Ananth Reddy, Managing Director of Bangalore-based BuyForexOnline.com, elucidates the feasibility of buying foreign currency online and about the potential in this segment.
Idea behind the portal
I have been in the foreign exchange industry for 18 years now and I always thought that we could take this service online. Today, there are a lot of travel portals that help people buy their travel requirements online; I realised that forex was the only segment that was offline. So we launched Buyforexonline.com in late 2013 to complete the basket.
Being in the industry, I knew the market well; it was the technological aspects, domain name, etc. that we needed to focus on. At buyforexonline.com, customers can go online, see live rates and place the order and make the payment online. In the traditional forex industry, once you fix the rate, the next challenge is the payment. If one makes payment by cheque, it takes two days to clear and in those two days, the rates may fluctuate. So through our website, one can make the payment immediately, which means the rate you see is the rate you get.
In the foreign exchange service, some players happen to be bidding agents while others are lead aggregators who pass on leads to the bank where the customers pay the balance money and take the forex and those players get a refund of 2% on completion of order. Ours is purely an online portal wherein one can see and choose the rates based on requirements. We offer the best rate through cash and prepaid forex card. The currency rates change based on demand supply of the currency in the market.
We recommend taking the prepaid forex card which is electronic money that can be reloaded if you run out of currency; you can withdraw from any ATM abroad and it comes with a spare card that comes in handy should you lose the card during the travel.
As for competition, I foresee a revolution in this industry because 70% of this market is grey, unaccounted transactions. I think there is business for everybody due to lack of choices. We have positioned ourselves in a way so as to keep our service top notch.
All our transactions are account payments. There are no cash transactions and we constantly watch the RBI regulations. Our USP is transparency and convenience and we charge 0.5% for our services. This, we think, is highly reasonable compared to using your debit card because when you swipe your debit card, there are charges for foreign usage besides few other charges including cross conversion which amounts to anywhere between 8% – 11%. The local agents ask anywhere between 1.5% – 2%, then you have to bargain with them and take the currency, out of which some notes could be outdated while others could be fake. The forex centres in the airport charge between 15%- 18%.
In foreign exchange, there is a rate fixed by bank which cannot get lower than that, based on which we charge our margin and the maximum that you can levy 0.5%. Currency transactions depend on the market conditions and there could be days when you get close to the IBR rate.
We began our pan-India operations at one go but the challenge that we have been facing is creating the awareness among travellers that they can buy forex online. We have a tie-up with MakeMyTrip.com and get leads through them, apart from search engine optimization marketing.
We are available 24/7 for customers to transact online. Their forex will be delivered within 24 hours. We give a pre-loaded card with some currency to meet immediate expenses. We also have an international number for customers to reach us anytime during their travel. We have observed our peak business hours to be from 6pm – 8pm when we convert 30%-40% of our transactions. Our main markets include Gurgaon, Bangalore, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Visakhapatnam and Coimbatore.
Engaging with the travel trade
We are trying to build our relationship with the travel agents and tour operators. We are building a module for them which will fit on their desktop. Once the ticketing is done, they can trigger the lead to us.