Who doesn’t know about foreign exchange market. It is unprecedented and unparalleled aspect of the economy which is so gigantic that it needs no introduction. It is the backbone of the economy because if it fails to provide its services for one day the entire economy would come down to its knees.
Today we are in talk with the CEO of ExTravelMoney.Com, George Zachariah who brought the hassle of foreign exchange to an end by making it available just a click away.
Extravelmoney is a venture which is not just and an online forex aggregator but is an active marketplace for the customers to compare and buy forex and for agents to tap new clients. They have revolutionized the way people buy forex and authorized dealers find customers because they believe that with passion and audacity they can change the way people look at forex market.
Henry rollins says ” now and then, someone is able to look at an empty space, conclude it would be a great place to start a revolution, and bravely go forward” this is exactly what happened in the case of extravelmoney. In our conversation with Mr. George we discovered that all this started in just a by-chance meeting which I would rather mention as a fortunate meeting because it brought them to this heights and they aim at providing online foreign exchange services facilitating easy, quick and cost effective forex to the entire world right on their screens.
After speaking with Mr. George I realized that one can grow constantly if one stays grounded even after achieving great success. He is a man of extra ordinary acumen and knowledge with a humble tone and vigorous attitude. Know more about the interesting journey of Extravelmoney and George by reading the following interview.
1. What is the Name of Your Venture? Any specific reason for this name?
The name of our venture is ExTravelMoney. We derived the name from the phrase “Exchange your travel money” which is one of the main things we do. But some people started reading it as Extra-travel-money. At first we used to try and correct people. Now we don’t, because it actually conveys the idea better.
We offer money exchange and forex cards for travelers and students going abroad. We also offer the facility to compare different banks and money changers for money transfer abroad. We help students/parents and other customers transfer money abroad for paying tuition fee in university abroad or paying maintenance / medical expenses of their loved ones abroad.
2. Who is your target Audience/clients?
Our clients mainly consists of ;
- Travelers going abroad for leisure
- Travelers going abroad for business
- Students going abroad for higher studies
- Parents/Relatives of students going abroad for higher studies
- Parents/Relatives of NRIs working abroad
- People going abroad for medical treatment etc.
Basically any person looking to do money exchange, buy forex card or transfer money abroad.
3. Where is your venture based (city, state, country) & What are your geographical target areas?
ExTravelMoney is based in Kochi. Currently, ExTravelMoney serves pan India and we have more than 4500+ forex stores tied-up in our platform, spread all over India. In the future, we are planning to expand our business and provide our services abroad too, starting with the middle east.
4. What problems does your venture resolve? What are your products or services?
In a sentence, ExTravelMoney can be described as an online forex aggregator and marketplace where customers can compare and buy forex services offered by different banks and money changers in India.
Buying forex in India has traditionally been limited to brick and mortar businesses. If the aim is to buy foreign exchange at the best available exchange rate, a person would need to physically visit each bank or money changer store in their locality and enquire about the exchange rates and service costs of buying forex. If not physically, they’d have to enquire by means of making at least a dozen phone calls. This is a time consuming and effort intensive process. Also, forex has become a monopoly. Banks and money changers charge anywhere between 2.5% to 3.5%. Forex stores at airports charge 16% to 18% on money exchange, keeping forex costly!
To solve this problem of costly, monopolized and not easily accessible forex services, ExTravelMoney is breaking the mould on how customers buy forex. For buying forex at the best exchange rate with low service charges, no need to conform to the time consuming process mentioned above. Simply visit ExTravelMoney.com, compare foreign exchange rates offered by banks and exchange houses in your area and book the service online at the guaranteed rate. It’s that simple!
5. Share the idea or story behind the venture. How did it came to an existence? What motivated you to start your own venture?
For quite some time, George had the idea of taking forex online with a tech based solution. A chance of meeting between George and the folks at Veeble during a local business meet up led to the initial exchange of ideas between them. The financial expertise of George and the tech backing from Veeble along with the immense market potential for an online forex platform convinced the team of a good opportunity to bring about disruption in the forex market. Thus the idea for ExTravelMoney was born.
6. Who are your biggest competitors and how do you differentiate yourself from them?
Our competitors are :
These are the features of ExTravelMoney that differentiates it from competitors;
- Forex Comparison – Customers can compare exchange rates of forex services offered by forex centres near them on the basis of exchange rates, location and customer ratings. The best forex service can then be booked online.
- Marketplace Model – Our online platform is designed as an open marketplace. That is, when customers search for forex services, only those money changers offering the best exchange rates and service get chosen more often by customers. This directly results in competition between money changers to grab customers and thus leading to competitive exchange rate offers.
- Best Forex Rates – We have a special agreement with money changers to provide forex services at wholesale exchange for customers booking forex through ExTravelMoney.
- Maximum Forex Stores – ExTravelMoney has tied-up with 20 money changers including Muthoot Forex, UAE Exchange, Cox & Kings and Orient Exchange. Currently, we have more than 6000+ forex stores spread across many towns and cities in India.
Any person with a phone and an internet connection can easily order forex from ExTravelMoney. We have an app in both Android and iOS in addition to our Web portal.
- Rate Alerts – Customers using ExTravelMoney can set alerts so that they can be notified when a currency they are interested in buying reaches an exchange rate value set by them.
- Locked-in Exchange Rates – When booking a forex order the exchange rate at a which customers have booked the order will be valid for them for a specific period of time. They can further lock the quoted exchange rate for a maximum of upto 2 days by paying a refundable rate lock fee.
- Home Delivery Of Forex – We offer door pickup/delivery services for forex via our partner exchange houses. For example if a customer orders currency exchange, the exchange can be made from the comfort of their home or office without needing to visit the forex vendor. The requested currency will be delivered by the chosen forex outlet after payment to them via net banking.
- B2B Platform (Agent Portal) – It is a portal for agents working in the travel, service and study abroad sector. Agents can sign up with ExTravelMoney and they would be provided with a customized back-end account. They can place forex orders in place of others using their agent account and even input their own profit margins into the transaction. For bringing leads to us, they get to share the profits that they themselves decide.
7. How did you identify your co-founder? Tell us something about your co-founder/s
ExTravelMoney has 3 co founders, George Zachariah serves as the CEO, Ashwin Narasimha as CTO and Nisanth Issac as CMO.
George Zachariah, CEO
14+ years of banking experience with a consistent history of leadership, driving sales and successful operational management in retail foreign exchange and remittance space. Worked with Reliance Capital, Centurion Bank of Punjab, after which he founded Finex Forex.
Ashwin Narasimha, CTO
6+ Years of experience in IT, including web development, server administration, Enterprise architecture, Software development. Previously co-founded Veeble Softtech, a web infrastructure management company with a client base across 130 countries.
Nisanth Issac, CMO
5+ years of business development and digital marketing experience. Knowledgeable in planning, developing and implementing effective marketing campaigns. Well versed with Google analytics and attuned to changing trends in marketing and SEO.
8. How did you hire your first team members? What skills Do you want in your employees/team?
The single most important thing we focus on while hiring a candidate is their personality and attitude. More than college degrees and other certifications, this is what we look for ;
- Growth Mindset – Candidates who want to get better, learn more, and intentionally increase their capacity for achievement.
- Enthusiasm – Candidates who are enthusiastic and passionate about the work they do. Who have infectious enthusiasm. The kind of people who, even during off hours, are constantly looking for ways to improve upon their work.
- Accountability – We give our team members freedom to achieve results the way they like as long as it aligns with the companies values. We abhor the strategy of micro-managing team members. Thus, we look for candidates who assume responsibility for the work they do. Who assume responsibilities for their results or lack thereof. Shifting the blame is a not a part of our work culture.
9. What expansion plans are you looking for the next 2 years, next 5 years?
With more than 23 money exchange houses on board and 6500+ forex stores across India currently, we are planning to rope in more money changers and banks to the platform. Forex is a universal necessity. Around 700 billion dollars were sent overseas between family and friends according to an estimate by the World Bank. Thus we are also looking to expand into markets abroad within a span of 2 years. We are targeting Southeast Asia first where we have a major customer base in the form of huge volume of students and travelers going abroad.
Within 5 years, we hope to establish operations in the Middle East, Europe and the US.
10. Where do you want to see yourself in next 10 years?
We want to be the one stop shop for forex and all the steps we have in our 2 year plan and 5 year plan are steps in that direction. Eventually we wish to facilitate low cost forex services for people all over the world.
11. What are your goals over the next 1, 3, 6 and 12 months?
Within a span of the next 1 year, we are looking to sustain our sales growth at a minimum of 25% month-on-month. Also, we are aiming to increase the number of forex stores in our platform to a total of 7500+, including, in many tier-II and tier-III cities.
12. Have you raised any funding? Or have any plans for the funding?
We have received seed funding of Rs. 25 lakhs from the Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation(KSIDC).
We are actively looking for funding to increase our marketing reach to more customers online.
13. What were the problems you faced during the starting days and how did you resolve them?
A problem that we faced during the initial days of launching our startup was people were not aware of our online platform to compare and buy forex services as there existed a big forex black market.
The demonetization drive helped a lot in this regard as it curbed the forex black market and more people discovered ExTravelMoney as they searched online for a forex solution. Our traffic grew organically, and we could reduce our marketing expenditure significantly.
ExTravelMoney saw a growth of nearly 300% in visitors as people were searching for legitimate ways to buy foreign currencies online. The demonetization drive also curbed unauthorized foreign exchange activities and brought in more forex transactions under legal purview, benefitting ExTravelMoney.
14. What was the most challenging part of your journey till now? How did you overcome those challenges?
One of our main challenges was of ensuring competitive rates from forex vendors in ExTravelmoney for customers. For this, we came up with a novel solution, i.e, our
Marketplace Model. Simply put, when customer select their forex service, they are shown
the rates quoted by money changers and banks near them. Usually a customer will go for
the service which costs less and thus only the money changer offering the best rates would
benefit more. This leads to competition between money changers to grab customers thus
driving the rates down.
15. What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
Our team believes in the philosophy of working hard but at the same time taking the time to celebrate our victories. Our team outings are usually fun filled trips to either the beach or the mountains, relaxing in the lap of nature and celebrating important milestones in our journey. Apart from that, all our founders follow the news closely and keep themselves up-to-date, especially about the latest news and technology implementations in the financial world.
16. Whom do you consider your idol or biggest motivator?
For me Jack Ma, Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Dalai Lama give me all the motivation I need to get out of tough spots.
17. What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?
Entrepreneurs are like the architects who envision a dream and employees are the engineers who make this dream come into reality. At ExTravelMoney, the lines between both entrepreneurs and employees are thin and blurred. We are co-entrepreneurs, all of us dreaming and working towards a hassle free forex platform, brining easy forex to the masses.
18. If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
I am Not looking to start my career over again. No regrets career-wise. My diverse background in the finance industry has enabled me to gain many unique insights into the problems plaguing the industry. To solve a problem that many people are facing in the finance industry is one of my career and entrepreneurial dreams. Focusing on the forex industry through ExTravelMoney is part of that plan. This is exactly where I want to be.
19. How has being an entrepreneur affected your family & Social life?
There is a marked difference in family and social life as an entrepreneur compared to being an employee. While the time spent with family and for social gathering has diminished on the whole, the quality of time spent has improved a lot. Family members understand and back us up in tough times. A loving and understanding family has been a very big blessing for us in our otherwise hard entrepreneurial journey. Their support makes us run the extra mile!
20. Anything, you would like to say to our readers or upcoming entrepreneurs?
If you have a dream which you want to make reality, then don’t let the fear of failure stop you. It’s better to create and fail than to have not created at all.
21. Tell us something about your education & family background.
I am George Zacharia and I was Born in 1982 in Kuttanad (Alleppey) into an Agrarian Family.
I did my schooling in Sacred Heart Boys School (1998) & later graduated from SB College Changanacherry (1998-2003). Successfully completed MBA Post-Graduation Distant Education Program from Vinayaka Mission, Selam in 2007.
My career began in 2003 as a Junior Officer at UAE Exchange & Financial Services Ltd; Foreign Exchange Department as a Banknote Dealer and later served Centurion Bank of Punjab Ltd as Relationship Manager FES till 2007; then served Reliance Capital Ltd as State Manager-Forex Sales till 2011 & joined Ahmadabad based Green Channel Travel Services an AD II Category Dealer as the Area Manager for Kerala in Wholesale & Retail Foreign Exchange Services.
In 2012 I took in-charge of Finex Forex & Equity Services Pvt Ltd as Managing Director at the Age of 30. As a Full Fledged Money Changer, I used to Buy and Sell foreign currencies, Travel Cards & serving money transfer customers.
In 2015, I founded Extravelmoney Technosol Pvt Ltd as an innovative technology start-up in the fintech space to completely transform the way Indians do foreign exchange transactions.
I am happily married and blessed with 3 daughters. I love to spend most of my leisure time with family engaging in farming on weekends at my farm house in Kuttanad. I love music, movies, and long drives. I have genuine interests in photography and as a nature lover hold a strong opinion on environmental and social issues.
22. What is your USP which makes it unique & different from other startups in similar domains.
We are not just an aggregator, we are much more than an aggregator and a forex marketplace. We give support to both customers and vendors.
For customers, we are a way to search for and book the best forex rates in their locality from the comfort of their homes. All forex related processes like rate enquiry, order booking, KYC sharing, ease of payment with different payment methods, quality customer support etc are available under one umbrella. We educate the customers & help them to complete a foreign exchange/remittance transaction within the limits prescribed by RBI & FEMA rules.
For vendors, we are an easy and cost-effective solution for customer acquisition. Traditionally, the cost of acquisition of customers is very high for forex vendors. By signing up with ExTravelMoney, this cost becomes next to nil and they don’t need to bother about advertising and bringing in customers as our platform becomes an easy customer acquisition avenue for them. Forex vendors also get the benefit of having a useful backend platform where we share insights & analytics tools such as their sales per month, cancellation reasons, updating the status of an order, and profitability etc. Vendors enjoy these advantages for just a small fee to ExTravelMoney per transaction completed through the portal. Vendors are quoting a rate directly to the customers by the help of a secured dashboard login. No extra markups are being charged to customers on the rates or in the transaction fees.
Additionally, ExTravelMoney has roped in hotels, travel agencies and education consultants to their B2B platform, “Agent Portal”. In this programme, members of the travel industry were sought out to be forex agents with extravelmoney.com. They can order forex online in lieu of travelers and students going abroad and thus arrange forex for them instantly and easily at the best market rates.
The quality of service & the latest technology solution to vendors differentiates us from our competitors
23. What do you think is the biggest threat to the success of small businesses & Start-ups today?
I think the regulatory framework is the no. 1 threat to small businesses. Tax regulations, limited number of loans, marketing restrictions, are the main reason for small businneses to fail.
24. Do you consider yourself successful and by what means do you measure success?
Yes, with respect to ExTravelMoney for all practical purposes and intents. Here’s a list of achievements to back up the claim :
- ExTravelMoney launched with 3 money changers on board and 2000+ forex stores.
- Currently signed up with more than 23 money changers including Thomas Cook, Muthoot Forex, UAE Exchange, Cox & Kings and Orient Exchange.
- More than 6500+ forex stores spread across many major cities and towns in India.
- More than 15,000+ customers served till date
- More than 20,000+ transactions carried out till date amounting up to a transaction volume of Rs 87 Crores.
- Winners of Hot100 Technology Awards by Amazon & Microsoft Ventures
- Selected for NASSCOM 10K StartUp programme – 2016
- CISAT – Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam StartUp Award (FinTech) – 2016
- Finalists of India FinTech Awards, 2016
- Winner, “IT Startup of the Year” category, KMA-NASSCOM IT Awards 2017
- Winner “Best Emerging Startup in Kerala” by Project Management Institute of Kerala (PMI Kerala) – 2018
We evaluate success based on not only our work, but the work of our team. The team needs to achieve both their individual and team goals. Success is also measured by the quantifiable results of the work done.
ExTravelMoney Technosol Pvt. Ltd.
#28-B, Infopark TBC,
Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kaloor,
Kochi – 682017
Phone : 0484-2886900
Email ID : [email protected]
Contact Person :
Nisanth V Issac
Chief Marketing Officer
Phone : +91-9496329229