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Sadly, we are leaving Google Wallet

As you are reading this, KiSSFLOW‘s payment handling mechanism has been completely moved out of Google Wallet.

KiSSFLOW, from day one has been a product that was built keeping Google Apps Users in mind and we consciously decided to use Google technologies all-out. We use Google App Engine, Google Cloud Storage, Google Big Query, Google Cloud SQL and just about every Google Cloud technology that is out there.  We are extremely happy with Google’s Cloud Services and Support. But one product has been a pain for us for a while now – Google Wallet.

When Google started moving away from Google Checkout to the new Wallet a couple of years back it seemed the most obvious choice for us. Firstly it was a Google product and since all our customers were Google Apps users we thought it would reduce any friction that might arise in the paying step. Secondly wallet seemed to be brimming with promises back then, Google had gone all out to build something that was better than checkout and we thought that it will be generic and that there will be a lot of new features coming into it. We knew we were taking a gamble but the odds, we thought, were in our favour. Also wallet was the cheapest payment gateway around – super important if you are a startup.

Ouch!!! Over the last two years, our engineers, our sales team, our accounting team and our support team have come back to us over and over again with a number of issues and limitations that made us realize that Wallet was not the right choice. Wallet over the last two years seemed to be shifting from a generic payment services, that we thought it was, to being a payment gateway that is inclined mainly towards mobile app developers. Now we are not mobile developers and we don’t know how green the grass is in the other side of the fence but we sure know as SaaS ISVs we were left in the lurch.

Sales Complained: Sales’ biggest requirement was a self service system to initiate and terminate trial accounts, generate Discount Coupons, change subscriptions, and to manually update card details. When customers wanted to buy some more licences they would be expected to key in their credit card details afresh as, to wallet this was a new purchase. The entire PG offering was so limited that the onus of implementing a better system to actually handle subscriptions fell on Engineering.

Engineering Complained: Engineering knew that Wallet was just a payment gateway service and not a recurring billing solution, and hence it had to build a layer on top of Google Wallet for the kind of features required for a SaaS product. However whatever subscription based billing capabilities that Google Wallet offered just was not good enough. At the technical level, there were just two callbacks, success and cancel. No callback APIs for things such as inadequate funds on card, card expiry, transaction failure etc. We had to write most of the recurring billing code, notifications and error handling ourselves. The APIs were so shallow that we could not even perform a subscription cancellation.

Accounting complained: Firstly there was no integrated dashboard that Google Wallet offered to track the subscription status of the various customers. There was no notification to either the customer or the accounting team about expiry of cards, inadequacy of funds, or failure of the payment process. And of course, Google Wallet accumulated all our earnings and transferred it at a go, the frequency of repatriation was once a month even if accumulated value exceed $10,000.

You might now rationale that all our complains so far do not strictly fall under the inadequacies of a payment gateway service provider. Agreed. But more than anything else our single biggest problem was that of reliability. Our users kept getting “Technical error. Could not process payment at this time. Please try again later” messages, the last thing you would want.

As a SaaS company you would know that the actual point of sales had to be the most easiest and most reliable system to work with. Sales, Support, and Engineering do a hard job of getting a trial user to onboard and you really wouldn’t want everything else to go well and realize that right at the moment of purchase your customer was stumped and could not pay because of the payment gateway service.

We were in a situation. We needed better functionality, but more than that we needed reliability. And so we decided to move. We looked at various PG services and also looked at various subscription payment systems like Chargify, ChargeBee, Recurly etc.

We took the plunge and moved to ChargeBee for recurring billing and Stripe to process payments. And it has been wonderful after that. In addition to solving the problems of reliability, we got a whole goodie bag of extra features from ChargeBee, that are very SaaS focused. Engineering was happy, they could dump most of the extra payment handling code, and get back to improving our core product. The APIs provided by ChargeBee was clean precise, reliable and helped in complete automation of payment related code in the product. Sales was happy, Discount Coupons could easily be generated, card details could be requested, and trial accounts could be automatically upgraded without engineering help. Accounts was happy as subscriptions could be manually marked as paid, and offline payments could be transparently and uniformly tracked. Of course repatriation was happening once in 2 days. Above all, our customers and hence support was happy. The number of PG related problems dropped drastically, notifications were instant, automatic and kept all stakeholders informed of events, and it was a breeze.

The biggest learning for us is that: 

  • a payment processing solution like Stripe /Braintree provides components for recurring billing, but you still need to keep building on top of it. 
  • a recurring billing service that provides sophisticated layer on top of a payment gateway can save you precious hours for features required by sales, accounting & support.
  • building it internally is also an option, but you need to have enough bandwidth of developer & management to improve your billing system to keep up with your startup’s growing needs. 

We weighed the options of build vs buy – ditched build and we went with ChargeBee + Stripe as our SaaS recurring billing solution.

 

Full Disclosure: Suresh Sambandam, Our CEO, is an advisor to ChargeBee.

Image source: http://iluminisme.wordpress.com/ 

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More Stories By Suresh Sambandam

After an initial entrepreneurial stint for three years at the age of 19, Suresh Sambandam went on to work at Hewlett-Packard. Later, Suresh joined Selectica and rose to senior position, as Director of e-Insurance product division in a short-span. The e-Insurance division and its products were later acquired by Accenture. Suresh is a technocrat specializing in product engineering with expertise in software architecture for complex enterprise applications, inference engines, configuration engines, rule-based computing and enterprise middleware. He has applied for multiple patents. Suresh is passionate about entrepreneurship, technology startups and spends a significant amount of personal time in the start-up ecosystem in Chennai. Suresh is a member of the National Council for Emerging Companies Forum and also a core committee member of Product Forum at NASSCOM. He also does mentoring for budding entrepreneurs at IIT Bombay, E-Cell. Suresh is a regular speaker at various industry forums & academic institutions.

Suresh is the Founder & CEO of OrangeScape. OrangeScape is a platform (PaaS - Platform as a Service) to develop process oriented business applications that can be deployed "On Cloud" and "On Premise". OrangeScape supports platforms like Google App Engine and Microsoft Azure as cloud deployment option and Microsoft .Net and J2EE as on-premise deployment options. OrangeScape has 50+ customers including global brands like Unilever, Citibank, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Fullterton, etc. OrangeScape in the only Indian company has been featured in the PaaS research reports of Forrester and Gartner. OrangeScape has been featured as 'India's Rising Tech Stars' by Forbes(US) magazine. OrangeScape was showcased as one of the 3 emerging product companies in India by Nasscom and was also awarded 'Top IT Innovations' for 2 consecutive years.

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