India’s largest digital payments company Paytm is looking to expand its footprint to include lending services and credit cards for customers, in a move that threatens to shake up the country’s traditional banking sector further.
In an interview with CNBC, Chief Financial Officer Madhur Deora said the launch of its pilot lending program would come within weeks.
“Think of it as a credit card but without the card,” Deora said Thursday. “So if you don’t have money available to you on your Paytm account, you can still do a transaction and you can just pay us later.”
The ambitious push into the lending space is the latest step for a company that has seen its user base triple, since Prime Minister Narendra Modi pulled 86 percent of India’s cash from circulation last November.
Demonetization forced the country’s unbanked – more than 200 million according to a 2015 PwC report – and millions of offline merchants onto digital payment platforms. Paytm already has 250 million users, and 5 million offline merchants, according to Deora.
The new products would look to build on that by offering interest-free loans in partnership with lending companies, acting as a type of charge card. The company also plans to launch a credit system that would allow users to carry over balances, while paying interest.
“Our ambition is, we want to have wealth management products, which are relevant to the auto rickshaw driver,” Deora said.
Just this week, the company applied for a Reserve Bank of India license to set up a money market fund, according to local media, making Paytm the first digital payments company to venture into the traditional banking space. Deora refused to comment on this however.
Paytm has already secured a banking license and launched Digital Gold, which allows users to buy, sell. and store the precious metal pegged to real-time market rates. The service, backed by the Metals and Minerals Trading Corporation of India, sold 50 kilograms worth of gold in its first month, making Paytm India’s largest jeweler, according to Deora.
“Digital Gold is more of a convenient way and a more democratic way of being able to access the highest quality gold which may otherwise not be available to them,” Deora said, adding that users have the option of buying as little as one rupee worth of gold.
The company’s evolution beyond digital payment’s isn’t unique to Paytm. Rival Mobikwik is also reportedly looking to venture into the credit and lending space, as well as offering insurance. Both face increasing competition, as more companies including local messenger app Hike and Amazon venture into the digital wallet space.
Paytm’s success has attracted funding from big name backers, including Alibaba, Ant Financial, and Softbank which recently invested $1.4 billion in parent company One97 Communications. The digital platform’s expansion beyond the e-wallet space has drawn parallels to their larger Chinese counterparts, something Deora admits Paytm aspires to.
“There is an opportunity to create something as big in India … The roadmap has always been very interesting to us,” Deora said. “What we try to do is not copy any of those things. As an Indian company we can adapt a lot of things to the Indian market.”