Kashmi goes the social path for bill-splitting between friends
By Benjamin Cher August 21, 2015
- Social payment platform to settle IOUs among friends
- Amount in the Kashmi wallet can be cashed out
SETTLING bills between friends seems to be enough of a problem that many startups have tried to tackle the issue. Singapore’s BillPin seems to be going great guns, while Malaysia’s Owe$ome seems to have fizzled out.
Then there is the awkwardness of chasing your friends for IOUs, so much so that even banks are looking into mobile payments between friends.
It is an area that another Singaporean startup has set its sights on. These are problems that the founders of Kashmi faced and hoped to solve, chief operating officer and cofounder Rajinda Jayasinghe told Digital News Asia (DNA).
“Friends are constantly borrowing and lending from one another, and paying each other back is never simple or hassle-free,” he said via email.
He said that his fellow cofounder and Kashmi chief executive officer Rakhil Fernando was inspired by Venmo, a digital wallet app in the United States, and wanted to replicate such an app in Asia.
“When we looked at the competitive landscape in Asia, it just seemed like a great idea at the right time,” Rajinda said.
Kashmi works as a digital wallet and payment platform, allowing users to top-up their wallets with a credit/ debit card or bank account. The amount in the wallet can be transferred to someone on the user’s contact list, with the option to write a message. The message can be made public among friends using its chat function.
A key difference is that Kashmi users can charge their friends so they no longer have to play loanshark or face the awkwardness of chasing for their money back.
The company currently imposes a 3% processing fee on all top-ups, while making transfers and cash-outs do not incur any fees.
The initial stages were a test of resilience for the founders, who were faced with convincing investors to come on board while having no resources to build the product.
“It can be hard to stay the course during times of adversity – whether that be in terms of convincing investors to come on board, or simply being able to build anything of worth without the resources to do it,” Rajinda (pic above) said.
“In order to gain the support of investors, we also needed to build and run a minimum viable product (MVP) – which is difficult to do without funding,” he added.
The Kashmi team’s participation in two accelerator programmes however helped in developing the application and getting the needed resources, and is currently running on contributions from its participation in Turn8 in Dubai and Startupbootcamp Fintech in Singapore.
The strict financial regulations imposed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) might dissuade some startups from entering the financial technology services (fintech) space, but this was not the case for Kashmi.
“What’s great about the Singapore system is that it is transparent, and we have been fortunate enough to have had access to MAS when we needed clarification about regulations,” Rajinda said.
Kashmi currently falls in the ‘multi-purpose stored value facility’ category under MAS, which according to Rajinda, allows it to grow because the regulations for that category are not restrictive.
“As our business grows, we will ensure that we liaise with MAS and keep strictly to the guidelines advised by them,” he added.
Then there is the advantage of starting out in a financial hub like Singapore.
“We appreciate these tight regulations because it enables us to run a business that is compliant by international standards – standards that bring us credibility across Asia with customers and investors alike,” Rajinda said.
Credit and debit
Kashmi does not only have to face sizzling and fizzling startups, but also the big boys: Banks in Singapore have already launched their own apps to tackle mobile payment among friends. DBS has PayLah, Standard Chartered has Dash, and OCBC integrated mobile payment into its OCBC app.
However, Rajinda believes that Kashmi still has an upper hand.
“One of the biggest drawbacks of these products is that they only allow for transfers within those banking networks,” he said.
OCBC’s ‘pay anyone’ feature is the closest match to Kashmi, but requires senders to send a six-digit passcode for the recipient to key into a collection URL to input their account numbers – and transfer amounts can only go to S$100 (US$72).
“We have also put a lot of effort into creating the simplest sign-up and user experience possible – along with rich social functionality that we feel will appeal to the younger demographic that we are targeting,” Rajinda declared.
Kashmi is also looking to introduce more features in the next 12 months, but he declined to elaborate.
The backend, and the app
According to Rajinda, Kashmi’s technology can be broken down into two areas: The web application and the mobile interface.
The web interface was built on Ruby on Rails, to accommodate scaling up to meet demand. Ruby on Rails is a web application framework written in the Ruby programming language, and includes default structures for a database, web service and webpage.
“The underlying solution is an architecture that combines a relationship between a powerful web backend and the respective mobile frameworks,” Rajinda declared, declining to elaborate on the ‘underlying solution.’
The Kashmi app is currently available for the iOS and Android platforms, but again, he declined to disclose plans for adding other mobile platforms.
The app is currently in beta. “We had a soft launch for select users to stress-test the application and clean out any bugs,” Rajinda said, declining to say when the soft launch took place.
“We hope to have a larger, official launch in about a month or so,” he added.
Kashmi is looking to go regional, planning launch in another Asian country within the next six to 12 months.
“The application itself will become so much richer in terms of functionality and features,” Rajinda said.
“We will also be expanding our partnerships throughout Asia, which will again lead to more awesome features and outreach,” he claimed.
The company is currently halfway to raising its seed funding, Rajinda claimed, but he declined to name the figure it is aiming for.
“Our most immediate priority over the past several months has been our effort to raise seed funding,” he said.
“We have been fortunate enough to have raised more than 90% of the funds we are looking for, and hope to raise the remainder in the next couple of weeks,” he added.
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