Creating an API Marketplace – the vHub Story
We, at Decimal started our journey towards the company’s productization about 5 years ago with our Low code-No Code platform, Vahana. Around the same time, we decided to focus solely on BFSI as a market segment. As our product matured and we explored the segment more deeply, we realised the gamut of services banks utilize for even small onboarding journeys. In its current form, the BFSI market is laden with service providers who provide ready to use solutions which can be plugged-in as generic APIs into bank’s specific onboarding flows. This is fuelled by Indian Government’s India Stack initiative and general growth in API usage within the software industry.
As a result, most of our clients were dealing with multiple such service providers and having separate contracts with all of them. Often, when we came across a client who was just starting with the digitization journey, we as integrators, had to get into tri-partite agreement with certain service providers. So, we realised very early-on, that the Vahana platform must be designed in a way that the integration of these APIs and services does not become repetitive for Decimal. We were able to integrate these APIs at a platform level, in a way that that the same integration could be used across different journeys for a client without any extra integration effort on Decimal’s part. This marked the humble beginning of what we call today as Vahana Hub – Decimal’s own API marketplace, targeting specifically the BFSI segment.
The Creation of vHub
Even though we realised early-on about the need of integrating APIs at a platform level, it still took us some time to conceptualize this capability as a product. For starters, the list of services that could be integrated seemed to be endless – API services in-itself is an involving market with new products and providers joining the race on a weekly basis. The Indian Government, in tandem with RBI is also constantly working on digitization and this heavily impacts the industry.
We realized during our interactions with leaders of banking space that it was a huge pain-point for them to keep managing different vendors for using these API services.
Hence, we decided to develop our capability into a dedicated product that could cater to such issues in a marketplace format, where the clients could have a direct contract with Decimal and Decimal would in-turn manage the different API providers for the client.
Due to the overall strategy of focusing on BFSI clients, the vHub offering was also curated to target the same. This vision was to pre-integrate and standardize all services that banks may need for their onboarding journeys and back-end portals and make the same available as an open marketplace for Decimal’s clients at the best prices possible.
A detailed analysis of marketplace products already existing in the market was undertaken and the desired features were identified basis the same.
Based on market analysis, it was found that most such platforms in the market have these basic features:
- Vendor based classification of APIs – Provided
Most marketplaces organize their APIs based on vendors – providing multiple APIs from the same vendor in the same tab or queue. vHub also follows a similar interface.
- Functionality based classification – Provided
Users are able to search APIs based on a specific usage. For example, all Aadhar related APIs, be it OCR or verification, can be found by just typing ‘Aadhar’.
- Push button API subscription – Provided
Like most marketplaces vHub has a push button subscription feature where uses can simply subscribe by clicking a button and start using the API.
- API Logs – Provided
vHub also maintains logs for the APIs subscribed for a project for developer usage and debugging.
- Customized dashboards – Provided
Users can ask for customized dashboards as per their requirements, while onboarding onto the Vahana Hub.
- Test API feature – Provided
Users get a postman-like feature where they can try out APIs with their own data for better understanding and visualisation.
- Standardized API Documentation – Provided
Customers of vahana Hub get a standard documentation of all APIs integrated – meaning that they do not have to refer to multiple vendor websites for API documentation.
- In-platform billing – Provided
Based on the usage of subscribed APIs, customers are billed on the platform itself.
- In-platform payment– Not provided
Since, most APIs are subscription basis and used with long-term contracts, a billing feature is more useful as per the target segment for this platform.
- Usage and performance metrices – Provided
Vahana Hub’s customizable dashboard contains, various analytics and graphical representation of API being used – depicting both the usage and performance of different APIs within a project.
- Standardized connectivity – Provided
Users can connect their systems using standard REST APIs with vHub, irrespective of the format provided by the end-vendor. So, a client’s dev team does not have to worry about creating different connection types for REST, XML, Lambda etc.
- API Orchestration – Provided
Users can also orchestrate different APIs in vHub and can just consume the end result. For example, from a company PAN, the company’s name can be fetched which can in-turn be used for getting RoC and MCA data. So, for a customer, they can just provide the PAN as input and vHub will return the company’s name, address, date of incorporation and director’s details – all in one orchestrated API call.
- Failover mechanism – Provided
vHub also gives a failover mechanism to its users. For cases where API services of one vendor are not responding vHub can automatically trigger a similar service of another vendor and provide response for the same.
- Curated Listing – Provided
If any of our customers are not able to find a specific service or a vendor on the vHub, we at Decimal make sure that the same gets integrated on the platform at the earliest and made available to the customer.
Vahana Hub was launched in mid-2020 with the selected features and has been a tremendous success since. We have more than 200 APIs from almost 50 different vendors, integrated on the platform currently and this number is increasing on a weekly basis. These APIs range from SMS APIs to KYC APIs to OCRs to Financial analysis related APIs – providing the whole gamut of information required for onboarding and underwriting processes for the banks.