Abid Hussain Barlaskar

Unboxing 'Junio', 'pocket money' app by former Paytm execs Shankar Nath and Ankit Gera

The co-founders open up about their new startup that enables digital transactions and financial education for kids.

How often do we see kids swiping cards, or punching OTPs, or scanning payment QR codes? Seldom. And when they do, they would be using the ones that belong to their parents. That’s because these services are primarily designed for adults.

However, Junio, a new fintech platform, is focused on addressing that need. The platform was recently launched by former Paytm hands Shankar Nath and Ankit Gera.

It is backed by investors, including Kunal Shah (Cred), Ashneer Grover (BharatPe), Yashish Dahiya (PolicyBazaar), Ashish Dave (Mirae), Ashish Sharma (InnoVen), Lalit Keshre (Groww), Deepak Abbot (Indiagold) and Pravin Jadhav (Raise).

In simple terms, Junio is a way for parents to pay pocket money to their kids, digitally. For kids, there are multiple payment instruments, like a card, UPI, QR code scanner, etc., which can be used to conduct transactions both online and offline.

Unboxing 'Junio', 'pocket money' app by former Paytm execs Shankar Nath and Ankit Gera

Parents can order a card on the Junio app for a subscription fee (currently Rs 99). The card resembles a debit card and works just like one, but without the hassles of opening a bank account. It can be recharged by parents.

Nath worked at Paytm for close to five years as its chief marketing officer before leaving the company in early 2019. Prior to this, he spent a couple of decades across brands in the FMCG and financial services space (GSK, ICICI Lombard, CITI Financial, etc.). His latest entrepreneurial stint comes after a sabbatical of two years.

Gera was also at Paytm with Nath. Gera moved to Paytm from Google as the head of user growth (in 2015). His role involved multiple facets of the brand like product, tech, marketing and customer support. He later joined Progcap, a B2B financing company, as its chief growth officer (in 2019).

Both the co-founders were at Paytm at the right time. It was around the time ‘Demonetisation’ happened, driving the adoption of digital payments through the roof. Brands in the space were laying down paths for the future of digital payments in India

Ankit Gera (L) and Shankar Nath
Ankit Gera (L) and Shankar Nath

Junio, as an idea, was conceived in October 2020. The platform was launched only a few months later, in March (2021). While the need for such a service was always there, Nath says that the shift in behaviour in the COVID months elevated it. He mentions that apart from e-learning and gaming, kids also took to making their own payments.

“The food that they were eating out also went to online ordering. A lot of the online transactions were being initiated by children, but the payment mechanism remained with the parents. For every transaction, the OTP would be with the parents. Kids did not have a dedicated payments instrument and this kind of intensified significantly,” he elaborates.

Apart from just the benefit of transactions, the platform also focuses on financial literacy, the basic concepts of earning and managing money. Parents can assign daily tasks, like household chores on the app, on completing which, they can award some money to their kids.

Unboxing 'Junio', 'pocket money' app by former Paytm execs Shankar Nath and Ankit Gera

“It increases interactivity, while also teaching the children the practical value of money and how difficult it is to earn. It is important that the kids are taught good financial behaviour a bit early. We are adding a lot of bells and whistles around the core payments instrument so that it is a lot more fun. Also, there has to be a reason for the users to keep coming back,” Nath adds.

"Our market is a subset of the edtech market."
Ankit Gera

Speaking about the TG, Gera says that it is a subset of edtech platform BYJU’s, and pegs the size at around 25 million users. “To start with, our market is a subset of that (edtech) market, where the children have access to smartphones and parents are comfortable with digital transactions.”

Gera explains that more than the TG, it is a bet on how kids will interact with money and smartphones in future.

He expects the usage to be concentrated in the metro/Tier-I cities, which currently have the most evolved digital payments ecosystem with high penetration of QR codes, card swipe machines, etc.

However, money, as a topic, has always been an adult business. And, it is the adults who make the decisions. Would they be the focus too?

Nath says that while the initiator is the parent, it doesn’t mean that the child doesn’t play a significant role. The task at hand is to convince the parents that Junio helps the children learn about money and promote desirable behaviour. For the kids, it saves them from relying on their parents’ phone or card.

The nine-member Junio team based in Delhi is prepping for the platform’s first ad campaign, while also putting together an iOS version of the app. The ad film will be inclined towards educating the parents about the key proposition, alongside the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ of the platform. The focus will initially be on digital platforms and could involve traditional media, co-promotions, etc., at a later stage.

"Junio is similar to FMCG products where the mom buys it because of her kid’s pester power."
Shankar Nath

“If it appeals to the parent and the child finds it boring, it doesn’t work. If the child is very interested and the parent doesn’t see value, they may not sign up. It is also similar to many FMCG products where the mom buys it because of her kid’s pester power,” Nath adds.

However, putting kids, digital transactions and payment cards in the same bucket raises serious concerns around user safety and security. Gera says that the chances of things going terribly wrong are pretty low since a prepaid card has a far lower exposure limit than that of debit or credit cards.

He mentions that apart from enforcing RBI guidelines, there will be regular communication to educate the user. Over that, the card can be enabled, or disabled by parents at will.

Junio joins a group of young fintech startups specifically targeting kids. The list includes players like Fampay, Walrus and Birdfin. While in-category competition is still not a concern, differentiation will be key to standing out.

Over that, there is a threat of existing fintech majors (like Paytm, PhonePe, etc.) jumping into the scene once it matures. This could push out the younger, smaller players.

Nath expects to have an upper hand, being an early mover and having vertical expertise. He mentions that the diverse interests of larger players could actually act as an advantage for a niche platform like Junio.

On the revenue front, subscription charges will form a significant chunk. This will be followed by charges on transactions. Nath hints that as the user base grows, the platform could include adtech capabilities and brand partnerships.

"With more and more digitally aware kids coming into the space, it holds significant promise."
Shankar Nath

“With more and more digitally aware kids coming into the space, it holds significant promise. It is almost like a greenfield at the moment. Also, there is a lot of investor interest, which provides more fuel for product development, distribution, marketing, etc.,” he signs off.

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