Last month, we looked at the fragmented Indian payments and overseas money transfer market, which, thanks to its size, estimated at over $70 billion, is attracting competitors from Silicon Valley tech giants, disruptive mobile startups, domestic players, and the might of China, a country that is truly mastering micro-payments.
We also suggested that blockchain based international payments could be a coming force in India, and news reaches us this week that European digital payments provider TransferGo is announcing a new partnership with Ripple, the California based blockchain platform designed for real-time payments.
TransferGo CEO Daumantas Dvilinskas declared himself “delighted” to be able to offer remittance customers the ability to send payments in real time, using banking partners based in India, a service that Ripple’s considerably larger, in terms of market share, rival SWIFT is unable to offer.
SWIFT has been the market leader when it comes to providing the “plumbing” for international money transfer since the 1970’s, but in Ripple, which has developed its own decentralised blockchain system, it maybe encountering a genuine rival.
Asheesh Birla, SVP of Product at Ripple has given some insight into the way Ripple is thinking big in India by revealing that “We realised that if you get the top three banks in India onto Ripple, you get 80% of the market share.” Easier said than done perhaps, but Ripple has already overcome some major hurdles, as we have written about here in the past, and has worked with the likes of MoneyGram, and Santander, to revamp and accelerate their overseas payments infrastructure.
Another major attraction that Ripple has to offer is its price. In their press release, Ripple and TransferGo announced that they want to make sending payments from India to Europe, or vice versa, free of charge, which would place SWIFT under further pressure, to try to be as competitive. Granted, Ripple cannot deliver both superfast payments and free money transfers, as its free service, which uses the mid-market rate, takes 2-3 days, but it is an advantage in itself to be able to give customers the opportunity to either save money, or speed up their transfers.
And then there is mobile. Ripple realises that the way people send money is changing, moving to mobile rather than through banks or traditional Money Transfer Operators (MTOs); after all, even amongst India’s “unbanked” population, most own a mobile phone or at the very least have access to one, and if you can set up a digital wallet and start sending and receiving money in a few swipes and taps, why make the trek to your nearest bank, which could be a few hours travel away?
Ripple has described its market penetration in India as “high”, as its free service, which offers “zero fees and a mid-market rate,” will take at least 2-3 business days to send the cash to its destination.
Marcus Treacher, SVP of Customer Success at Ripple, commented that “TransferGo is a great example of a forward-thinking payment provider that’s leaning in to new technology to facilitate real-time, cross-border money transfers for their customers. That’s a big step forward.”
Whilst there is no disagreeing with that, and Ripple will doubtless be encouraged by TransferGo’s declaration that the partnership “opens up new horizons for TransferGo to develop additional products and services”, the Californian company with the big ambitions will have to set their sights higher and capture a significant portion of India’s $70 billion dollar if they really want to frighten SWIFT.