Grab acquires Indian payments start-up iKaaz

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New Delhi: SoftBank-backed Grab, Uber’s biggest competitor in Southeast Asian markets—chiefly Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia—has acquired Bengaluru-based software start-up iKaaz, whose mobile payments solution will be integrated with Grab’s own payments platform.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The team at iKaaz will join Grab’s Bengaluru research centre to work on “feature development and partner integration of GrabPay, Grab’s payments platform,” Grab said on Wednesday. Grab does not offer ride-hailing services in India.

“iKaaz’s technology was built to work in India’s challenging internet conditions and enable effortless and fast payments for thousands of merchants… This flexibility and scalability make it ideally suited for Southeast Asia’s diverse payments landscape and large unbanked population,” Grab said.

iKaaz offers an NFC-based (near field communication) mobile payments platform.

The tap-and-pay solution works through the company’s point-of-sale (PoS) terminals and mobile app called Mowa, which doubles up as a mobile wallet for peer-to-peer and peer-to-merchant transactions. iKaaz’s clients include Café Coffee Day, Domino’s, Subway, More, Chai Point, among others.

The venture was started in 2012 by Soma Sundaram, who held senior engineering roles at Nokia Money and Obopay, a California-based mobile payments start-up firm.

The acquisition comes as Grab, which raised $2 billion from SoftBank and Chinese ride-hailing firm Didi Chuxing last July, focuses on strategic investments and, according to Bloomberg, has formed a team led by president Ming Maa and chief executive Anthony Tan to spearhead the effort.

Maa joined Grab from SoftBank Group Corp., where he led investments in ridesharing and e-commerce companies, in October 2016.

Grab has been working on GrabPay, its indigenous payments platform similar to Ola Money, since 2016. In April, it acquired Indonesian mobile payments start-up Kudo for an estimated $100 million to develop the payments piece with an initial focus on Indonesia, TechCrunch reported.

“iKaaz’ technology has served merchants and partners across different industries and in different settings, from parking lots and airports to retail stores and hotels. This rich set of offline payments feature offers the flexibility needed to tailor our GrabPay platform to each country and partner in Southeast Asia. We look forward to leveraging the expertise of iKaaz’ leadership team and build GrabPay into SEA’s universal payments platform together,” said GrabPay’s Southeast Asia managing director Jason Thompson in a statement.

Last year, Grab announced six research and development centres in locations including Singapore, Beijing and Bengaluru. The Bengaluru centre has 75 engineers working solely on payments services.

“Since its opening in March 2017, the Grab Bengaluru R&D centre has been intimately involved with the growth and development of the GrabPay platform, from the launch of the updated GrabRewards, Southeast Asia’s largest loyalty programme, to GrabPay’s peer-to-peer fund transfer service as well as the GrabPay payments feature enabling payments in restaurant and shops,” Grab said in response to a query.

Grab, which was valued at $6 billion in its latest round, is backed by Tiger Global Management and car makers Hyundai and Toyota, among others. It operates in Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and Cambodia.livemint