Truecaller is buying payments app Chillr, the company announced in a blog post. With the acquisition, Truecaller is primed to use Chillr’s workforce to start providing financial lending to users, the Economic Times reported. The company did not disclose the valuation of the acquisition. Chillr’s team will essentially become the Truecaller Pay team, the Swedish company said in its blog post. This makes sense since Chillr as a product has little to offer on top of what Truecaller’s UPI offering already provides to users.
Chillr’s long-pending acquisition
Chillr has been looking for a buyer at least since the middle of 2017, as The Ken reported in August (paywalled). The two buyers that were shortlisted at that time were Truecaller, and HDFC Bank. Before UPI’s introduction, transactions on Chillr were easier to do if users were HDFC’s customers. Since the app then ran on IMPS, and only got HDFC’s backing — on top of being marketed as an HDFC product — it suffered competitively. Even after UPI’s rollout and the buoy that lifted it after demonetization, Chillr had less than half the active users that the government’s BHIM app had, per The Ken’s report. Not to mention it’s very hard to make money on peer-to-peer payments, as an analyst pointed out to the publication.
Truecaller Pay now faces competition from Google, WhatsApp, PhonePe, BHIM, and not to mention, Paytm. But that’s for UPI. How will Truecaller Pay now diversify its financial offerings to actually make money?
The micro-lending market
One of the fastest-growing industries in the digital payments scene is lending. Specifically, peer to peer lending and payday lending. While P2P lending is just creating a platform for people with extra cash to debtors, payday lending usually works by reselling bank loans to individuals without a credit card. App-based payday lending is a rapidly growing segment in India. This kind of high-interest short-term lending has one of the juiciest margins in India, with annualized interest rates of up to 36%. Credit cards charge much less, between 2–3%. Many of these players use AI and social media data to stand in for traditional forms of securing loans, like collateral and credit ratings.
Truecaller, which built its core business by aggregating phonebooks by individual users and providing that data to all users with ads, is well placed to support financial products that rely on a rich availability of user data.