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This startup is aiming for walletless and cashless future of Nepal: Story of Khalti


Khalti is a digital wallet for an instant, secure and hassle-free online payments in Nepal.

FinTech (Financial Technology) is a very fast-moving industry at present across most of the nations where major transactions are going cashless. But, Nepal is way behind. Digital Transaction in Nepal does not even account for 1% of the total transaction. “Having witnessed the industry firsthand and seeing the huge potential of the same, we thought of building a platform with a vision of taking all the transactions digital,” Manish Modi, Co-founder of Khalti shared to Glocal Khabar.

“Digital transaction is important and more feasible in Nepal in two ways. Firstly, because of its topography, people have been spending long hours to travel to government offices to pay utility bills like water and electricity. Therefore, going digital means they will be able to make such payments from their own home. Secondly, mobile penetration in Nepal is almost equal to 100%, and there is probably no household without a smartphone,” says Manish justifying the mission of Khalti.

“We’re building a payment system that is cashless, that is digital, and that can be used on day-to-day activities. We wish users can buy vegetables, pay for tea, go to a grocery store, pay your rent. We are trying to build an ecosystem of digital payment in Nepal,” Manish further says.

Khalti is a subsidiary of Janaki Technology which is renowned for developing some amazing products like Sparrow SMS and Picovico.

After building Sparrow SMS in 2009, which was limited in Nepal only, the young team at Janaki Technology aimed to build a product aiming the global market. Thus, ‘Picovico’ was built in 2011.

Picovico was selected for incubation program by Morpheus Ventures in India. Later, Chilean government selected them among the top 100 startup idea from across the world, and provided 40,000 dollars in a grant. So far, Picovico is the only product from Nepal to be selected for the grant.

Taking risk to launch Khalti

“Though we are working in the tech-industry for 10 years, and understand the Nepali market very well, we cannot guarantee our products work. We didn’t release Khalti to make profits overnight. This is such a business where we should go in a loss for almost 3-5 years. We were fully prepared for that. We had well-researched on the product and market. And, we are not very rigid on our product. We are ready to take it as per the users’ reactions, feedbacks and usage,” Manish said.

Necessity of Khalti in Nepal

The digital payment ecosystem of Nepal is very small. Though there are already few players in the industry, not a single party can take it all. Fintech is a very big industry and has a huge prospect. There is still a lot to teach the users about digital payment and FinTech. We have mostly been paying through cash, or through cards lately. None of us have been trying to pay through mobile phone as no ecosystem has been built yet.

Janaki Technology had come up with the idea 3 years ago, and has been continuously working on it ever since. A total of 14 dedicated team-members are currently working on Khalti.

Ever since the formal launch of Khalti on January 26, 2017, the digital wallet system is seeing a steady growth.

What you can do with Khalti

Currently, users of Khalti can Recharge/Topup prepaid and postpaid mobiles, buy airline tickets, make payments for DTH and ISP bills, book movie tickets, carry out fund transfers through Khalti wallet, load funds into Khalti via e-banking service from the partner banks, and send or request funds from Khalti friends.

“But, we are trying to go beyond that and will introduce new services soon,” Manish stated.

Availability of OnePlus 5 at Khalti platform

First time ever, they are trying to shift use of the platform just from the utility payments. Recently, they have brought an offer where one can buy OnePlus 5, and are coming up with various other products on Khalti exclusive section. “We don’t want Khalti to be a means to recharge mobile once a month. We are working to make people use it on their day-to-day transactions,” Manish shared.

User responses so far

As per Manish, more than 30 thousand people have already used Khalti after its formal launch last January. “Going by this metrics, it’s beyond what we had expected,” he said.

“We are getting wonderful responses from the users. They are demanding more features and services. This is also giving a motivation for us to work on this product. It’ll come to an even bigger form soon,” shared Manish.

Challenges on building mobile ecosystem in Nepal

“It’s quite challenging to build mobile eco-system in Nepal. But, we are taking it as an opportunity. We need to teach our users about our services and even teach the people in an incentivized way. Khalti launched OnePlus 5 in its platform for the same purpose. The smartphone costs you the same standard market price of Rs. 59,500 while purchasing it from Khalti, but you get 4000 rupees bonus,” Manish shared how they are moving ahead.

“In villages, we might need to start awareness campaigns to teach people about digital transactions, and build trust among them,” he shared the challenges, adding, “The good thing is, we have made the system automated. For example, you are re-charging your mobile phone and it fails. In such a case, your money will return back on your Khalti account. We are giving that sort of assurance, and have made the services real-time. Whatever problems you get into, it’ll resolve automatically.”

“Every business has its own fixed established ecosystem in Nepal, thus the challenges. Providing various services through a mobile app makes the daily life of people more convenient. It’s not possible to change everything overnight. Building an ecosystem is a gradual process. We are working hard for this,” shares Manish.

Memorable incidences in the journey so far

“I had installed Khalti in my maternal uncle’s phone, but he had forgotten about it. He had recharged his mobile for a trial and found it worked well. One day, he had to recharge his mobile, but had forgotten that he could recharge mobile using Khalti. He spent half-an-hour searching for a recharge card in the village, and couldn’t find any. After seeing me, he recalled that he can recharge using Khalti, and did it immediately. I cannot forget that moment,” shared Manish.

“The next day, he had to go to Simara. As I mentioned him that he can also book tickets using Khalti, he himself searched for the services and did the booking. He did that with ease. He was delighted when he received SMS confirmation of his ticket. Earlier, he used to do everything physically. These days, he does every such petty transactions and bill payments through Khalti. He is also teaching others to use the app,” shared Manish on how he feels delighted to see people using the Khalti to pay for their daily transactions.

“Last holiday, we were playing cards. And, we made payments in every round through Khalti. Using Khalti got us rid of every hassle of keeping records,” he reminisced.

Where will we probably see Khalti in the duration of next five years?

“Earlier, we used to carry wallets. Then came the age of smartphones, and we started carrying smartphones and wallet simultaneously. In five years, I think people will only carry smartphones, and stop carrying wallets. If your mobile phone has money, what’s the use of carrying a wallet? Five years down the line, we might simply start making payments using smartphones only. You might not have to carry physical cash or card. Your mobile will become your money.  You might be able to pay for vegetables from your mobile, and make payment for bus fare, tea, rent and almost all daily life expenses. Our transaction will be more systematic,” Manish opines.

Suggestions to the aspiring entrepreneurs:

Manish is of the opinion that entrepreneurship is not about starting a company but running it. “Everybody can start a company, and it is very easy to start, but very difficult to run. You learn a lot of things while running a company. Your mind should always be open while running a company. It’s not guaranteed that every startup turns out to be successful. It might need modification, or even a complete overhaul. You need to have persistence. As a startup founder, you cannot dream of becoming a millionaire within a single year. It takes hard work and time to become successful. What value you are providing should be the key. You need to have the ability and willingness to learn new things. Technology is changing such rapidly that you cannot stick to a single system for long. There is nothing that runs lifelong after you develop. You need to update and change it periodically. You should immerse yourself in products, be persistent, keep on learning things, keep on updating, and think of adding value to the end users,” he shares to the aspiring entrepreneurs.

Startups for a better Nepal!

Presentation: Basanta Kumar Dhakal