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Best of 2017

The Fast and the Furious world of Fintech


This year has been one hell of a tease for fintech companies. Much like the time when Warren Beatty handed that Oscar for Best Picture to La La Land only to discover that Moonlight had won. (Yes, that happened this year. Also, have you watched both the movies yet?) When demonetisation was announced, fintechs waltzed into the limelight and they got a glimpse of what the promised land will look like as the note ban dangled a digital future in front of them. The wrong envelope moment happened a few months later. The regulator overnight threw wallets into a tizzy by introducing mandatory Know Your Customer (KYC) norms, and suddenly, companies had to re-evaluate their futures.

Right from demonetisation to most recently, the government saying that merchants don’t have to pay the banks a merchant discount rate for transactions up to Rs 2000, the fintech conversation was dominated by payments. That was mostly because 2017 has been the year when Unified Payments Interface (UPI), the fast-as-an-email-way to pay, became a mascot for digital payments. And we saw a long line of companies saying they want to adopt UPI. From WhatsApp to Google to Hike to Truecaller, everyone wanted to get on board.

While it is tempting to say that fintechs raised the highest ever round of money in 2017 with $2.1 billion, according to data provider Tracxn’s estimates. One company raised more than half of it. You know, the one which we always put an asterisk* on.

It was not all about payments though. It was also the year when we saw cross-border payments companies, trading startups and financial marketplaces jostle for space and market share. Meanwhile, banks who saw themselves as custodians of all things related to money acknowledged that fintechs have something going for them. Almost all banks now have a working relationship with fintechs. But will that relationship turn into something more? Would cryptocurrency be banks’ arch nemesis? You will have to stick it out with us if you want to find out more.

Here is what you would have missed if you didn’t stick with us this year:

RBI with its prepaid instruments guidelines changed life for wallets overnight and companies were lining up at the start line all over again

Small and medium businesses are a large market but are they big enough? We tell you how two nimble fintechs Instamojo and Razorpay are looking to address that segment

Is it a payment network, is it a product owner, is it an app publisher, is it a quasi-regulator? Just what on earth is NPCI and what does it do? We solve the mystery.

The Ken broke both news snippets on WhatsApp and Google adopting UPI and why that was going to pretty much rock the payments world

The buzz about UPI began when the Prime Minister launched BHIM. We bring you the backstory of how that happened

 Banks saying they want to become like Amazon Web Services is downright bizarre. Like AWS selling its infrastructure to companies, two banks in India are willing to let fintechs user their core infrastructure

The year 2018 looks poised to be more interesting for fintechs. Tell us what you would like to read about in the coming year, and we will put our noses to the grindstone. On that note, have a fintastic year ahead!

*You know what this means by now. Paytm’s founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma is an investor in The Ken.

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2 others Vijay Shekar Sharma
Vivek Shah