We are trying to bridge the financial gap for small businesses: Vipul Sharma, Chqbook

Earlier this year Chqbook raised $5 million in Series-A funding from Aavishkaar Capital. The initial funding for the 2017 launched startup was from Startup Buddy and several angel investors including cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle. In an e-mail interview Vipul Sharma, founder & CEO, Chqbook discusses the problems that the venture is trying to solve for small businesses, plans for the next few years and more. Edited excerpts:

What is the problem you are trying to solve? And how big is this opportunity?

Small businesses are the backbone of a thriving economy and play a key role in the growth and development of any country. With over 60 million small business owners in the country — including kiranas, merchants, chemists and others running proprietorship businesses — there is a huge potential to add value to this underserved segment through financial solutions that leverage technology.

Our intent is to provide this community with a range of products. Chqbook’s mobile app will help them manage their financial requirements. We use alternate data, a powerful AI driven recommendation engine called TARA AI to give small businesses control over their finances.

What kind of products and services do you offer? How much does it cost (interest rates you charge; cost of other services etc?

The full suite of products includes credit, loans, and current account, in addition to group insurance and bookkeeping (khata) service. Transactions across these services are powered by a rewards system and comes with zero processing fee.

Through the mobile app, Chqbook has launched a zero-balance current account for small business owners. Chqbook customers also get a free digital bookkeeping service – Chqbook Khata, which enables small businesses to record debits and credits from customers and suppliers alike. The small business owners can create and send orders to their suppliers through the app. It also has a reminding and tracking features that enables business owners to collect payments by sending a payment link to their customers.

The mobile app is powered by artificial intelligence and data analytics to assess the eligibility of a potential customer and to ensure their financial requirements are fulfilled with minimum documentation.

There are already so many fintech startups targeting small business owners with various products and services. What’s unique about your offering?

We are trying to bridge the gap for small business owners by understanding their financial goals and offering them products tailored to their requirements.

Our key differentiators are:

  • Zero-balance current account where it is not mandatory for the customers to maintain a certain minimum balance.

  • A rewards program designed for small business owners, allowing them to earn rewards called ‘Chqbook Coins’ on daily transactions on the mobile app. These coins can be redeemed for offers and discounts across lifestyle, entertainment and food.

  • Zero-processing fee across all our product offerings be it loans, credit cards or insurance.

How much capital have you raised so far?

Earlier this year, we raised $5 million in Series-A funding from Aavishkaar Capital. Back in 2017, we raised our initial funding from Startup Buddy and industry stalwarts including Harsha Bhogle, Amit Manocha, Bharat Shyam, Bhupesh Kumar, Ken Glass, Nilesh Shrivastava, Rohit Chanana, and Sakshi Vij.

The capital injection has been primarily used to expand our product portfolio, boost our proprietary AI-powered technology platform, and scale up our distribution network across multiple cities.

What are your expansion plans? Where do you see Chqbook in the next 3 to 5 years?

We plan to scale to over 50 cities and expect to increase our customer base by 1 million during this financial year. Over the next 3–5 years, we want to be the financial control center for 10 million small business owners and provide them service across our pillars of accounts, khata, lending, insurance, and rewards.

We are trying to bridge the financial gap for small businesses: Vipul Sharma, Chqbook We are trying to bridge the financial gap for small businesses: Vipul Sharma, Chqbook Reviewed by TechCO on 9/25/2020 Rating: 5

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