By Nadine Freischlad for TechinAsia
Indonesia’s Ayopop specializes in bill payments, which means it wants users to pay for things like their phone bills, electricity, and internet services through its app.
Ayopop launched about a year ago and has been angel funded so far, with some investment from venture capital firm Gree Ventures.
Today, the app’s co-founders Chiragh Kirpalani and Jakob Rost announced they’ve locked in a US$1 million seed round. Gree Ventures led the round and was joined by additional angel investors. The VC firm tells Tech in Asia that Sandeep Tandon – one of the co-founders of India’s FreeCharge, advises the startup.
Users create a profile on Ayopop, load credit onto their account via credit card, bank transfer, or a number of other payment options, and can then spend that amount on various services.
Ayopop takes a commission on each transaction.
Chiragh claims the app has been “gaining strong traction over the last months,” but did not disclose any numbers like the number of transactions facilitated.
Its Android app currently has between 50,000 and 100,000 downloads, according to AppAnnie data, and sits on rank 41 of apps in the lifestyle category on Indonesia’s Play Store.
Ayopop’s range of products and services on offer is quite broad, starting from the already mentioned mobile credit top-ups to more recent types of digital services like on-demand video. It also has cash back deals on certain products – which means users can earn Ayopop credit back after they’ve made a purchase.
The app itself still has some kinks – for instance, my SMS verification code did not come through during the registration process and the text sports several typos and a mix of Indonesian and English in its Indonesian language version.
Some users also complained about slow transaction times on the app’s review page.
With fresh funding at hand, the team should be working to sort this out. Ayopop currently has a staff of 30, Chiragh says.
Both co-founders bring plenty of experience in the tech industry to the table. Chiragh has worked at Fab and Times Internet. Jakob was managing director of Lazada Indonesia and later held a leading role at Lazada Group.
Everyone’s in payments
The mobile payments space in Indonesia has seen a lot of action lately. Some of the largest tech companies in the country, including Grab, to Go-Jek, and Tokopedia, are expanding their payments ecosystems, adding more and more features.
Go-Jek – originally an on-demand transportation app – for instance, lets you buy mobile phone credit and tickets through its app. Tokopedia, a shopping marketplace, also offers electricity and insurance bill payments, in addition to mobile phone credits and data plans.
Facing competition by big players in this field doesn’t worry Chiragh too much.
“Payments is a very wide field and different startups focus on different areas with different priorities,” he says.
What Ayopop is doing depends heavily on partnerships, integrations, and really good tech, says Chiragh. “No comparable consumer platform currently serves this end to end.”
“Current ecommerce, transportation, and telecom companies are trying to solve this in a half-hearted fashion without actually creating a deep ecosystem of products and integrations,” Nikhil Kapur, managing partner at Gree Ventures explains. “Ayopop is not encumbered by existing business models and can expand quickly and deeper into digital payments. For example, the company already offers more top up options than GoJek and Tokopedia […]. Things like toll payments, electricity bill payments, etc are just examples of areas that Ayopop is leading the charge in.”
For now, startup offers no offline channel for users to add credit to their Ayopop accounts, but Chiragh isn’t counting out adding “online-to-offline” features in the future.
“O2O is a very interesting and promising concept. We strive to continue to roll out more payment options to our customers in the near future and are open to explore partnerships.”
Grab, Southeast Asia’s largest ride-hailing app, just announced its intention to acquire Kudo, an Indonesian startup that specializes in online-to-offline transactions, possibly for close to US$100 million.
Nikhil adds that Indonesia’s overall percentage of digital payments versus traditional forms of transactions are still “abysmally low at less than 1 percent.” In India, he says, focused products such as PayTM and Freecharge have been able to popularize digital payments. He sees this as an untapped opportunity in Indonesia which Ayopop is targeting.
(Update at 10:40 am, April 4: We’ve changed all mentions of the name of the venture capital firm Gree to Gree Ventures, to avoid confusion with Gree, Inc. We clarified that Sandeep Tandon is an advisor, not investor. We also added some information on the co-founders’ backgrounds and a quote from Gree Venture’s Nikhil Kapur for context.)