Freecharge to launch mutual fund buying platform soon, says CEO Sangram Singh

Sangram Singh
Sangram Singh, CEO, Freecharge
Sangram Singh
Sangram Singh, CEO, Freecharge

The payments industry has witnessed a massive disruption in the past two years, and we at Freecharge predict that this year we will be adding more number of digital natives to the existing lot. Freecharge is planning to widen its service portfolio further by bringing in new services, a major one being the provision of buying mutual funds, says Sangram Singh, CEO, Freecharge, in conversation with Rashi Aditi Ghosh of Elets News Network (ENN).

What strategies are you implementing for making India a digital-first economy?

‘Ease of making transactions’ is something that Freecharge has always believed in providing to its customers. We want to develop tailored products which are fundamentally much more digital in nature so that they can be exposed digitally, marketed digitally and consumed digitally.

Freecharge strives to be a user-friendly digital financial service provider that offers instant solutions related to payments, lending, investments, etc. Payments remain one of the highest engagement tools because it is a ubiquitous need of the consumer. Another focus area is to bring more customers on the platform through strategic partnerships in the areas of ticketing (train and bus) and food ordering and we plan to add more categories for seamless user experiences.

We have also successfully converted large group of merchants to patrons through our approach of making payment acceptance easier for them. Freecharge’s objective, as a subsidiary of Axis Bank, is to make itself a comprehensive and open digital financial service platform. Considering the rapid penetration of smartphones and spread of internet connectivity on mobiles, Freecharge sees a huge potential of building a robust infrastructure, that can support multiple payment methods like debit cards, UPI, wallets etc., in the tier 2 markets.

Freecharge also considers gifting, a potential area for the growth of digital adoption. While traditional gifting remains an evergreen practice, we tried to tap into this space with the launch of innovative customizable gift cards. We have enabled customers to choose gift cards from an array of 60+ brands across categories like fashion, entertainment, shopping, dining, and send it to their loved ones over email.

Would you like to tell us about some of your promotional strategies for boosting digital penetration into tier 2 and 3 markets?

The target market, what is termed as the digital native for Freecharge, is a mix of demographic, psychographic and behavioral traits. Freecharge is not just focused in top metro cities, but also in tier 2 cities. A good amount of traction on the platform comes from cities beyond the metros. Within that population group we concentrate on the people who fall in the 22-35 age bracket- who are digitally savvy. Freecharge’s next step is to gradually migrate customers in these markets, from payments to a whole set of financial services. To begin with, service like small-ticket lending might work well with this set of target audience. Again, UPI is a very good opportunity because it allows for easy onboarding and it also allows for complete interoperable payments

What major challenges have come across while ensuring digitisation in India?

We are an integrated digital financial services provider, a major challenge faced is in the service management – setting priority of which one to focus on out of the various offerings like lending, growth payments, digital payments, investments amongst others. There is always so much more one can do given more time and capacity.

The other challenge faced is that we have a new business model with new services that have not gone through a full cycle of growth and maturity. In this scenario building new business model and exploring opportunities for the same, can be challenging

In terms of users, there still exists a significant gradient scope in increasing the level of digital awareness. While the country is witnessing an increasing base of tech-savvy users, there remains a large section that lacks basic digital know-how. Thus, despite a huge population that can be tapped, reducing the knowledge gap and migrating users to online financial platforms remains a big challenge and also a great opportunity across the ecosystem.

Is there a change in the way you strategise, post the acquisition by Axis Bank?

Our intent is to nurture the fintech spirit of Freecharge. It runs as an independent company and a platform, but also leverages the power of the Bank in the financial services product to offer to consumers, as well as the organizational support that is available to a large organization. Freecharge continues to focus on creating innovative solution and user journey and increasingly partner with Axis Bank to co-create the solutions.

What are your plans for 2019?

Increasingly the focus at Freecharge is to be able to offer a wider suite of financial services products to its customers. Accordingly, the platform will see multitudes of financial products – Lending, Payments, Investment, insurance etc – getting created and targeted to the relevant customer segment. The intent is to offer bespoke, digital products with frictionless user journeys and build the platform into a complete financial services platform.

The payments industry has witnessed a disruption in the past two years, and we predict this year we will be adding more number of digital natives to the existing lot. This year, our major focus will be on ensuring and engaging people effectively. Freecharge further plans to widen its service portfolio by bringing in new services, a major one being the provision of buying mutual funds. The company is also set to launch engaging, youth-appealing campaigns in alignment to our portfolio expansion this year.

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