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How kirana store owners are getting neighbourhood buyers to pay back dues

Sonal Khetarpal     October 20, 2020

Every day Sushil Tripathi of New Ashok Nagar-based Tripathi kirana store would diligently write details of all the sales in his thick journal. But, there are around 25 transactions daily that are not entered in the diary, they are scribbled on a separate sheet of paper. These are purchases on credit. Even though the amount keeps mounting, Tripathi doesn't remind his customers to make the payment. "These are all gali-mohalle ke log. They might get offended if we ask them to pay the dues and move to another kirana store," says Tripathi.

To overcome this problem, Tripathi started using the Chqbook app whose bookkeeping feature allows him to maintain his khata online and also sends automated reminders to customers to pay their dues.  

Now, when customers decry getting reminder texts, Tripathi smiles back saying, "I didn't send the reminder, the app did."

The message also has a link to allow customers to pay using UPI or wallet from their respective homes.  

The app is also linked to his zero-balance current account where he can receive digital payments. He now plans to get his father who runs a medical store to start using Chqbook.

India has close to 60 million small business owners who run kirana stores, salons, apparel shops, bakeries, chemists, dry cleaning units. Financial needs of insurance and loans are largely underserved in this big segment.  

"These people are not the target consumer for big banks which focus primarily on salaried customers," says Vipul Sharma, Founder and CEO, Chqbook.  

"A lot of these firms are proprietorships. So, while they have to run their business, getting essential financial services such as loan or insurance is a big challenge." He explains, current accounts have a minimum balance to be maintained and if they take insurance, the claim doesn't cover their costs.  

"It is common to see many shop owners using savings account or cash transactions instead of the current account for their business," he says.  

To solve these concerns, in 2017, Sharma along with three other co-founders Rajat Kumar, Sachin Arora and Mohit Goel started a neobank Chqbook with the aim to offer financial solutions such as banking, lending, insurance, to small business owners in India.  

To enable customers to manage their day-to-day transactions along with financial products from one platform, Chqbook launched its mobile app which serves as a Financial Control Centre this year. Based on their requirements, customers can choose from 60 financial products.  

Tripathi says, "I now have a clear view of my daily, monthly transactions. Earlier I had to spend a lot of time to do the hisaab."

Based on the transaction history and the credit score, the proprietor can also take short-term and long-term loans. They can onboard a new distributor and send them their weekly orders of rice and noodles. The app also has a marketplace for business loans with several lenders.  

Chqbook also offers rewards on each transaction. The points can then be redeemed for purchases of movie tickets, grocery or ordering in food. The Gurugram-based firm has tied up with 30 brands to offer discounts to its customers.  

In 2018-2019, the firm had raised seed funding from startup advisory platform Startup Buddy and angel investors including Harsha Bhogle, and Sakshi Vij. In 2020, it raised $5 million of Series A funding from impact investor Aavishkaar Capital.

The platform is being used by over 3,00,000 customers to get loans, rewards, and other services. Till date, the company has disbursed loans of Rs 400 million and issued 15,000-plus credit cards. The goal is to reach 10 lakh customers in the next couple of months.

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