My Experiments with Growth Hacks at a Fintech Startup

In the Indian startup ecosystem, growth hacking, as a term, is still very loosely used. For some, a growth hacker is a person who drives app installs for the company through Google, Facebook or other third party Ad networks (Basically, the guy handling the User Acquisition). For some offline/retail startups, it is the guy who launches new cities and handles the expansion. Most of the Talent Acquisition specialists still do not understand the difference between a Digital Marketer and a Growth Hacker.

In a nutshell, a Digital Marketer is one who leverages digital channels available to acquire, engage and remarket to customers such as Google Ads, Webmaster, Facebook Ads, Email, SMS, Affiliates, Push notifications, etc. A Growth Hacker is one who changes the rule of the game to solve what business and marketing are not able to.

A growth hacker needs to consider four pillars while charting out the hacks:

The four pillars for Growth Hacking
  1. Users: Each hack should have a positive impact on users. In NO WAY the user experience should be compromised.
  2. Revenue: If your hacks are costing a lot of money to the company, it’s not a hack. It’s only successful if your unit economics are positive or you’re bringing down some other cost significantly.
  3. Product: In order to have a faster TAT, it’s very important to consider the technical feasibility upfront. It’s better to ship simpler solution earlier than the best one late.
  4. Compliance: Fintech startups regulated by RBI need to be more cautious and ensure that each hack is fully compliant.

I spearhead Growth at one of the leading wallet and financial services startup, MobiKwik. Before going on to the hacks, let me take the liberty to talk about our loyalty program, SuperCash. MobiKwik is the first Indian Fintech startup to do away with instant gratifications like cashbacks and discounts and moved towards building a base of loyal users. SuperCash incentivizes loyal users and pisses off gamers. The funda is simple, the more you use MobiKwik, the more you save. SuperCash has two sides to it:

  • Earn: Users can either earn SuperCash by using any among the plethora of services available on the app or using MobiKwik wallet at partners.
  • Redeem/Burn: Else, users can use their SuperCash to get instant discount on their subsequent transactions’ billable amount. (5% is the standard on most services.)

This ensures high stickiness among users and helps us clear the clutter by not entertaining gamers.

Now, moving on to the core idea behind writing this article, the Growth Hacks:

1. Referral using UPI

Problem: MobiKwik wanted to launch UPI but various players already have had acquired significant market share. Most of the early adopters have their Virtual Payment Addresses setup already. How to convert our existing Wallet users to UPI on MobiKwik and acquire more parallelly.

Solution: Data showed that any user who did one P2P transfer was 3 times more likely to use UPI on P2M. Also, P2P being the low hanging fruit, we decided to go for a referral campaign. Each user can transfer money to 15 people and can get up to Rs 100 SuperCash on each transfer (Total of Rs 1500). The catch was that sender and receiver both should have MobiKwik’s Virtual Payment Address (@ikwik). We targeted our early adopters and they sparked a Network effect that spread like a wildfire. Major social forums were filled with users sharing their VPAs and exchanging money among themselves. Each user had to download the app to use UPI and the campaign increased our organic downloads by 250%.

How the Network Effect works

Why did it work?
– Traditional referral campaigns work on One-to-Many model, ours was based on a Many-to-many. Though not each money was spent on new user acquisition and many old users rotated money among themselves, but the Virality factor got us a lot of new users.
-The campaign launched was based on two principles, ‘Network Effect’ and ‘Surprise Element’.
– The algorithm in the backend ensured that the SuperCash given was enough to keep referrers interested but still keep the overall Cost of Acquisition one-third of the usual.

2. Seeding

Problem: Most apps face this problem of not being able to activate a significant percentage of users after acquiring them. Even after setting up various journeys and touch points, a big chunk remains dormant and eventually uninstalls the app.

Solution: We simply put Rs 50 SuperCash in wallets of users after a certain amount of time has passed. This time was post the funnel conversion time from Sign up to the first transaction of 80% users. In order to use that SuperCash completely, users will have to transact for at least Rs 1000. Hence, driving GMV along with user activation. It resulted in almost 72% jump in our activation rate.

Why did it work?
Other fintech apps cannot run similar campaigns with their cashback offerings as users are most likely to use the free amount and then churn. Only with loyalty programs similar to SuperCash, one can take a risk of trying such campaigns.
– By giving something for free, you reduce the initial apprehension and friction. The user too feels delighted and is more likely to stay engaged with your app.

3. Points Redemption

Problem: Activation is important and there needs to be organic ways to boost it as well. A hook which decreases friction for a user to make his first transaction and which doesn’t cost anything to the company.

Solution: Loyalty points redemption! Users can redeem various loyalty points they earn from their Bank network into MobiKwik wallet balance. If you’re an ICICI account holder or an avid shopper, you’re likely to have Payback or Max Get More points which you redeem on MobiKwik. When the user signs up, he receives a push informing about the points redemption and most of the users do it.

Why does it work?
– Again, these are the points which a user has earned while shopping elsewhere and MobiKwik helps him convert these into ‘real money’.
– We don’t have to pay anything from our pockets. So it’s sustainable.
– User doesn’t have to pay anything from his pocket. So zero friction.

4. Scratchcard:

Problem: How to increase DAUs (Daily Active Users) without investing money and making sure the users stay engaged?

Solution: We launched Scratchcards which allowed users to convert their SuperCash into Wallet Balance. A user can buy a card for Rs 10 SuperCash and once he scratches, it can have any amount from Rs 5 to Rs 100 which goes into his main balance. Now the catch is, the cards were limited in number and the sale slot was fixed at a particular time. Due to this, we saw a sudden spike (roughly 4x from regular) everyday at that particular time. Tens of thousands of cards will sell off in the first minute itself.

How the ScratchCard works

Why did it work?
It worked on ‘Scarcity principle’ and an added salt of ‘Surprise’. The deadly combination was the answer to the problem.
– The consistency of the campaign. Every day, the sale started at the same time. So the users would be ready with the phones in their hands couple of minutes prior to ‘Start’ time.

5. Reactivation:

Problem: RBI made KYC necessary for users to keep using e-wallets. This was back when Aadhar based KYC was allowed. We started observing a lot of churn as users were not keen on getting the KYC done. This was expected because not all users were aware of the new RBI guidelines.

Solution: We gave all the inactive users ‘Free Money’ vouchers based on their price sensitivity. All they had to do was enter the voucher code in the app and their wallet will be instantly credited. However, there was a catch (there’s always one). As RBI had disapproved wallet use without KYC, this free money couldn’t be credited unless the user hasn’t done his KYC. And BAM!, close to 43% churned users did their KYC and started transacting in the same month.

Why did it work?
The ‘Free Money’ in the vouchers was always lesser than the cost of physical KYC.
– The vouchers acted as a hook for the churned users to come back and do the KYC.
– The price sensitivity for each user was measured upfront and based on that the voucher amount was decided. A user who can be reactivated with Rs 9, wasn’t given even Rs. 10.

6. TravelPass:

Problem: MobiKwik has launched Bus bookings on its platform but is struggling with user stickiness. Regular travelers look for offers on various OTAs before booking. How to ensure they keep coming back?

Solution: We launched TravelPass which gave users 5% instant discount on all the bookings for a year. Each TravelPass was sold for Rs. 50. In the first week itself, more than 5000 passes were sold. Also, the users who bought the TravelPass were thrice more likely to book bus on MobiKwik.

Why did it work?
Bus booking has a comparatively higher margin as compared to other services. So the 5% discount ensured we were always revenue positive.
– Users could not earn or burn SuperCash to maintain profitability but users were happy with 5% forever discount.
– When a user pays a fee for using a service, he’s likely to value it more.

7. Burn Percentages:

Problem: MobiKwik launched Cab booking on its platform but users already had Ola and Uber app installed in their phones. How to make them use MobiKwik to book cabs?

Solution: We found out that the majority of active users have SuperCash balance with them. Also, the standard 5% usage wasn’t adding any value for cab users as the ticket size is comparatively low. Hence, during the peak hours, both morning and evening, we increased the burn percentage to up to 50% (Max amount Rs 50 as a velocity check). Meaning, users were able to book a Rs 100 cab for just Rs 50. This got in a lot of commuters using our app during the peak hours and once the habit was formed, during other hours as well.

Why did it work?
During the peak hours is when the commuters browse between multiple apps to look for lowest surge pricing. That is when it is best to target a customer.
– There has to be a max number of rides a user can avail this offer. Only data can tell after how many rides an average inorganic user becomes organic.
– It was a long and consistent campaign to ensure a high recall.

At a fast-growing startup, one has to be on his toes always to look for problems and hooks to solve them. I hope the above examples help you in some way in solving the problems your company faces. The statement “Think out of the box” has been over abused but it still can do wonders.

You can reach out to me in case of any feedback or suggestion. Drop by at and tell me how you would have solved any of the above problems differently.

Remember the four pillars and keep hacking!

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