Startups that hope to make a difference

Apr 21, 2015, 09:04 IST | Hassan M Kamal

With the aim to change established methods, these startups hope to improve things – be it about tapping the student market, providing iris-based security solutions or enabling small business owners to accept digital payments. Hassan M Kamal finds out more
A portal for student discounts came to existence after both its founders Rahul Mahajan and Jinaal Shah found no student discounts during their visit to a popular pizza chain in the country. “While studying in the UK, we had gotten used to student discounts and deals; sadly, that wasn’t the case here.

(Left to right) founders Rahul Mahajan and Jinaal Shah
(Left to right) founders Rahul Mahajan and Jinaal Shah

That inspired us to create a platform where students could save their pocket money, and at the same time, allow companies to promote their products directly to them,” says Shah. The duo surveyed the market to find out if an exclusive deals-based system would work.

Size Matters
The possibility, as they found out, was huge. During research they found that 75% of India’s online population is young, with nearly 100 million of them being students. Besides, according to data from Comscore Data Gem, the average spending of the youth in the top 10 cities stands at Rs 24 billion, and is growing. “It’s a large segment with lots of disposable income, and spends most of it on food, entertainment and mobile recharges,” informs Shah. Within five months of its launch, the company had already managed to include over 115 brands and 20,000 registered users.

Intelligent insight
The website also serves as a platform for companies/brands to check the success of a campaign as it records the usage pattern of all deals and discounts. “The data collected from sales offers a very interesting and intelligent understanding of the purchase behaviour of the student community, something companies could use and rely on, to tailor their products/campaigns and to make them more interesting for this community. The chances of bogus usage is nil as every student must showcase his college ID to enscash the coupons/deals.

On campus sales training
The website also engages students on campus and helps them gain experience and exposure in the field of sales and marketing, says Shah. “We hire college representatives from various colleges, who are responsible for student registrations, student relations and promotions,” he adds. The company is also planning to launch an app soon.
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A mobile payment solution
In 2012, three tech entrepreneurs started working on a platform that would take care of all the commerce and back-end office needs of businesses. That’s how the app, EPaisa was born.

Siddharth Arora, co-founder and CEO of ePaisa, which is offering a mobile based point of sale ecosystem
Siddharth Arora, co-founder and CEO of ePaisa, which is offering a mobile based point of sale ecosystem

A complete one-point system that not only manages the entire billing cycle right from receiving payments to printing receipts, it also updates the inventory as and when a product goes on sale as well as manages a customer royalty programme.

“The best part is it can receive payments from all types of cards, as well as record cash and cheque payments for clearance by using your smart phone,” says Siddharth Arora, Chief Executive Officer and co-founder, ePaisa.

Need for payment terminals
Arora informs, “India has more than 400million credit/debit card holders, but just one million terminals, 40% of which do not function due to outdated technology, large hardware and infrastructure costs, shortage of power, unstable connectivity and complicated processes. ePaisa aims to solve that and help business owners, by offering a multilingual tool that turns any Android smart phone into a payment-receiving terminal.”

Smart and portable terminal
ePaisa hopes to increase its reach by targetting mostly small/independent business owners, and point-of-sales, and help them take the plunge to digital payments without investing too much in the system.

The app relies on a pocket card reader that can be either attached to a smart phone or connected wirelessly to receive all card payments, which are updated automatically into the receivers account. The app also records all cash payments received during sale, as well store images of cheques for further clearance and record keeping. Receipts can be generated instantaneously and printed using its wireless printers.

Future ready
With the Central government offering RuPay Debit cards, Arora feels that the number of cards will increase further, and so will the need for payment terminals. “Card payments are the future, and we have a product ready that facilitates not only at a very low cost, but also fulfils all the backend needs of a business owner,” he adds.
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Affordable security for homes

Launched earlier this year, Biomatiques is one of the few Indian companies to provide indigenously-developed biometrics-based security solutions in India at an affordable price. Its CEO, Tamaal Roy, recently launched its Iris Recognition system that can be incorporated as a part of home/office security systems.

Tamaal Roy, CEO of Biomatiques, a biometric-based security solution provider based in Surat
Tamaal Roy, CEO of Biomatiques, a biometric-based security solution provider based in Surat

Security for all
The company showcased some of its products, a few months ago in Mumbai. The list included eParakh Iris Scanner, eParakh IriDist, a standalone unit for enabling accurate Iris scans from a distance of up to two meters, and is developing several other home/office security solutions.

The Eparakh Iris Scanner, which was launched recently in Mumbai
The Eparakh Iris Scanner, which was launched recently in Mumbai

“In India, security is a major concern, but it’s very expensive. We want to make it available to people at a very low cost,” shares Roy, who is known for several other products including a sketching app that is used by various police departments to create sketches of crime suspects.

Error-proof solution
Biomatiques’ products compete directly with finger-based security solutions, which, Roy says are prone to damage and misuse, and not very reliable. “Unlike finger prints, it can’t be faked, and this is what makes it a robust technology,” he says.

Roy says that the iris-scanners, can be used in a variety of home/office security solutions to identify homeowners and employees as well as record employee attendance. It can also be used to verify an individual’s identity with UIDAI data to make a variety of e-services like banking, visa, passports, etc available instantaneously.

Iris scanners can capture the Iris image from a distance of two metres, and authenticate the iris. The scanners can also read an Iris through contact lenses. The company has its own manufacturing facility in Surat with a capacity of two lakh units per year.

Open to developers
But that’s not where Roy’s vision for affordable security ends. “We are making our scanners available to all developers along with the Software Development Kits to help build and develop their own security systems. We want everyone to embrace this technology,” he summarises.
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