Gupshup, the leading smart messaging platform, has won the $100,000 Grand Challenge for enabling payments on feature phones in India.
The Gupshup solution dramatically improved the payment user experience through seamless integration with secure messaging. This will potentially change the lives of nearly half-a-billion feature phone users in India by bringing them into the digital ecosystem for commerce, payments and other services. Gupshup is working with enterprises, handset manufacturers and payment providers to bring this solution to market.
The Gupshup solution, called the Smart Feature Phone, uses the power of messaging to build a delightful, one-click user experience for payments. The solution enables users to quickly and easily pay a merchant, a cashier at point-of-sale or a friend using a feature phone just as easily as they can on a smartphone. The solution also includes chatbots, which combined with payments, enable users to engage in e-commerce with both small and large businesses. The solution works with or without a data connection by using a data or SMS network, respectively, to communicate with the server. The solution is highly secure with multiple levels of encryption and authentication to prevent financial fraud and abuse.
“Gupshup’s vision is to use secure and smart messaging to enable rich and delightful experiences across a wide range of categories including payments and ecommerce,” said Beerud Sheth, CEO of Gupshup. “While Gupshup has been doing this for smartphone users already, this new solution brings smart capabilities to feature phone users too. We’re proud to do our part in helping realize Prime Minister Modi’s ‘JAM’ vision by better integrating ‘Jan Dhan’ with ‘Mobile.’”
The challenge was launched in November 2019 by CIIE.CO, the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). The challenge ran through November 2019 – April 2020 calling upon innovators from around the world to submit ideas and solutions toward a payments system for feature phone users in India.
The Grand Challenge received more than 750 applications from across the world. The applicants included banks, telecom companies, original equipment manufacturers and startups. After multiple rounds of deliberation and shortlisting by an esteemed panel of experts, nine companies were selected. On April 16, the selected nine presented their solutions to the jury consisting of Praveena Rai, COO, NPCI; Pawan Bakhshi, India Lead, Financial Services for the poor, BMGF; Anand Raman, CGAP; and Sanjay Jain, CIO, CIIE.CO. The jury selected Gupshup as the winner on the basis of universal application and usage, security and fraud prevention and the ability to scale.
Speaking about the initiative, Priyanka Chopra, COO, CIIE.CO, said, “The need for flexible and easy-to-use contactless payment solutions for users across all segments has become even more salient in today’s environment. It was heartening to see the diversity and simplicity of solutions looking to tackle this problem. We are very excited about their potential to enable digital payments for feature phone users at scale.”
Praveena Rai, COO at NPCI said, “We would like to congratulate the winners of the Grand Challenge. We believe these winners, with the help of CIIE.CO, BMFG and NPCI would provide a new dimension to the digital payments space with feature phone users getting an opportunity to perform safe and secure digital transactions. We believe once feature phones are equipped with the latest technology for payments, the country would be witnessing redefined customers’ behavior towards digital payments.”
Dr Pawan Bakhshi, India Lead, Financial Services for the poor at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation shared “The grand challenge supports the foundation’s continuous effort to ensure that the poor have access to the relevant formal financial products & services that they can use to build more prosperous and secure lives for themselves and their communities. The winning technologies have the potential to provide secure, easy-to-use payment services to over 400-500 million people using feature phones in India.”
The winners received cash prizes of USD 50,000, 30,000 and 20,000 respectively. They will now receive pilot support in India from NPCI. They will also receive support from CIIE.CO’s Bharat Inclusion Initiative, which provides a continuum of support across incubation, acceleration and seed-funding to innovators leveraging technology to build inclusive businesses.