Vircle Founder Gokula Krishnan (C) with KMP’s Yarham Yunus (L) and Gobi Co-founder Thomas G. Tsao
Vircle fosters financial literacy in children, offering spending controls and education for responsible money management
Today’s children grow up with easy access to money. Most don’t understand the value of money, and they often overspend on their credit cards but fail to pay it off. The proliferation of BNPL (buy-now-pay-later) players has further encouraged spending, eventually landing children and their parents in debt traps.
Malaysian entrepreneur Gokula Krishnan Subramaniam wanted to find a way out of this problem and educate parents and their children about the importance of money management.
In 2019, he launched Vircle — short for ‘visible circle’ — with the mission of helping parents raise money-smart kids by teaching them how to earn, spend and save responsibly.
A neo-banking app, Vircle instils lifelong money habits among young children by empowering parents to oversee and manage their children’s expenses in and out of school.
“Vircle is Malaysia’s first family finance and neobanking app that allows parents to set up one family account to manage all kids with a common shared family balance,” he claims.
How to set up a Vircle account
A parent registers for a principal family account, onboard as many dependants and can approve them different payment access. The app comes with spending controls, oversight and budgeting at the hands of parents. As the kids grow older, parents may shift some of these controls to them. At the end of 2022, the company launched a Child Safe Visa card.
“We allow parents to set spending controls from anytime allowances to daily limits. Our visa card has advanced safety features to block unsafe merchants and categories. We constantly research this space and enhance black-and-white lists to include all known scam merchants,” shares Krishnan Subramaniam.
The firm has partnered with over 58 educational institutions and serves families from various nationalities. The aim is to bank one million Malaysian children and three million across Southeast Asia over the next five years (as per an estimate, over 90 per cent of children in Southeast Asia are either unbanked or underbanked).
Vircle charges merchants a platform fee for in-school usage, which covers multiple aspects of the school services. The platform also has a pro-subscription plan (optional for parents) covering out-of-school spending and all its financial tools and features.
One of the major challenges the company faces is educating society about Vircle’s benefits. “Many customers who understand how our app works are impressed, but we always hear this: why do we not hear more about you guys?” he shares.
To address this problem, the startup recently secured an undisclosed sum in seed funding co-led by Malaysia’s state-owned VC fund Kumpulan Modal Perdana (KMP) and Gobi Partners. “With the investments closed, awareness creation will be a key part of our focus and also to educate them why we are better, safer for their kids than some mainstream wallets or banks who are not doing enough to keep kids safe with payment cards like visa etc.,” he concludes.