‘Next billion users’ has become one of the most common phrases in the Indian startup scene, recently. Millions of dollars are being invested in products centred around this new paradigm. Yet, many players in the market are struggling to build impactful solutions for the next billion users. However, startups that have successfully managed to cross this threshold and cracked the rural code, are witnessing game-changing growth. Bharat’s online payments agent, Niki is one such example. A conversational agent for managing household expenses, Niki extended vernacular support to Hindi users in October 2018 and since then, has seen a massive 300x growth in Hindi GMV at an annualized run rate of 40 million USD.
While the first decade of Indian startups was about replicating what worked in developed economies for the upper layers of the socio-economic pyramid, these businesses are now nearing their inevitable saturation and the next phase of the Indian startup growth story is all about home-grown product innovation. One of the biggest pieces of this story, of course, is building for Bharat. Enters Niki.ai, the first app to make online transactions possible for the next billion users, enabling Bharat to move beyond apps like WhatsApp, Facebook or TikTok towards online household payments. Removing the roadblocks in the adoption of online payments such as complicated interfaces or language barriers, Niki handholds the Non-English speaking population in online transactions by assisting them through the entire ordering to fulfilment process in one’s language, designed to overcome the trust deficit by providing assured fulfilment to first-time internet users.
In October 2018, Niki introduced its Hindi language capabilities, targeting the 528 million Hindi-speakers in the country who were tied at the hands of English language dominating the technology developments and were yet to transact online. While vernacular and voice have been key, Niki’s approach to building for Bharat has been multi-pronged. The company focussed relentlessly on product simplicity, convenience and trust-building. If one could take care of all their financial requirements in one place over conversations, the medium that users are most familiar with – the experience can enable millions to do online payments. No wonder the app is now being used by over 4.5 million users, 80% of which are emerging from India’s Tier 2,3,4 towns like Lucknow, Patna, Ajmer, Jaipur and alike, paying monthly bills, doing prepaid recharges, bus or movie booking, in their own language over simple conversations with Niki.
“Niki’s growth post-launch in Hindi has been overwhelming and it validates our idea of voice and vernacular support being the engines of growth in the adoption of digital transactions, in a country as diverse as ours. Niki’s story has always been the one to empower Bharat to do online transactions by handholding and giving assurance by being a conversational agent in one’s language. Witnessing such rapid growth and adoption further motivates us to build for Bharat and make online payments accessible to all,” says Sachin Jaiswal, Co-founder, and CEO, Niki.ai.