Indian carrier Airtel, supported by Google, launches a credit card

Airtel on Monday announced it is launching a credit card, the Google-backed Indian telecom operator’s latest attempt to make inroads into financial services as it seeks to expand its offerings in the second-biggest internet market. in the world.

The network, run by billionaire Sunil Mittal, said it has signed a strategic partnership with Axis Bank, the country’s third-largest private-sector bank, to co-launch what they describe as a “first-of-its-kind” credit card. “. .

Airtel Axis Bank Credit Card will provide customers with pre-approved instant loans and buy-it-now-pay-later offers and reward them for paying bills for Airtel services and transacting on Airtel’s app, both said.

The card, which will only be made available to Airtel subscribers, aims to reach customers in small Indian towns, they said. Airtel has over 340 million subscribers in India.

As part of the partnership, Axis Bank will start using Airtel’s C-PaaS platform – the telecommunications suite that includes services such as streaming, call masking and contact center solutions – as well as “miscellaneous” cybersecurity services. The two will also explore collaboration between cloud and data center services, they said.

It is not the first time that Airtel has tried to get into financial services, a fast-growing sector which has also caught the eye of billionaire rival Mukesh Ambani’s Jio platforms – and achieved a level of success. similar.

Indian telecommunications operator Airtel has launched a credit card

Airtel operates a digital payments bank, which is struggling to break into the market. The company, which has also pushed to expand its premium offerings in recent years to improve its ARPU (revenue per user), approached Paytm two years ago to explore offloading payment activity, according to three sources close to the company. case.

The Indian credit card market is very underserved. There are less than 30 million Indians with a credit card even though nearly a billion bank accounts exist in the country.

Dozens of startups, including Tiger Global-backed Slice and OneCard, backed by Sequoia Capital India, are trying to bring credit card functionality to more Indians. Many big companies, including Flipkart and Amazon, as well as ride-sharing startup Ola, have also launched co-branded credit cards for their respective clients. (OneCard is in talks to raise capital from Singapore’s Temasek in a round expected to values ​​the Pune-based startup at over $1 billionTechCrunch reported last month.)

“Common credit card deals like this are all about leveraging the distribution of the partner, which in this case, is Airtel. Airtel has a large base of premium users, which has become even stronger due to Vi’s loss of market share,” said Himanshu Gupta, a veteran fintech executive.

“If a user, after taking their card, makes it their primary form of payment for most of their purchases elsewhere, there is also potential to derive revenue from interchange fees and late fees. expect this card to be a hit.”

But that success, he said, will require overcoming several challenges.

“The challenge for bank partnership credit cards like Airtel-Axis is that banks’ credit card stacks are relatively old and not very flexible for the needs of the younger generation. And although Airtel has a wide user base, it has a very limited area in a user’s lifetime since most users probably come to the Airtel Thanks app once every 3 months to do their prepaid recharges.

“So in reality, Airtel has only a limited opportunity to sell such products. New fintech card startups today are able to create more consumer-oriented products and use marketing smarter to acquire users that aren’t usually great for banks or telcos.

Monday’s announcement follows Google’s disclosure earlier this year that it invest up to $1 billion in Airtel and working with the carrier to develop “innovative affordability programs” to explore partnerships with smartphone makers to produce affordable handsets.

“Airtel is building a formidable portfolio of financial services as part of its efforts to deliver world-class digital services to its customers,” Gopal Vittal, Managing Director and Managing Director of Bharti Airtel India and South Asia, said in a statement. .

“We are delighted to partner with Axis Bank on this exciting adventure. Through this win-win telco-bank partnership, Airtel customers will have access to Axis Bank’s world-class financial services portfolio and exclusive benefits, while Axis Bank will benefit from Airtel’s strong digital capabilities and of its wide range of distribution.

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