Gupshup, a smart-messaging platform has won the Grand Challenge for enabling payments on feature phones in India. The Grand Challenge was launched in 2019 in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) and CIIE.CO. Some 750 innovators from around the world submitted ideas and solutions toward a payment system for feature phone users in India, and Gupshup topped the list, followed by Minkville and Tonetag.
According to Gupshup, its payment system would ensure that impoverished communities have access to financial products and services by bringing them potentially into the digital ecosystem for commerce.
The solution works with or without a data connection by using a data or SMS network, which the inventors promise is highly secure with multiple levels of encryption and authentication to prevent financial fraud and abuse.
“The grand challenge supports the foundation’s continuous effort to ensure that the poor have access to the relevant formal financial products & services that they can use to build more prosperous and secure lives for themselves and their communities,” Pawan Bakhshi, India Lead, Financial Services for the poor at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is quoted saying in the press release. “The winning technologies have the potential to provide secure, easy-to-use payment services to over 400-500 million people using feature phones in India,” Bakshi added.
“Gupshup’s vision is to use secure and smart messaging to enable rich and delightful experiences across a wide range of categories including payments and ecommerce,” Beerud Sheth, CEO of Gupshup is quoted saying in the June 2, 2020 press release. “While Gupshup has been doing this for smartphone users already, this new solution brings smart capabilities to feature phone users too.”
The Grand Challenge received more than 750 applications from across the world, said Gupshup, including from banks, telecom companies, original equipment manufacturers and startups.
Nine companies including Gupshup made it to the shortlist and on April 16, After multiple rounds of deliberation and shortlisting by an esteemed panel of experts, nine companies were they presented their solution to the organizers of the challenge.
The winners received cash prizes of USD 50,000, 30,000 and 20,000 respectively. They will also receive pilot support in India from NPCI, as well as from CIIE.CO’s Bharat Inclusion Initiative, through all the stages from incubation, acceleration and seed-funding to innovators leveraging technology to build inclusive businesses, the press release said.