The PaperKing app helps newspaper vendors manage their customer records, generate bills, keep record of cash collection and collect payments online.
In the age of 24/7 news, the traditional newspaper still finds favour in most Indian households today. There’s a lot that goes on in the wee hours every morning to ensure newspapers reach your doorstep just in time for you to take in what is happening around you over that hot cuppa.
However, managing this process smoothly is quite the challenge for newspaper vendors. Looking at the problems faced by them, Neeraj Tiwari was motivated to find a solution. He decided to automate the system to make the vendors more efficient and earn more.
PaperKing was thus launched in 2016 in Mumbai to help newspaper vendors take their business online.
The PaperKing app helps vendors manage their customers’ records, generate thousands of bills in seconds, keep record of the cash collected and collect payments online. The app is a one-stop solution for them to carry on all of their business-related activities.
Today, the app has close to over 3,000 newspaper vendors connected to it. More than 50 lakh bills are sent through the PaperKing app, with 1.5 lakh households using it at present.
In 2015, before leaving to Dubai for work, Neeraj met his newspaper vendor to clear his subscription dues and asked him about his monthly collection.
“I was surprised when the vendor said Rs 3 lakh. But he was able to collect only 40-50 percent of the money as he had to manually visit every house,” says Neeraj. Hence, Neeraj decided to help them.
A management graduate in finance from Mumbai University, Neeraj Tiwari previously worked with Kotak Securities and moved to research and was writing for www.myiris.com. His interest in the Internet, web technologies and software led him to set up TNetwork Solutions, a website and a software development company in 2009.
Neeraj was joined by Ritesh Raghuvanshi and Dev Pandey as co-founders in 2018.
PaperKing, which is currently available in English, Hindi and Marathi, is an offshoot of TNetwork Technologies.
Today, PaperKing covers nearly 35 percent of the market in Mumbai. Most of its vendors are in Thane, Navi Mumbai and Andheri. A team of five, the company has tied up with six agencies and publishers to automate its system.
“Initially, most of the vendors did not accept us as the app system was new for them. But things improved when we changed the whole app, positing it as a management app for newspaper vendors and online payment being a part of it,” explains Neeraj.
How does the product work?
The vendor has to add all his customers and their contact details in the PaperKing app and then allocate papers and magazines to each customer as per their request.
On the first day of every month, the app does a survey of the current market price of newspapers and magazines and calculates the bill amount that needs to be generated for a particular customer. It then generates a bill within 10 seconds and the customer will receive the bill through an SMS and email. Hence, this eliminates the manual billing process and payment collection for the vendors.
The customer will then receive a message displaying their due bill amount and an online link to make the payment.
The PaperKing app is designed to update itself automatically from whichever source the payment is coming from.
PaperKing uses third-party merchant gateway to collect payment from customers. Customers can pay via net banking, debit card, credit card, UPI and also through payment wallets.
The customers are charged for using the app every month. Apart from this, the company earns through TDR (Transaction Discount Rate) on online payment, by taking two percent of the funds before sending it to the vendors, and through SaaS-based advertising model that charges agencies and publishers.
The market and funding
Neeraj says the newspaper industry is an untapped one for digital payments.
“There are close to a million newspaper vendors and delivery boys and the industry handles around Rs 15,000 crore every year in India, and there is no medium to take this cash online,” adds Neeraj.
PaperKing has successfully solved their issues towards online payment, he says. It raised a seed fund of $100,000 in 2015 and is self-sustaining at present and is cash-positive. It also claims to have clocked close to $100,000 in revenue in 2017.
“I believe it is our knowledge and understanding of the industry and investing more than Rs 1 crore in product development, building the app and meeting these vendors that has helped us scale. The partnerships we have with newspaper publishers is also helping us grow,” says Neeraj.
Startups like Goodbox, Yellow Messenger and Lookup also offer similar services by providing an online platform for small vendors and businesses by helping them connect with their customers through their app.
PaperKing’s current focus is on vendor acquisition and connecting these vendors with agencies and publishers, while launching its product features. The company wants to tap a million newspaper vendors in the next 10 years. The company aims to add 30 million households and around one lakh vendors on its platform by 2019.
The team is also looking to raise up to $1 million in the coming months to expand to five other metros in India.