Landgrab of a new sub-segment in online payments has begun now, with online payment company MobiKwik launching utility payments, alongwith a newly launched website. The company has introduced bill payment services for electricity, insurance and gas, allowing customers to pay bills for the following utility services: Reliance Energy, BSES Rajdhani, BSES Yamuna, MSEB Mumbai, North Delhi Power in electricity, ICICI Prudential, TATA AIG life insurance for Life Insurance and Mahanagar Gas. This is over and above the telecom (mobile, DTH, landline and data card) recharges.

Among its competitors – we checked, Paytm and Rechargeitnow – and Rechargeitnow are doing only telecom related payments at present, while Paytm provides payments for BSES Rajdhani (electricity) and smart card recharges for the Delhi-Gurgaon toll booth.

The inclusion of insurance and a larger portfolio of power companies gives MobiKwik a differentiator, but we wonder how long that will last. While it probably is extremely tough to ink a partnership with infrastructure companies for bill payments, there can be two scenarios: either there is exclusivity, and they won’t be keen on multiple partnerships where they think one can suffice, or they’ll be now open to partnering with other service providers. Given that bill payments are low margin businesses, we’d be surprised if there is any formal exclusivity involved.

What Happened To…

As an aside, the first interview I ever did was with Rahul Khanna in 2006, then at Clearstone, now with Canaan Partners, shortly after they backed an online bill payment company – BillDesk. Been a while… I wonder what companies like Billdesk and Bill Junction must think of the rise of these consumer facing bill payment companies. They have been in this utility bill payment businesses for many years now, and have a large number of merchants for whom they enable bill payments. Bill Junction has a long list of vendors here.

Consumer facing bill payment businesses like MobiKwik, Paytm, Freecharge and Rechargeitnow have focused on customer acquisition and retention, the addition of wallets for enabling easier payment, and the monetization through couponing; Paytm, for one, is working towards becoming a digital goods company.

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