Interview
It is the most modern travel card in the world in the sense that you can do various settings on the card, CEO Vinay Bagri told TNM.

After setting the benchmark in innovation by revolutionising the space of salary and benefits, FinTech startup NiYO has announced the launch of the Global Card, aimed at making international transactions safer and inexpensive. 

International travellers are always burdened with the high currency exchange rate charged by issuing banks for all transactions made outside the country. This rate can vary between 1-3% of the amount transacted. Banks also charge either a flat fee or a set percentage of the transaction amount, in addition to the currency exchange charge. In fact, travellers face a variety of issues with current multi-currency cards, starting from the difficulty in issuance, having to go to a branch to load/unload currency, challenges in tracking spending, etc.

The NiYO Global Card offers instant setup, convenient loading from any account via NEFT/IMPS, zero currency exchange premium, and zero international transaction fees on usage anywhere in the world. This makes present day multi-currency cards and traveler’s cheques redundant.

The card is supported by a cutting edge mobile banking app which gives users ability to lock and unlock either the full card or a payment channel anytime, anywhere. The app also provides real-time notifications on usage, exchange rates, and refunds, while helping users find convenient ATM locations, avail nearby offers, and much more. 

If you are a business traveler, you can submit claims on-the-go by adding bills for each transaction right in the app. These claims can be instantaneously approved by your organisation via the NiYO Corporate Portal.

Founded by Vinay Bagri and Virender Bisht, NiYO works at the intersection of financial services, HR and technology. NiYO was launched in July 2016 and since then has already clocked more than 1,200 corporates and is being used by over 2,75,000 salaried employees in these organisations. Earlier this year, NiYO raised their Series A funding of $13.2 million from Social Capital, JS Capital, Horizon Ventures and Prime Venture Partners. 

CEO and co-Founder Vinay Bagri spoke to TNM on a variety of topics, including the clientele they cater to, competition in the field and challenges going forward.

Here are excerpts from the interview. 

When did NiYO start? 

We are a banking platform for salaried employees and we started around two years back. We cover the entire spectrum of salaried employees from blue collar to white collar. So the way we define is anybody who is not paying taxes is blue collar and anybody who is paying taxes is white collar. 

In blue collar, typically most of these customers are not really well serviced by the traditional banks because of their old cost structures. So we have developed our own technology which really cuts down the cost of servicing these people and we offer salary accounts to these people. These include the likes of a Flipkart delivery boy, a security guard or a factory floor shop worker. For these people, their salaries are less than Rs 15,000 and most banks don’t want to be in this space because it’s not really profitable on their costing. 

Our model is very simple. We give you a card with a fee but that fee is for the year and in that year, we won’t be charging you for anything. It’s a zero balance account with modern facilities like locking /unlocking the card. This is one large segment for us, and we are acquiring around 2,000 customers every day. 

Right now, we have around 3,00,000 customers who work with us, out of which 250 are blue collar. The blue collar business is more exciting because it does financial inclusion by providing these people with salary accounts. Shortly, we will also be getting into wealth management for these people. So, we are basically able to provide a complete banking service to them at practically throwaway prices, which no other bank can afford. 

What kind of customers are you looking at?  

We are present wherever there are jobs. Imagine Thrissur in the south or Roorkee, Manesar, Faridabad, Gurugram in the north, these are all manufacturing-heavy areas. We are there in all the metros as well as Tier-1 cities and other than that, also in Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities where there are strong manufacturing hubs. So this is one portion of our business which is blue collar and we are the primary banker so to say, for that. 

Then the next segment is the while collar segment where we try and solve a niche problem. A typical consumer is not aware of the tax breaks which Govt. of India provides. The government provides around 20 tax sops to every salaried employee. Around eight to 10 of them are controlled by the employer, while the rest are controlled by you. So our pitch there was very simple. You take a product, restructure the CTC in a manner that the take-home increases for the employee. In typical scenarios, we have been able to increase take-home for white collar workers by anywhere between 50,000 to 70,000 rupees. Now, in this segment we have around 50,000 users and we have large clients who are our customers. For example, Mindtree, Harmon, Schneider.

Which are the main markets you are targeting? 

For white collar, we target the main metros. So Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Chennai and Bengaluru. We do a little bit in Ahmedabad also. For blue collar, we cater to all of these cities plus Tier-2, Tier-3 cities wherever there is a manufacturing setup or where there is high employment, we are there. 

We give corporates a set of things which they can do on behalf of the employees (in terms of tax saving options). They create this whole platform, push it to their employees and employees can then choose which ones they want. Especially, this is very useful for startups because most startups don’t have a full time HR or a full time CFO.

A word about the Global Card

What we have done is in the same app, we have created this UI (user interface) where once you land abroad, it will start telling you the money value in currency terms in real time, for e.g. if you are in Singapore, it will tell you in SGD (Singapore Dollars). This is a charge card and it’s like a credit card with zero limit which you can load yourself. 

So this card has an account number and IFSC code. Anybody can transfer money through IMPS, NEFT. So real time we load the money, use the card. It is the most modern card in the world in the sense that you can do various settings on the card. If you want to lock the entire card, you can do that from the app and then the card becomes like dead plastic. People are very worried about card security abroad and this card gives zero fraud assurance. It gives a lot of flexibility and can be operated from anywhere in the world, which is probably what makes this card the most advanced travel card in the world. It is in the same league as Revolut or Monzo (UK-based digital banks).

What sets you apart from the others? 

In terms of the Global Card, as of today nobody is there. Some people have a card but not an app and vice versa. This kind of a comprehensive solution, nobody else has and we are the only ones. 

On blue collar, a lot of companies have the prepaid card but nobody has a payroll system. So employers just love us because they just have to upload the attendance and we do everything else. There is nobody else who does that. In the tax benefit space, we have competition in the form of Zeta. There are two of us who are similar in this space. The difference between them and us is they have tied up with Sodexo for the meal coupons, while we issue our own meal coupons.

We are very excited about our global card business. It is a $17 billion market in the country. Around 15 to 20 million people are expected to travel abroad this year from India and by 2020 that number will be 50 million. So, with 50 million people travelling abroad, we think that this product as it develops further, we have a good chance of capturing a lion’s share of the market. 

What kind of investments are planned? 

We have broadly two kinds of investments. So one investment we do is in technology and products, which we will keep expanding. And the second investment is on distribution. So, distribution is our big strength. Most of our team is from a banking background and we have personally created a million customer businesses for various banks. So we really invest deeply and hire the best possible people to know the market in and out. We’ll be similarly investing going forward as well. 

Challenges that lie ahead

There is competition which will come in. There are regulations which can change for FinTech companies. There are international players like Revolut who can come to India. We are also exploring certain markets and we would like to go into as many countries as possible. We think Europe is attractive. We would definitely like to go abroad because from a tech point of view, we are either equal or superior to the other similar companies globally.