Suspension of sporting activities opened newer avenues for us: Subhasis Beura, BharatPe

COVID-19 suspended BharatPe’s plans of utilising the 11 cricketers they signed as brand ambassadors. Subhasis Beura, CBO- Brand and Commerce, says they have their plans ready once sports resume

e4m by Simran Sabherwal
Updated: Aug 3, 2020 9:15 AM

2020 was supposed to be "a year full of cricket across formats". That was a key reason why merchant payment & lending network company BharatPe on-boarded 11 Indian cricket players in March. However, the COVID-19 pandemic meant that the company had to alter their plans. In the time of crisis, BharatPe found new ways to reach out to its consumers. In a conversation with exchange4media, Subhasis Beura, CBO- Brand and Commerce, BharatPe, said the company is ready with its marketing plan once sporting activities resume, confirming that they plan to be part of IPL this year. On the business front, Beura says BharatPe aims to take the number of total merchants on the platform from 4 million to 6 million by the end of this fiscal year.

Here are the excerpts of the conversation

In March this year, you on-boarded 11 Indian cricketers, what was the thought behind it? How will you be utilising this group individually and collectively?

It's common knowledge that the two most powerful unifiers in India are bollywood and cricket. We had Salman Khan as our brand ambassador last year; hence, cricket association was our logical progression this year. We also have a larger thought behind associating with 11 Indian national cricket stars - BharatPe is much more than a solitary UPI QR; it is, in fact, a team that provides for all financial needs of the small merchant. BharatPe's team of players will promote our key propositions such as QR payments, lending, 0% card machine and XtraIncome card to the merchants and help us engage deeper with our core TG.

The idea behind associating with the team was that, as 2020 was supposed to be a year full of cricket across formats, we’ll have our ambassadors playing on the ground in one format or the other, all year round. Additionally, it will also help us to provide our merchants special QR codes featuring their favourite cricket star at their shop and an opportunity to meet cricket stars in person. And we will achieve all this at a fraction of investment done by any brand investing in cricket!

How has the suspension of cricketing/sporting activities impacted your marketing plans? 

The suspension of sporting activities, and hence traditional media opportunities, opened up newer avenues for us like in-app communications and WhatsApp to communicate with our customer base. With sporting activities set to resume, we have our plans ready to hit the market with our new campaign at an appropriate time.

IPL is to take place on new dates later this year, are you planning to invest in this property?

Yes, we plan to be part of IPL this year.
Digital consumption has increased substantially during the last few months. How did the pandemic impact your business?
COVID-19 is not only providing strong tailwinds to the digital payments ecosystem but is also leading to digitization. During the pandemic, with lockdown restrictions and fears of contracting the infection, consumers were forced to look for alternatives to cash payments.
We have used the time during COVID–19 to focus on strengthening our product and technology side. With markets now opening up, we plan to get back to increasing our family of merchants and support them with easy loans to help them recover faster. We endeavour to disburse loans worth over US$ 100M to small merchants from here till the end of the year.

In early March 2020, we were seeing close to 1.6 million/day transactions flow through our systems, worth over Rs 45 crore/day (Total Payment Value - TPV) and disbursing Rs 1 crore of loan/day. However, during the lockdown, we saw the numbers plummet to 25% in terms of transactions and average transaction value (ATV) doubled. As the markets opened up, we have seen a resounding recovery, with over a million transactions flowing through our system. The interesting point to note was the uptick in the ATV, which almost doubled to close Rs 640, pushing our TPVs to an all-time high of Rs 64 crore on a daily basis. We attribute this change in consumer behaviour to the need of reducing frequent trips outdoors, and the tendency to hoard household items for longer durations.

How many businesses do you currently have on your platform? What has been the challenge to connect with and on-board merchants/businesses?

We currently have 45 lakh merchants on our platform. The biggest challenge to on-boarding merchants has been that the shops were shut or were in quarantined areas. Connecting with our existing merchant base was relatively easier digitally through in-app communication, WhatsApp and SMS.
How many UPI transactions are being processed by BharatPe on a monthly basis? What quantum of loans has been disbursed?

By December 2019, BharatPe had already garnered 5 million + app downloads, with 4 million+ shop owners using the app, within 16 months of launch. In April 2019, BharatPe started disbursing digital loans to merchants, and it has already disbursed over 30,000 loans worth over US$ 20 million, supporting merchants with their working capital needs and helping them grow. BharatPe has now become the #1 offline platform for QR transactions on UPI, improving and impacting the lives of over 4 million merchants across India.

Transactions worth US $1 billion were done through the platform in 2019 alone, with a current annualised run rate of over $3.5 billion. BharatPe ended January 2020 at over 3.3% share of the overall volume of UPI transactions processed in India (over 1.3 billion) and close to 50% share of the UPI transactions at offline QRs. Today we have more than 4+ million retailers who accept payments through BharatPe QR.

Looking ahead, what can we expect from BharatPe?

We are looking to close the year at a run rate of $5 billion in annual total payment value, and aim to take our loan book to Rs 300 crore by the end of FY21. Also, total merchants on the BharatPe platform will increase from 4 million to 6 million by the end of this fiscal year.
We are also working on retailer and channel financing solutions, where distributors can directly give credit to shopkeepers, and BharatPe will help in underwriting the credit.

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