Indian fintechs amplify sound box pitches to woo merchants


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Some of India’s biggest fintech startups are making deeper inroads into sound boxes, unveiling new push to the pocket-sized devices whose chimes are fast becoming the new ‘ka-ching’ for millions of Indian merchants.

Paytm, whose soundbox leads the market and is used by over 7 million merchants, launched an advanced version of the device that doubles as a card machine, accepting offerings from Rupay, Visa, Mastercard and American Express.

Even with a 30-year presence of cards in the South Asian market, a mere 4 million shops entertain them. In contrast, sound boxes have already made their mark in 8.5 million stores and are on a rapid ascent.

Paytm said its new sound box, which is priced at 999 Indian rupees ($12), features a 2,600mAh battery that will allow the device to last for up to 5 days on a single charge.

The sound box, whose bill of materials cost less than $20, is rapidly becoming an emblem of digital transactions in various Indian retail settings. Its audible confirmation feature is particularly popular in marketplaces and cacophonous street corners, instilling trust and confidence in both sellers and buyers regarding payments transactions.

Moreover, the sound box has evolved into a lucrative subscription model over time as companies like Paytm and the Walmart-backed PhonePe impose nominal subscription charges on merchants. The real allure of the sound box extends beyond its auditory alerts — it provides invaluable insights into merchant behaviors, facilitating the offering of loans based on this data.

The all-in-one Soundbox will “propel payments and consumer choice to the next level,” said Rishi Chhabra, VP and Head of Merchants Sales at Visa, at a press conference Monday.

“Paytm has always been at the forefront of innovating for India’s small businesses, solving their payments and financial services problems,” said Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder and chief executive of Paytm. “Today with Paytm Card Soundbox, we take it to the next level. We have found that merchants and consumers need card acceptance as simply as mobile payments with Paytm QR Code. ”

The push makes Paytm’s card offering more compelling to fight point of sale machine offerings from Pine Labs and Razorpay.

Pine Labs, backed by Peak XV and Fidelity, also launched an upgraded version of its POS machine, adding the sound box alert system. The startup said its new device costs a third of standard terminal machines.

PhonePe, a rival to Paytm, also unveiled an update to its sound box, saying merchants can now receiving the notification in the voice of Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan.

Reliance, India’s largest firm, is also testing a sound box at its campus, TechCrunch reported earlier.

More to follow.

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