Stripe Inc, the San Francisco-based payment solution unicorn, went under the radar after it hired its country head, last year. But the company is now working towards a limited roll-out of its services to a few users on an invite-only basis. The limited launch is expected in a few weeks, said three sources who are aware of the development.
Stripe said that it did not wish to comment on this.
Valued at $9 billion, Stripe has a two-member team based in Bengaluru. Both former senior Amazon executives, Anand Balaji and Ashwin Bhatnagar, have been setting up Stripe’s India business over the last year. It is also looking to hire another person in Bengaluru to drive partnerships with banks, payment networks and others in the ecosystem, according to its career site.
The seven-year-old payment unicorn’s claim to fame in the US was its fast-food approach to help businesses accept payments. One could just slap its code onto a website to start charging customers. In 10 minutes, flat. “It is like a McDonald’s burger. All the ingredients are ready, and it just has to be put together,” said a Bengaluru-based developer at a payment gateway company.
This made it a hit among developers as it addressed two big pain points: The ambiguity involved in the integration and the many business days it took to do it. Getting the developers’ attention also meant that the word spread to startups, which banked on the tech skills of their developers.
Sources say Stripe will consider adopting a similar strategy to tap developers and startups in India. The limited or closed beta launch is a crucial stage for the company as it would know in real time if it’s able to meet the local standards.
Usually, this is followed by a public beta where it’s possible for all the merchants to use the gateway. But only a limited set of features are made available. It continues in public beta until it’s able to offer its entire stack of features in a country. Only after that does it go fully live. Of the 25 countries Stripe is present in, it is in public beta in 12, according to its website.
The company likes to take its time. In countries like Japan, it was in beta for a year, before it went live. Going fully live in India, too, could take a few months.
That’s because the Indian payments market is like no other, and its quirks are many. You can pay in more than five different ways. Then there is the dreaded two-factor authentication (2FA) that all these payment methods need. Indian merchants also want 24/7 support, something that Stripe does not provide. And running a payment gateway business in India almost always means it’s a price war.