Capital Float: Banker For Small Businesses – Livemint

Written by Shrutika Verma

Sandeep Bindra, the New Delhi-based e-commerce merchant who runs Pathways Marketing and Consulting Pvt. Ltd is the official distributor of consumer electronics brands such as Havells, Godrej, Usha and Symphony coolers for large e-commerce marketplaces such as Flipkart.com, Snapdeal.com and Amazon.in. Two months ago, Bindra ran out of money raised from family and friends and his pleas for debt for his two-year-old company were not entertained by any bank. “They (banks) ignored us as they do not consider companies that are less than three years old,” said Bindra. With the festival season round the corner, he needed immediate cash to sustain the fast-growing sales online. That is when Bengaluru-based start-up Capital Float came to his rescue.

Founded by Sashank Rishyasringa and Gaurav Hinduja, alumni of Stanford Graduate School of Business, Capital Float is a new-age lending solution that operates online and offers unsecured loans to start-ups, manufacturers and e-commerce merchants such as Bindra. Set up in 2013, the company has already lent to more than 70 borrowers and has disbursed over Rs.20 crore. Run by Zen Lefin Pvt. Ltd, Capital Float is modelled after Atlanta-based Kabbage, which recently raised $50 million from Japan’s SoftBank.

Hinduja, born and brought up in Bengaluru, initially joined his family’s garments business under Gokaldas Exports that was sold to private equity firm Blackstone in 2008-09. He later studied business management at Stanford where he met Rishyasringa. Rishyasringa, 30 looks after finance, business and product development while Hinduja, 32, handles sales and operations. Since inception, the company has grown rapidly and has attracted a total funding of close to Rs.24 crore from SAIF Partners and George Soros’s Aspada Investment. The start-up is drawing the attention of investors and small businesses as it offers fast, affordable and flexible working capital loans, an alternative to traditional lending institutions such as banks, chit funds and local money lenders.

Currently, it lends money to companies that are more than a year old. The amount of fund offered is between Rs.3 lakh and Rs.1 crore. Interest charged on the loan varies and is in line with banks and non-banking financial companies (NBFCs). Bindra, for instance, borrowed a sum of Rs.20 lakh at an interest rate of 18.5%.

Unlike traditional banks, Capital Float lends money to small businesses that might not have collateral, significant revenues or years of experience. But the company does not disburse loans blindly. It employs unorthodox techniques, including psychometric tests to run checks on its clients, gauages their social media reputation, and grills them on business decisions and entrepreneurial skills before lending.

According to Bindra, companies such as Capital Float take away the human element from the process of money lending and make it more data-driven with an algorithmic approach to evaluating whether the business can stand on its feet or not. “In India, a lot of access to finance is based on who you know and how good is your relationship with the branch manager of a bank,” says Bindra.

Agrees Mridul Arora, vice-president at SAIF Partners, “Lending is currently dominated by banks. However, the SME (small and medium enterprises) space is underpenetrated and given the demand perspective, a company like Capital Float has a huge potential.” Arora says online lending business makes economic sense too and counts Capital Float’s access to proprietary data from e-commerce companies as one of its strength.

Rishyasringa says the company started focusing on e-commerce as the sector was buzzing and banks failed to see the opportunity. Today, there are several thousand manufacturers who either sell directly to e-commerce portals or they sell on marketplaces. Capital Float tied up with Flipkart, Snapdeal and Myntra to meet their vendors and understand their requirements. Soon, the company realized that these small businesses were unable to grow because of working capital challenges. Today, Capital Float works with most e-commerce marketplaces and is also a part of Snapdeal’s Capital Assist, a service to provide capital assistance to small sellers.

“When we started digging into entrepreneur finance in India, the scale of the problem was staggering. Today, there is about $140 billion of formal debt provided to SMEs by banks and NBFCs but the unmet need is another $200 billion,” says Rishyasringa, who worked with consulting firms in India and in New York in the financial services and technology space before founding Capital Float

Rishyasringa calls it the “missing middle problem” that he and his partner are trying to solve in the country. “If you are a large or a mid-size corporate, banks will line up outside your door. If you are a rural farmer or artisan, the MFIs will queue up to lend you, but if you are in this missing middleRs.50 lakh to Rs.20 crore turnover range, then there are not many options available,” he explains.

Today, India has more than 30 million registered SMEs and about 35% of these are ineligible to receive any financing from banks or NBFCs. “They look at your financial statement and bank statement but there is lot more which can make these companies underwritable,” says Hinduja.

The idea to start Capital Float struck the duo during their second year at Stanford after brainstorming sessions with their professor and mentor Baba Shiv. “Nearly 10 ideas were shot down before Capital Float was conceptualized,” said Shiv, a director at the Strategic Marketing Management Executive Program at Stanford and an adviser on the board of several companies, including Capital Float. Shiv recalls how the two friends were close to developing something in the taxi services space when they discovered firms operating similar businesses.

The company today takes seven to ten days to approve a loan, which it hopes to bring down to three to five days soon. Companies such as Kabbage take only seven minutes to approve a loan in the US. However, Hinduja does not believe that a company in India can get there because of the risk involved and the lack of data available around a start-up or an entrepreneur.

To be sure, Capital Float is not the only firm in this business. It faces competition, albeit from smaller companies, such as Capital First, NeoGrowth Credit Pvt. Ltd and SMEcorner.in. A lean operation, Capital Float employees 30 people.

The company’s progress is hardly a surprise given the teamwork and similar passions of its founders. For a start, both swear by Jeff Bezos’s biography The Everything Storeas a life changing book. “We can relate to the book at professional and personal levels,” they say. Both want to get into politics at some point. “We want to solve the policy issues and see ourselves in some policymaking roles. We left the (Silicon) Valley and came to India to solve some of the problems people here face,” says Rishyasringa.

Between table tennis matches at their Bellary Road office in Bengaluru, the founders plan to make Capital Float similar to OnDeck Capital (scheduled to go public this month) or the San Francisco-based Lending Club which is all set to raise about $900 million in its initial public offering. The company is scheduled to begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange this week.

These companies not just provide short-term financing but also offer a lending platform to introduce investors and institutions to the ones raising money. “Right now, we are trying to prove to the market that we know how to lend money and we know where our mouth is but we are very quickly starting to convert ourselves into a platform and the pilots have already begun,” said Hinduja.

The question is, how long can the online money lending companies avoid competition from banks? “We are now competing with some of the banks that have realized that e-commerce is becoming an area where they need to get expertise,” says Hinduja.

Among established banks that recognize the trend are Yes Bank Ltd and HDFC Bank Ltd. Both lenders did not comment for the story.

“Companies like Capital Float will not be able to compete with banks at the pricing level whenever they jump into the game. But if these companies execute better and faster they can create a platform to work with banks,” says SAIF’s Arora.

News piece sourced from Livemint. Read the full piece here.

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How to cater and scale technology for a start-up in rapid growth

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Be Agile

Following an agile methodology for development is a no-brainer for any start-up. The environment is fast paced, catering to a dynamic business where release cycles are frequent. Often, the common pitfalls of this method also show a lack of emphasis on planning and documentation while customer expectations sometimes are not clear. To mitigate this, a hybrid of agile and waterfall approaches enables start-ups to move towards a mature business. To do so, the start-up must;

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– Prioritize the need of the hour for the business

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Extensibility

Your business logic and data is your Intellectual Property. As a Fintech company, this becomes the most critical piece of software development. It is important to protect your data while also facilitating growth with the exact same data. How do you draw this balance?

Build your logic and algorithmic layer around your data and an external layer that does not directly interact with your data set. This permits external endpoints to be consumed by growth partners as well as reduces development efforts for building tech for internal teams.

Micro-services

Enterprise applications are often built using a monolithic approach or as a single unit. Although it’s a natural approach to development, it can be frustrating because of multiple dependencies on modular structure and deployment to the cloud also becomes a challenge.

In contrast, Micro-services architecture equips you to independently deploy services or pieces of software without large dependencies on other services. These services or pieces of software ultimately add up to become a single application while running its own suite of processes and mechanisms.

Additionally, in a Fintech setup, technology is built to cater multiple teams – both internal and external and having a micro-services architecture easily allows horizontal scaling.

Reusable code

In a start-up, it’s a good idea to prototype development. Prototyping facilitates quick delivery of a piece of software and a better understanding of future product development.

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Build vs Buy

A classic point of debate and contention is always build versus buy. There are multiple points to consider while making such decisions in a growth stage start up to create a fine balance between the two.

Often, out of the box or integrated solutions provide quick solutions for increased productivity to a business need but come at several costs, such as pricing and rigidity of use. Sometimes these solutions are not compatible with existing software or custom solutions.

Custom-built solutions provide competitive advantages, builds intellectual property and fit a specific business need but also comes at several costs, such as time for development and uncertainty in product definition.

A hybrid approach can be an effective way of mitigating the disadvantages of build or buy approaches. At times, building on top of or integrating an existing product into your custom built solution adds greater value to the overall business product. An example of such a solution can be integrating a good workflow management tool into your custom CRM application.

Dev Pathi

Dev has been involved with startups for the past 5 years since he returned from US. He has launched several mobile apps that have been well accepted in the Indian startup scene.

In New York, he worked with Conde Nast helping them move their web infrastructure from an enterprise setup to an open source setup.
Dev manages the technology development initiatives at Capital Float.

Oct 24, 2018

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Considerations for educational trusts to keep in mind while availing finance

To upgrade the quality of education delivered in their school, authorities running the institution may occasionally need to apply for loans. The first thought that strikes while contemplating Indian school finance is one of approaching a bank. The low rate of interest and general trust in the banking system draws many private schools to these established lenders.

Although banks offer loans to businesses and other organisations, when it comes to financing educational institutions, things can be rather challenging, and it may take long before the school actually receives the requested amount for use. The reason for this is complex eligibility criteria and the long list of documents necessary to get the loan application approved.

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Is there any other alternative for private school financing? Can these institutions securely apply for their loan and get the amount in minimum time without going through the hassles of submitting numerous documents and arranging for collateral? The answer, fortunately, is ‘Yes’.

Keeping up with the plans of promoting quality education in India, digitally operating non-banking finance companies (NBFCs) called FinTech companies have come up with a borrower-friendly lending model. They provide school finance on easy terms and conditions that merely require the borrowing institution to:

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Since the application process is digital, the school needs to upload only soft copies of the documents proving its eligibility. Moreover, financial/bank statements are required for just two years. There is no need to provide any security or guarantor promises: FinTech loans are collateral-free.

If you have plans to construct a new building in your school, stock up the library, refurbish the labs or add any other facility to enhance the education service, the answer on how to finance a school improvement plan lies in an unsecured loan from a FinTech.

Apply for Unsecured school loan

Capital Float is a leading school finance provider in the Indian FinTech industry. We offer quick loans of up to 50 lakhs to fund school development. To know more about our finance options, call us at 1860 419 0999.

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Taxes Subsumed under GST & the Components of GST

With the Goods and Services Tax (GST) set to roll out on July 01, 2017, expectations and anxieties are high with individual taxpayers and businesses trying to gear up for a brand new tax regime.

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To be able to make the most of the new indirect taxation law, taxpayers need to understand its components well.

The GST Council which was set up by the Central Government to execute GST implementation, has proposed a new tax framework-structure for GST.

First and foremost, GST represents a “One Nation, One Tax” outlook, which is necessary to do away with multi-tax regimes that lead to inefficiencies such as cascading taxes, levy of excise at the point of manufacturing and lack of uniformity in tax levies. Currently, Goods and Services are taxed under various disparate tax categories such as Excise Duty, VAT or Central Sales Tax, Service Tax (in the case of services dispensed) and Customs Duty (for imports). Some of these taxes are levied by the Central government, and others by the state government. A unified approach— GST— will help do away with these complexities by enabling a single tax regime right from manufacturer to consumer. It is important to know that GST is a destination-based tax i.e., the tax is credited to the taxation authority whose jurisdiction prevails at the place of consumption (also called the place of supply). Moreover, GST will be levied on value-addition, by allowing for input tax credit at each stage of the transaction chain.

GST Structure

GST will have four slabs of indirect taxation: 5%, 12%, 18% and 28%, with goods and services attracting any of these slab percentages depending on various factors such as being a luxury good/service. The current indirect tax structure will give way to a Dual GST model, with the Centre and States simultaneously levying GST on a common tax base, as follows:

  • Central GST Bill (CGST): For intra-state transactions related to supply of goods and/or services, levied by the Centre.
  • State or Union Territory GST Bill (SGST or UTGST): For the supply of goods and/or services in the States and Union Territories, levied by the States/Union Territories.
  • Integrated GST Bill (IGST): For inter-state transactions and imports related to supply of goods and/or services, carried out by the Centre.

Under this structure, the CGST and SGST/UTGST will be levied simultaneously on the same price or value. Here is an example of how this will happen: Consider a steel supplier who manufactures in Jharkhand and supplies steel to another company within Jharkhand. Let us assume the rate of CGST to be 10% and SGST to be 7% and the selling price of the steel to be Rs. 100. The supplier will charge the client a CGST of Rs 10 and SGST of Rs 7. The supplier needs to deposit Rs 10 in his Centre taxation account, and Rs. 7 in the State taxation account. Due to input credit facility, the supplier has the option of setting off the total payment (Rs 17) against the tax he paid on his purchases or inputs. However, these credit values cannot be mixed—for CGST-setoffs he can utilize only the CGST credit; for SGST-setoffs he can utilize only SGST credit.

Dual GST

A Dual-GST is particularly suitable for the Indian economy because in India both the Centre and States are assigned the duty of levying and collecting taxes. So far, the Constitution clearly demarcated the tax levying and collection duties of the Centre and State, with the Centre responsible for taxing the manufacture of goods, and the State responsible for taxing the sale of goods. For services, only the Centre was allowed to levy Service Tax. To override this segregation of power, and enable the smooth implementation of GST, a Constitutional amendment (Constitution Act, 2016) was made so as to simultaneously empower the Centre and the States to levy and collect this tax. With this amendment, the Dual GST regime will now align well with the fiscal federal protocols of India.

Taxes subsumed under GST

The following are the disparate taxes (levied by the Centre and States) which will be subsumed under the new dual-GST regime.

(A) Taxes currently levied and collected by the Centre:

  • Central Excise Duty
  • Duties of Excise (Medicinal and Toilet Preparations)
  • Additional Duties of Excise (Goods of Special Importance)
  • Additional Duties of Excise (Textiles and Textile Products)
  • Additional Duties of Customs (commonly known as CVD)
  • Special Additional Duty of Customs (SAD)
  • Service Tax
  • Central Surcharges and Cesses so far as they relate to supply of goods and services

(B) Taxes currently levied and collected by the States:

  • State VAT
  • Central Sales Tax
  • Luxury Tax
  • Entry Tax (all forms)
  • Entertainment and Amusement Tax (except when levied by the local bodies)
  • Taxes on advertisements
  • Purchase Tax
  • Taxes on lotteries, betting and gambling
  • State Surcharges and Cesses so far as they relate to supply of goods and services

The taxes to be subsumed were decided after intense debate and consideration of some core principles that were in line with the GST ethos. Each tax was first examined to ensure it qualified for indirect taxation and was related to the supply of goods or services. Moreover, a tax which was to be subsumed needed to be part of the transaction chain right from imports through manufacturing to the provision of services and the consumption of goods/services. Another important criteria to allow a tax to be subsumed was that the subsumation should lead to free flow of tax credit at Intra- and inter-State levels. Also, the revenue considerations of both the Centre and the State were taken into perspective while arriving at the final list of subsumed taxes.

Clearly, the change is huge, and the sooner consumers and businesses get familiar with the implications on Term finances, the better they will be equipped to benefit from the new GST reforms.

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