Open APIs and Digital Finance | How Open APIs Fueled Eko’s Growth in India


At Eko we’ve been solving solutions around financial inclusion for the last 12 years. We are still at it, and until about 8 years, 10 years into it, our scale in India was not very big. We were looking for solutions to scale in India and service millions of customers every month for ourselves. And that’s where we started to look for ideas outside of Eko. And when we studied different platforms and how they have leveraged API strategies we came across Android only to figure out that Android has become the largest operating system in the shortest period of time. And that is something we wanted to happen even with Eko. We wanted to get to the largest number of people in India in the shortest period of time. And we tried to build similar two hemispheres to Eko’s open API strategy, wherein we open our APIs for multiple distribution networks to actually build in distribution on top of our APIs wherein they’re able to acquire merchants and customers. And on the other half, we invite app builders to actually build on top of our APIs to be able to take the services to the end consumer which the distribution partners are acquiring. On the app side, we have multiple lending
solutions multiple insurance solutions which are being built today. We have over 30 app developers on the app side and more than 300 developers on the distribution side. It has given us significant market share,
significant penetration in India. And that’s been our open API experience for the last two and a half years. If I talk about the impact, I think about
multiple levels. From a company perspective, we are the market leader. In our niche space, we are definitely a break-out
candidate amongst my competition. It has helped us break even. Today, we are a profitable company. Significantly, we’ve been able to accelerate our revenue growth and our EBITDA levels at a fairly high rate once the open API strategy was implemented and adopted and practiced every day in Eko. That’s from a company perspective. I think what has also happened a lot is the
sheer reach that Eko has gotten. Before we started the open API strategy, we were very dense in two very big cities in India. But today, I’m happy to share that Eko originates transactions from all states across the country. And this is, like all of us are aware, India is a huge country with 1.3 billion people. We service close to 7 million walk-ins into our merchant networks across Eko’s distribution as well as the partner distribution network and process over $300 million (USD) a month. We started our open API strategy in November of 2015, and at that point in time our distribution gross transaction value was all of it, and the APIs was zero. I’m happy to share that in about 24 months we have 70 percent of our gross transaction value is processed via our API network. And just about 30 percent is processed by our own branded, self-branded network. And it has been absolutely fantastic. With the increasing amount of partner support we’ve understood what our partners need. Our solutions have only gotten better. We do not only expose the product API, if
I can say so. A lot of solutions APIs have also been opened up for our partners for their unit economics continues to get better for our partners when they get to scale. It’s important to understand who the customer is. Here the customer isn’t the end consumer or the end merchant. It’s important to understand this is either
an independent developer or it’s a technology team inside a corporate house. It was important that we understood who the customer is and to talk to them very directly. And, so what we’ve discovered is that great technology to understand various kinds of technologies that are popular when developers are building financial services. It was important to open up APIs in all of those languages. It was important to make sure that the documentation is very, very simple for an incoming developer to understand and imagine the different use cases that can be built on top of it. And, thereafter, I think we’ve evolved in to co-creation, co-building. We release our software along with our partner software. There are multiple webinars that we are scheduling these days. There are some of the hackathons that we do. So I think one is to make sure that the core component of the technology, the languages that we build on, are comprehensive. For the developers to get attracted, there
has to be a fantastic level of documentation. And, thereafter, we’ve got to use different channels to make sure that there is an engagement with the developers. My first advice would be that we should not waste a lot of time thinking whether to do it or not to do it. I think it’s a matter of starting it right now. Immediately. Because I think the debate I think the time to debate is over. And it is It is a question to be done. And I would go back to the first example that I took. If Google can take the approach of opening a platform and creating a solution which is across the globe it touches billions of people it is important to understand that for achieving scale it is important to partner and if it is important to partner it is important to partner with the developer community for multiple use cases to get created to cater to different kinds of customers and their needs. So I think the debate is over. From Eko’s perspective, in about 24 to 36,
between 24 to 36 months, we’ve managed to have 300 different distribution networks built on top of our APIs. It has definitely given us more revenues and margins, etc. But what it has significantly done is that it has increased the reach of Eko and its services across the length and breadth of the country. While we were just doing it ourselves we were concentrated on a couple of really big metros in India. But when we started to partner with developers who were based out of small towns, villages, tier-two, tier-three cities, their solutions were far more customized for the end consumer that they wanted to get to. And eventually what really has happened is that 300 developers have catered to close to 50,000 retail points, which have translated to close to 4 million walk-in consumers for Eko every month. And these are typically not in cities that Eko was already present in. So, fundamentally, it has taken the services
way beyond what Eko could have imagined. It has gone, our services are now today available in smaller towns and cities and thereafter changing the lives of many, many shopkeepers in terms of the earning that they get and the lives of many end consumers who are able to access financial services through our partner networks.

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