Fintech has been advancing in leaps and bounds in Malaysia over the last 10 years. Moving forward, the space is now shifting towards the concept of open banking. Curlec is a Malaysian startup that saw early signs of this growing trend and is bringing the services of a novel ‘subscription economy’ to local businesses of all scales. Co-Founder of Curlec, Zac Liew, describes the platform as, “A ‘No Code’ solution that enables any businesses to be in control of their cash flows which rely on recurring payment models.”
The simplicity of Curlec’s platform is what makes it so powerful as it enables businesses to enter the subscription economy with ease. Recognising its potential, Indian payment gateway provider Razorpay has acquired a majority stake in Curlec for an undisclosed amount. This acquisition marks the first international expansion into Southeast Asia by Razorpay, which is confident the move will allow businesses in India and Malaysia to expand globally.
How Curlec is helping businesses grow
Today, Curlec is used by hundreds of businesses across Malaysia. Amongst its clientele are Axiata Digital, Shell, AXA, Funding Societies, and more. At the outset of the company in 2018, the platform focused on helping small-scale brick-and-mortar enterprises such as gyms. It did so by facilitating direct debit transactions between them and their customers. “SMEs still face cash flow issues as a result of blocks in the collection of funds. By helping them implement a tech-based subscription system, Curlec takes control of this process and ensures the digital growth of its clients,” Zac explains.
With Curlec, businesses can quickly sign up and create subscriptions. All of these can then be managed and personalised as required. Furthermore, recurring invoices may be generated, customized, and sent off within a matter of seconds. Together with this, payments may be in fixed amounts, pay-as-you-go, or completely one-off, with no difference to the Curlec automated system.
Similar to settling payments from customers, Curlec has also been designed to also scale up the efficiency of the entire business by enabling automated payments to suppliers and other service providers. Zac also highlights that “The platform also maintains a full record of the status of all transactions and can be used to generate reports with its analytics tools for the vendor to make easier business decisions right from the Curlec dashboard.”
The journey of Curlec
Curlec was co-founded by Zac and Steve Kucia, who has now taken on the role of Chairman at the company. “Much like any startup, the biggest challenge we faced 4 years ago was raising funds,” Zac shared. But the startup secured backing from 500 Startups, Captii Ventures, and other investors and has come a long way. Since its founding, Curlec’s annual revenue has grown nearly 5x. Fast forward to the present, India’s leading Payments and Banking Platform, Razorpay has acquired Curlec as its first international acquisition.
Of course, it’s not always smooth sailing for innovators. A key challenge Curlec faced was educating the market. “Initially, many merchants were hesitant to onboard Curlec mainly due to a lack of awareness by customers on having funds pulled through means like Direct Debit,” Zac conveys. To allay these fears, Curlec partnered with established banks such as RHB, Citibank, and OCBC. Afterwards, it ensured several safeguards were put in place to ensure compliance with all regulations. “We have also conducted educational programs and handed out content like videos and cheat sheets to help our merchants convince their customers to make the switch to digital subscriptions,” he adds.
Advancing Fintech in Southeast Asia
The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the way businesses are run world-over. Companies in the traditional sense (especially the ones restricted to physical stores) have had a dramatic impact through the loss of customers. To Curlec, this meant that the platform was handed an opportunity on a silver platter to help these struggling companies with the introduction of digital payment schemes for their products and in turn growing the fintech space in Malaysia. Following the acquisition by Razorpay, the startup is focused on product development and expansion into neighbouring countries in the region.
Elaborating on the move, which is Razorpay’s first international expansion, Co-Founder and CEO of Razorpay, Harshil Mathur, said “With Curlec coming on board, we at Razorpay are really excited as we mark our first step towards expanding in the Southeast Asia region. With the vast experience in a heterogeneous market like India over the last seven years, our expansion to the Southeast Asia payments market is timed exactly to coincide with the company’s growing dominance in all things payments.”
Sharing his own thoughts, Zac conveyed, “We are incredibly excited to be combining forces with Harshil, Shashank and the Razorpay team. We look forward to the next phase of our journey and scaling together across Malaysia and Southeast Asia.”