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Snapdeal’s acquisition a game changer: FreeCharge’s Kunal Shah

As the India consumers is getting tech-savvy, the online payment ecosystem is witnessing unprecedented growth with Indian internet users base projected to be at 500 million with 314 mobile internet users by 2017, according to industry estimates. Tracking the trend, online payment portals in India are incorporating features and options to maintain an edge over other competitors in the market. In conversation with Digital Market Asia, Kunal Shah, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of FreeCharge discuss the opportunities and challenges for FreeCharge.

FreeCharge was acquired by ecommerce powerhouse Snapdeal on April 8, 2015 as it seeks to boost its reach in the fast-growing mobile transactions business, but it continues to function as an independent entity.

The growth of mobile has made m-commerce a lucrative option for online players in India and the acquisition by Snapdeal makes FreeCharge the largest mobile commerce entity in the country, according to Mr Shah. “The speed at which the m-commerce industry is developing, we are sure that this acquisition will prove to be a game-changer. With internet penetration and acceleration of network speed, we are positive that the transaction numbers will double in the recent future,” he added commenting on the acquisition.

Marketing pundits are contesting the reach and effectiveness of digital payments in India but initiatives by mobile platforms such as MobiKwik, Paytm and FreeCharge are changing the scenario rapidly and making consumers less cash-dependent. Mr Shah reiterated the sentiment and said, “Digital payment method is indeed bringing about a real overhaul in the way online payments are made and will surely advance even more in the future.”

Nevertheless, India continues to be haunted by its set of challenges such as poor internet connectivity and slow data speed, which spoil the mobile internet experience for consumers in India but FreeCharge recently launched an initiative to tackle this challenge.

“To tap the segment in Tier II and Tier III cities with 2 G network and provide a seamless online transaction payment, FreeCharge revamped its mobile site making it lighter by over 90 per cent (in terms of data consumption). This initiative will surpass the hurdles like, expensive handsets, issues of service provider, etc and bring convenience to customers in utility payments,” explained Mr Shah.

Besides, making its mobile site optimised for 2G users in India, Mr Shah also shared some of the other ambitious projects by FreeCharge. “We have recently launched the electricity bill payment to our current list of utility payments and within 3 to 6 months we are looking to have many more payment sectors to our list,” Mr Shah said.

“FreeCharge has associated with eight major electricity boards at the moment, covering most of the major metro markets and is planning to expand this number to 30 in the next four weeks. We are certain that the future of payments is definitely digital,” he added.

Mobile focussed inititatives by FreeCharge are devoted to make it one of the leaders in the mobile payment ecosystem and the growing number of mobile internet users in the country only make the opportunity more attractive.

Currently FreeCharge enjoys a chain of more than 27 million loyal customers who use its services for recharge and utility payments. “Going forward, FreeCharge seeks to transform the mundane and other household-related transaction into rewarding ones, it is expected to add options for gas and other utility payments on its platform,” concluded Mr Shah.