especially possible in cities where citizens already use metro cards like Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, etc., once the usage is expanded to include small stores and so on. However, in other cities and towns where such mass transit systems and subsequently metro cards do not exist one cannot expect such a payment system to evolve either. In such a scenario, we are seeking to create a transport card which can be used in autos, taxis and buses. So when moving around I should be able to use this card to pay for transport. The friction-free quality of the payment system makes it functional even in public transit systems.
So in a scenario where we have hop on-hop off buses having a tap and pay system eliminates need for small denomination change, interacting with ticket agents and generally a fluid transit system.
NI: Did you face any challenges in onboarding users to avail the product on a consistent basis?
VG: While we are still in the initial phases of our rollout, the significant hurdle facing us is Indians’ love for cash. Cash has a certainty and tangibility which is absent from digital money. So this becomes a deterrent to people’s openness to adopting any other means of payments. The other challenge is fear of technology. Additionally, when digital payments were first introduced the attraction lay in discounts and sops which have been steadily declining as users increase. So when introducing a new system in the market users expect this and the lack of discounts drives away users. We are trying to keep up the value-added services along with discounts from new merchants we are on boarding.
Inspite of all this, due to simplicity of use, people from all walks of life are able to use the system. We have users who are 8-9 years old to users who are 70-80 years old. And because of a small learning curve, the merchants find the devices to be simpler than smartphone apps and become conversant with it in no time. These qualities have enabled us to achieve initial adoption.
NI: Tell us about the team behind NoCoinz. Brief background.
VG: The two core people are Manish Goel (co-founder & COO) and Vishal Goel (co-founder & CTO). We are advised by Mahesh Goel.
Manish Goel is a Serial Entrepreneur and Investor with experience in startups, FMCG, manufacturing & retailing. He has done his Marketing Management from Narsee Monjee Institute, Mumbai and Retail management from Symbiosis Institute of Management. Besides these professional pursuits he also volunteers in education for the slum kids and at an Old age home.
I, Vishal Goel am a geek by nature. I did my Bachelor of Engineering from University of Pune and have also been involved in several tech startups. I am also an amateur photographer and love to click low light naturescapes and my two kids work full time as my models.I am a beer enthusiast who loves travelling to different parts of the world, tasting their beer and cherishing their different ways.
Our adviser, Mahesh Goel is an engineer at heart who started his career by assembling computers. He has a BE (Computers) Engineering from Pune University and MS in Financial Engineering (MFE) from National University of Singapore (NUS). He has worked in US, Europe, Africa & Asia and has been an angel investor and entrepreneur.
NI: There is a version of the cashless product created specifically for events called Eventbot. Give us some more information about it.
VG: The vision for EventBot is that we will be able to allow the user to quickly and painlessly deploy cashless solution to their events. We have been able to exploit the extreme mobility and simplicity of the solution to create a practical, in-expensive and effective cashless payment system. We have deployed the system to a few places already and have achieved great results for our customers.
NI: You offer products that leverage demonetisation. Given your proximity to the event and its aftermath, tell us your point of view about it and what it holds for the future of a cashless economy.
VG: Even though Demonetisation made everyone aware of the cashless option, it hasn’t really subdued the love of cash. The common man’s instrument of payment is still largely cash. It is our experience that there is now sufficient cash in the market and any digital payment instrument will need to be as friction free as cash to be accepted by the end user. We believe our package of simple cash like digital payment system stands a good chance compared to smartphone and app based solutions.
NI: What are the future plans for your startup and its products and services?
VG: We are just closing our first round of funding. We plan to use the funds to create an ideal demo ecosystem around our solution in a small North Indian town. We will use the funds for merchant and consumer acquisition and drive transactions on the platform. We will also be introducing more choices of payment mechanisms for our merchants and consumers. The current system of NFC tags and devices will be complemented by the presence of a smartphone app, both for the consumer and the merchant. We will then expand to more cities in the first half of the year.