It’s been three years since we launched Khalti – a digital wallet and payment gateway – in the Nepalese market. Looking back on this day, we are feeling nostalgic, proud and humble at the same time. On this occasion, we want to share with you the paths we walked through, the journey we covered, and our dreams and ambitions for digitizing all kinds of payments in Nepal and building a well-integrated economy.
How it started, “Khalti” – The Name:
We vividly remember how the entire team was confused about choosing the right name for the product. We were then running Sparrow SMS and pertinently thought the name could be Sparrow Pay, but later we felt something was missing. We wanted names that people could resonate with their daily lives and the power to spend. Finally, the name Khalti was coined after rejecting about 40 names. Once again today, we would like to thank all our users for accepting the name Khalti and showering us with love as a home-grown Nepali startup.
Prior to this big leap of launching Khalti, like any human would, we, the co-founders were in two minds, “Should we actually launch a wallet? It requires big pockets, a vision, grit, and power to turn around the financial market and we don’t have any. It is a competitive cash-burning business and many new market players, both national and international will join in. Telcos like NT & Ncell will potentially launch their e-wallets with their huge customer base. Can we even fight them?”
None of us could disagree on the fact that we had a great team and while the risk instilled some fear in our mind, the team’s relentless dedication to making a change, remained the motivation. It was time to aim high and take those anticipated risks. The co-founders worked hard to build the team and the product, brick by brick. Out of the four co-founders, two of them have been the solutions architect of the product bits by bits.
The Launch: 26th January 2017
We had already planned to launch Khalti during CAN Softech and Infotech 2017 and booked ticket’s backside Ads for the same, which was to start from Jan 26. The product was not fully ready and it was next to impossible to launch the product – Not to forget some of the toughest times in our personal lives that demanded priority. Regardless, the team climbed up the mountain in unison and prepared for the launch in enthusiasm.
We decided to work day and night & each one in the team didn’t go home for straight 15 days. We got eight sleeping bags in the office and booked two rooms in a nearby hotel. Defeating the natural sleep cycle and human needs, each member of the broader team worked hard with one destination in mind. Meals were either skipped or repeated in the office or nearby Thakali places – a big shout-out to all of you who achieved what seemed an impossible feat then. Your energy and perseverance have been the pillars of the company. We finally launched Khalti on Jan 26, with a mono-integration from NIBL (eBanking load).
We don’t know what is yet to come our way, but yes, the journey has been amazing. We conquered our fears & challenges and there has been no better learning ever. We will always be on it, in our best capacities. We will work hard until we reach every household in the country.
It’s been a roller coaster. We were new in the market. A wallet is not a standalone app, but heavily dependent on the tech ecosystem of BFIs (Banking & Financial Institutions) and Merchants. There is no unified payment system in Nepal and we have to integrate with each and every bank separately. No Banks trusted us as many wallets were mushrooming in the market. Users liked our product, but most users went away as they could not find their linked banks in the app. Also, we required some maturity before we targeted the unbanked.
Our Refer & Earn Campaign went viral. Many people signed up for Khalti but could not use it due to fewer ways to Load funds. It was a big learning experience for us.
As a startup, we struggled to get final approval from Nepal Rastra Bank. We didn’t have a full license and hence a lot of banks didn’t want to integrate Khalti. We got the license only a few months back in April 2019. Getting the License required 1.5 years of changes. It was a painful time for us. Thanks to the team who didn’t give up and worked tirelessly and passionately knowing there were bigger players and the users who supported us throughout. Finally, we got the license!
Now things started to change, a lot of banks started showing interest to integrate Khalti. This was exciting and challenging at the same time with different requirements for different banks.
We started to see some progress with this change in attitude for integration but we knew we still had a long way to go.
Currently, We have added some banks and many are in the pipeline. Within this fiscal year, we will have integrated almost all major banks and make Loading Funds easier for users. We would like to thank you for bearing with us during our journey.
Team & Space:
All we are or hope to be, we owe it to our amazing team. Without the team, we could never build a company like this or would have come so far.
We went from 20 people to 100 people in no time. When there was a world to worry about, we also struggled with the physical space and infrastructure that could match the growth.
We, the co-founders, believed in providing a congenial environment that would foster employee comfort and productivity. In parallel, it was also important that we do not burn ourselves financially. In our search for a larger space – we came across hurdles but none could stop us. Every small inch of the new office was crafted by the co-founders in-house with the help of hired contractors to save costs. The new space gleamed youth, exuberance, and perpetuity.
We always believed in building platforms and automation. We were the first Wallet in Nepal to launch the following
- Hotel Booking platform inside Wallet
- Movie ticketing (including seat selection) platform inside Wallet
- Event Ticketing Platform inside Wallet
- Khalti Bazaar, a hyperlocal platform, inside Wallet
- Smart School, a platform for School Fee Payment
- SmartChhori in-app learning & task platform
We also built Voting, Flight Ticketing platforms inside Khalti Wallet.
We are among the few companies in Nepal, who open-sourced Khalti API docs. Anyone can test Khalti integration without consulting us. We are thankful to all the tech communities in Nepal for your wonderful suggestions and contribution to this.
Awards & Honors:
Another Milestone for us came up when Khalti (Nepal) won Google’s Global Storytelling Award among hundreds of applications worldwide.
Our team was invited to Google Headquarters in San Francisco and it was amazing to get mentorship from Google Payments Team.
We got to learn a lot about user experience and scale here and we’re proud to represent Nepal in the global arena. Furthermore, the Google team flew to Nepal to shoot a video for Khalti.
UNCDF MSME Fintech Innovation Award:
A few months back, Khalti also won the United Nations MSME Fintech Innovation fund in collaboration with Sabah. Sabah works with 3500+ home-based women workers and procures goods & services from these women. We are now training these women about digital financial services so that they can receive wages easily, save money and invest for higher returns.
Our #DigitalBirgunj Campaign to train 100+ Homemakers Women in 2017 got a lot of appreciation. It was our first step for digital & financial empowerment for the underserved.
This led to the launch of the #SmartChhori campaign. An initiative to empower young girls in the Nation. We have a 51% female population in Nepal. Everyone is talking about Smart Cities. However, cities can’t be smart just by adding free Wi-Fi. We need empowered females to make the difference. Digital Financial Literacy is a must for the economic development of the Nation.
We also partnered with The Asia Foundation for digital financial literacy courses and tasks for Migrant Workers through the #Shuvayatra mobile app. Nepal formally receives $8.5 billion Remittance every year and it accounts for 30% of Nepal’s GDP.
Khalti has conducted several awareness and outreach campaigns promoting local startups, entrepreneurship, digital financial literacy, and women empowerment. We will continue to contribute to these in our best capacities.
The Way Forward:
We are very thankful to all the users for their continuous support and trust. Even during times of despair, you have been along our sides and helped us stay alive. We have received a lot of feedback from our users and our team will be working hard to make improvements. Nothing is above users for us. We always want to make the product user-centric. We will be adding more banks and other ways to load funds in Khalti in days to come along with some new & exciting services. We are upgrading our systems and support and we are expecting the work to be completed within February 2020 for a flawless user experience for all of our dear users.
We want to touch the lives of every Nepali by bringing access to Finance at fingertips. Khalti is not just a wallet. We will diversify into broader digital financial services to disrupt the financial sector in collaboration with Banking & Financial Institutions. We want to be an important contributor in moving things offline to online and change the way people transact.
Our users are the most important part of our goal. We are obliged to our users, partners and team for trusting in us and believing that we can make a meaningful difference.
Cheers to Khalti’s 3rd Anniversary and many more years ahead!