Indonesia is not only Southeast Asia’s most populated country, but also one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. But many people, especially outside of major cities, still lack access to basic financial services like bank accounts. Payfazz is one of several tech startups focused on solving that problem by finding innovative ways to give more Indonesians access to financial services. The company announced today that it has raised a $53 million Series B led by B Capital and Insignia Ventures Partners.
Previous investors, including Tiger Global, Y Combinator and ACE & Company, also returned for the round. New backers include strategic investor BRI Ventures, the venture arm of BRI, one of Indonesia’s largest banks. Payfazz’s last round of funding was a $21 million Series A announced in September 2018, led by Tiger Global. Its total raised to date is now more than $74 million.
There is a growing list of Indonesian financial tech startups, including Modalku, KoinWorks and Kredivo, that focus on consumer and small business financing, while larger and more diversified tech companies like Gojek and Grab are working their own online payment tools and other services. Payfazz differentiates with a portfolio of mobile services that make it easier for Indonesians to handle routine financial tasks, including bill payments and loans, even if they live in rural areas without banks. The company says it currently serves 10 million monthly active users, and plans to expand its offerings to include more digital financial products.
Founded in 2016 by Hendra Kwik, Jefriyanto and Ricky Winata, Payfazz is an alum of Y Combinator’s accelerator program.
The company uses a network of financial agents to reach customers because many banks don’t open branches in rural areas, Kwik told TechCrunch. “Due to high fixed costs, traditional banks find it economical to operate only in cities and urban areas with high density and foot traffic,” he said. “This leaves a huge unfulfilled and underserved banking need in rural areas where banking access is very difficult.”
Payfazz’s network currently includes about 250,000 agents, most of whom are located in small stores. Users deposit cash with the agents, who serve as go-betweens with banks. This allows Payfazz’s users to have a balance they can use to pay phone, electricity and other bills. Payfazz also recently launched loans and payments for offline retailers.
Kwik said Payfazz built an agent network because even though smartphone penetration is high in Indonesia, many people haven’t used direct digital banking services before, so talking to a Payfazz agent helps familiarize them with the process. Since most of its agents are based out of warung or kirana stores, or neighborhood shops that sell food and other necessities, they are easier for people in rural areas and small towns to access than banks, ATM machines or convenience store chains.
“Our agents are small businesses and people who have lots of traffic from rural areas’ populations in their places. It can be warung and kirana stores, telco stores, small restaurants or even someone’s house,” Kwik said. “They are the perfect profile to become our agents because they’re ubiquitously distributed and have high coverage in rural areas.”
He added that Payfazz also gives agents an opportunity to earn extra income. Payfazz takes a 0.5% to 1% commission on every transaction, and agents are allowed to set the margins they charge customers for transactions, usually between 5% to 9%. Before signing on an agent, Payfazz screens them using KYC (“know your customer”) and verification technology to gauge trustiworthiness, traffic and sales potential.
While Grab Financial and other Southeast Asian fintech companies may eventually become Payfazz’s competitors, Kwik said he currently sees them as potential partners.
“The reason is simply because most of these providers still focus their market and resources in the cities and urban areas, like many of the traditional banks. Meanwhile Payfazz focuses all its market and resources in rural areas,” he added. “Payfazz can help other banks and financial service providers to expand their reach to rural areas and capture hundreds of millions of users and billions of dollars of revenue opportunity there.”
In a statement about the funding, Insignia Ventures founding managing partner Yinglan Tan said “We have been privileged to have supported Payfazz since their early days. We believe that this path to taking their fintech ecosystem from Indonesia to the rest of the region will meet the pressing needs of many more of Southeast Asia’s digital consumers, and are excited to see how Hendra and the Payfazz team will build on top of the portfolio of services that millions of Indonesians are already using.”