Digital financing: The way forward for financial inclusion in Asia – E27

The authors Aman Bhargava and Akshay Sharma are Senior Vice President and Manager at Capital Float, respectively. Capital Float specialises in digital lending to MSMEs in India.

In this age of digital disruption where technology has made an impact across a number of service sectors — e.g. transportation (Uber), accommodation (Airbnb), retail (Amazon) etc.– finance is clearly no exception. Post the financial crisis, incumbent large financial institutions have been weathering a storm of increased capital requirements (i.e. reduced ability to lend) and increased regulatory costs whilst dealing with an erosion of public confidence.

Digital lending, a subset of digital finance, has been growing rapidly in several large economies in tandem with lending platforms (e.g. Lending Club in the US, Funding Circle in the UK, and Lufax in China). As terms such as peer to peer (P2P) and marketplace lending have come to dominate headlines, digital lending has begun to revolutionise the traditional lending business through the use of technology in order to reduce costs, underwritten with surrogate data points, and speeded up processes.

Lending — ripe for disruption

Lending itself consists of three key areas:

  • (i) Origination (or customer acquisition)
  • (ii) Underwriting (or credit assessment)
  • (iii) Execution (including documentation, contract and flow of monies)

Conventional lending, especially in emerging economies, is an archaic process that is ripe for disruption in each of the above areas.

Traditionally, customer acquisition occurs via brokers or middlemen, underwriting is heavily collateral-based and execution is a tedious process requiring a lot of paperwork that usually stretches up to six weeks in duration. Furthermore, there is a fear of rejection, which in several cultures prevents a number of creditworthy borrowers from applying.

While the opportunity to disrupt traditional financial services is immense, it is important to understand the key drivers in this field. Like most sectors, it is imperative that governments put in place an ecosystem that can help and enable players to create these disruptions.

The three most important enablers for digital lending are:

1. Telecommunications and connectivity

The telecommunication sector has been pivotal in spurring the digital revolution globally. Creating networks that enable consumers to connect from computers, laptops and mobiles are the most basic requirements to kickstart a digital revolution.

From financial services to retailers, everybody depends on networks to provide a compelling online and mobile experience. Telecom operators must offer an integrated, multi-channel or omni-channel user experience: on the desktop, on mobile devices and in stores. The reach of such networks is essential for digital finance to succeed and penetrate new markets.

2. Technology and data

Technology, as one would expect, is at the heart of the digital revolution. Investments in technology by organisations have only been increasing over time.

Advances in digital technology have allowed services to reach a number of people, who had limited or no access earlier. If these advances have to continue, then increased capital investment in equipment and software is an absolute must. Encouraging companies to invest more in R&D, say, via tax incentives is crucial to penetrating the consumer base.

3. Regulations and policies

Post the financial crisis, increased regulations have forced large banks to reconsider their traditional methods, especially in light of additional balance sheet charges. This has opened up new markets globally.

Regulators in the West, particularly the UK followed by the US, have been proactive in allowing these markets to grow and challenge the traditional players. As the rest of the world cautiously opens up to this new space, digital finance players have thrived under flexible and friendly regulations.

It is imperative to encourage an atmosphere in which innovation in financial services and products offered to consumers is prevalent. While the need to be cautious post the 2008 crisis is justified, regulators should be careful not to stamp out truly innovative and disruptive ideas.

Digital finance — banking for the ‘unbanked’

A recent report by The Guardian, states that almost 500 million people across Southeast Asia still often turn to informal moneylenders to meet their everyday needs. Decisions requiring credit, such as expanding a business, buying a house or paying medical bills, are taken out of the hands of the so-called “unbanked”. Uninsured and with no savings, they are also less resilient to health problems, unemployment or a natural disaster.

Digital finance holds the key for financial inclusion, as nearly 50 per cent of the population in developing countries own mobile phones. The impact of digital lending in emerging economies goes beyond the traditional financial services offered. It also helps create additional jobs and acts as an economic stimulator.

A number of firms in Africa and Asia are using digital finance to tackle development challenges. Technological innovations, like mobile money, have acted as catalysts in providing a variety of financial services. Consumers at the bottom of the pyramid in several countries today are using mobile money to make payments for a wide range of services.

Apart from traditional services — such as credit, savings and financial education — consumers also enjoy access to money-transfer services, micro-loans and insurance.

How can we make this happen?

MSMEs (Micro Small and Medium Enterprises) also stand to gain substantially from digital lending. Apart from access to finances, electronic payment systems allow them to secure a diverse range of financial products and an opportunity to build a financial history. The importance of digital finance in building both credit history and transactional data of individuals and firms for lenders cannot be underestimated.

Close public-private cooperation is a key factor for this type of innovation to be taken to scale and enable people to live a more secured, empowered and included life. If approached wisely, it is possible for emerging economies to leapfrog developed nations in the adoption of these digital channels, and at the same time accelerate financial inclusion.

Article sourced from E27. Read the original article here.

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Bharat QR vs POS Machine: Which One Is Better?

FinTech is disrupting the very fundamentals of money management the world over, and India is no exception. With the Prime Minister’s focus, especially, on making India “digital”, a number of programs and schemes have been launched. In fact, many of the schemes have taken a cue from the private sector and have upped the innovation game to deliver a comfortable and convenient money management experience. From the point of sale (POS) machines to merchant cash advance to e-wallets, we are seeing a plethora of FinTech products and services change the way we pay. And this phenomenon is occurring across industries, whether it is the fast moving e-commerce sector or the heavy-duty manufacturing sector.

Consumers are at the receiving end of these changes and need to fast adapt to the new payment means. First it was a revolution of the plastic money, with cash bring replaced by credit and debit cards. This demanded the use of other paraphernalia, such as the point of sale devices at the checkout counters. Now, with niche FinTech innovators such as Paytm and MobiKwik, even the point of sale devices are not required. It is just scan and pay. The government has taken this ease of payment a step further by bringing to light the Bharat QR payment method.

What is Bharat QR 

Bharat QR is a payment process driven by a Quick Response Code or QR code. A user who has the Bharat QR-enabled bank application on his or her mobile phone can make a payment quickly, easily and safely. The best part is that scanning the machine-readable optical grid translates the bank account information without your having to swipe or hand over a card, making it extremely convenient! This is because the QR grid stores the person’s bank information. This is similar to using a Paytm or a FreeCharge or a MobiKwik e-wallet, the advantage being that in Bharat QR, payments are linked directly to your bank account rather than to a separate e-wallet. There is thus no hassle of transferring money to your Paytm wallet or MobiKwik wallet. Alternatively, the user can also access Bharat QR through the Bharat Interface for Money or BHIM universal app, which is a UPI developed by the National Payments Corporation of India (NCPI).

Currently, Bharat QR is available on the mobile applications of 15 nationalised and private banks, namely – Axis Bank, Bank of Baroda, Bank of India, Citi Union Bank, DCB Bank, Karur Vysya Bank, HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, IDBI Bank, Punjab National Bank, RBL Bank, State Bank of India, Union Bank of India, Vijaya Bank and Yes Bank. It is also linked to VISA, MasterCard, American Express and RuPay cards. Its scale is expected to increase in the coming days.

A look at Point of Sale

Bharat QR is thus a leap ahead of the Point of Sale payment mechanisms, which were the mainstream payment devices used at most commercial and consumer locations such as shops and restaurants. The Point of Sale or POS terminal is a computerised replacement for a cash register that can process credit and debit cards. A customer swipes their card in the machine and enters the PIN number to verify and complete the transaction. The POS is installed at the merchant location, mostly by the bank that they associated with. Not only does the merchant bear the cost of the device and the installation, but they are also compelled to pay the issuer bank a merchant discount rate (MDR). This is a percentage of the transaction value. In a bid to boost cash transactions, the RBI had rationalised the Merchant Discount Rate (MDR) for debit cards. Accordingly, a cap has been introduced for debit card point of sale payments, capped at 0.75% for transaction values up to Rs 2000 and at 1% for transaction values above Rs 2000. However, it continues to be an expense for the merchant, and is often passed on to the customer by increasing the selling price of the product or service. Often, buyers may not even realise that they are being charged extra for the MDR.

Other payment instruments: e-wallets

The first leg of replacing the point of sale was the onslaught of e-wallets such as Paytm and FreeCharge. Although they operate on the same principle as that of scanning a QR code, they are somewhat restrictive because they require both the transferor and the receiver to have the same e-wallet installed on their smartphones. The need was thus felt for a faster and easier money transfer mode, which caused the Bharat QR to come to the fore, thanks to the design and development by NCPI.

Advantages of Bharat QR

The Bharat QR is a step towards financial freedom by means of cashless transactions. It relieves one from the hassle of swiping at the point of sale or of facing detection troubles with one’s plastic money at the point of sale. Because there is no requirement of a physical use of a card, the risk of data theft or security issues through tampered or cyber-compromised point of sale devices is also minimised. Costs are reduced from both the consumer and merchant viewpoints, since the need for expensive point of sale devices and their MDR charges is eliminated. A significant advantage of Bharat QR is its ease of operation; i.e., the buyer and seller need not download the same payment application to make the payment happen, unlike Paytm. This is because the Bharat QR is directly linked to a single bank account. It poses a logistical relief, since businessmen now need not shuffle between different wallets and track their credits and debits – a tedious task. Moreover, the money transfer happens instantly because Bharat QR uses an IMPS service. Bharat QR truly has the potential to create a FinTech revolution.

It is clear that Bharat QR paves a convenient way ahead for paying and receiving funds. It is a great idea to get started on this universal tool. As a merchant, you must register with your banks to get authorised to receive payments through Bharat QR. Link your bank account to the BHIM app and generate your unique Bharat QR Code, take a print of your QR code and stick it onto your payment counter to get started.

Oct 24, 2018

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Considerations When Taking Short-Term Business Loans

Going the entrepreneurial route is a tough decision to take. Several people contemplate it, but only a few take that leap. Starting a business may be very challenging, but what is even tougher is running a business.

Most small businesses are faced with liquidity crunches. They are required to make payments for raw materials, overheads and staff before their receivables become due. Such businesses have not earned the confidence to ask their suppliers for a lengthy credit period. On the other hand, their customers are able to demand 30, 60 or 90 days before the invoice becomes due.

In such a scenario, small businesses find themselves at the mercy of large banks to raise short-term loans. Here are some challenges that SMEs face while applying for a short term business loan.

Estimating the Money Required: If a business underestimates the amount of money required, it would find itself unable to implement projects, execute orders, retain employees and/or realize its expansion plans. On the other hand, if a business secures a loan amount that is significantly higher than its requirements, it would be taking on an interest burden that is not justified by its bottom-line. Taking the right amount of loan can help the SME adequately address the working capital need without having a surplus or lack of funds.

Applying to Traditional Banks: Most entrepreneurs do not have the funds to invest in their businesses and keep it running for a couple of years. Borrowing from friends and family can also be tricky or simply not an option. In such scenarios, small businesses often turn to traditional financial institutions to raise short-term loans. However, these loans have a very time consuming and complex application process. There is plenty of paperwork involved. The business has to present financials in a predetermined format with supporting documents and detailed projections.

Loan Approval: The process of loan approval can be long and complicated. Banks may take several months to even reject a loan application. Mostly, loans are provided only against collateral, which the business owner may not have. Even then, lenders would conduct a thorough analysis of the financial standing of the small business. The lenders would verify all the information provided by the applicant and this takes a long time, during which the liquidity problem of the business continues to worsen. Therefore, such loans may not even be a viable option for short-term, working capital requirements.

Repayment of Loans: Most short-term business loans from traditional financial institutions have a fixed repayment schedule that is in no way linked to the cycle of receivables of the small business. Moreover, they do not allow prepayment of loans. Thus, these businesses would need to continue to bear the interest rate burden, even if it has the funds to repay the loan.

Against the backdrop of these inherent problems with securing short-term finance, technology has helped offer relief from severe liquidity crunches. FinTech companies like Capital Float rely on cutting-edge technology to offer innovative products that are aligned to the requirements and nature of small businesses. Here are some points to keep in mind while applying for a short term business loan.

Easy Application Process: The application can be sent online via a form that takes around 10 minutes to be filled. The borrower can digitally upload all the required documents.

Fast Loan Approval: The use of powerful algorithms allows Capital Float to approve or reject an application within minutes. Thus, a small business does not need to wait for several months to receive a response. Once an application has been approved, the short-term business loan is disbursed within 72 hours.

No Collateral, No Guarantor: Loans offered by Capital Float do not require small businesses to put up any collateral. Unlike traditional lenders, there is no requirement of a guarantor to validate the loan request.

Loans Designed to Suit Their Purpose: Probably the best news is that the finance products offered by Capital Float take into account the specific requirements and nature of small businesses. For instance, the Term Finance product has been designed specifically for manufacturers, traders and distributors, while the Online Seller Finance product is perfect for businesses that operate on online marketplaces. The Taxi Finance product is meant for companies that are part of the booming radio taxi business in India. Merchant Cash Advance is a loan against card receivables and Supply Chain Finance is finance against invoices from blue-chip companies.

Repayment of Loans: The repayment of loans offered by Capital Float either be in correlation to the receivables of the business or may be in the form of flexible weekly instalments. Moreover, there are no pre-closure charges, like those applied by banks and other lending institutions.

Small-term business loans are a highly effective way to finance business cash needs. However, one needs to calculate the amount carefully and then identify the right financing institute and the right product. A small business needs to opt for customized products that suit their individual requirements and offer flexible repayment options. The innovative short-term finance options available today allow small businesses to continue their daily operations without disruption and gives these enterprises confidence to grow without apprehension.

Oct 24, 2018

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How Lenders Determine The Loan Limit For An Online Seller

E-commerce in India is growing at a rapid pace. It’s a highly competitive space as it gives opportunities to thousands of small sellers as well as big brands. However, to compete with the larger players, several sellers face the challenge of sufficient capital.

Be it in day-to-day operations, meeting sudden demand rise or to build a brand value, capital is all that you need to keep your venture growing. Loans are one of the most convenient financing options available for most online sellers. This is to expand their business and to manage gaps in cash flow. Be it a big brand or a small seller, financial backing is much needed to grow on e-commerce platforms.

Leading e-commerce companies have tie-ups with many financial institutions such as banks and NBFCs. These partnerships help encourage sellers on e-commerce platforms by providing them finance, mainly in the form of working capital.

Many financial institutions are working in collaboration with e-commerce companies. They have rolled out financing schemes for their online merchants and sellers. Lenders collect the database of sellers from the partnered e-commerce company. They then determine the quantum of loan and the interest rate for the potential borrower. Usually, loan amount varies from Rs 1 lakh to 100 lakhs.

Some lenders offer higher loan amounts depending on the pattern of the business. These e-commerce loans are offered to online sellers at a competitive rate with flexible repayment tenures.

Interest rate offered varies from 11% to 15 %, depending on the various factors and business record of the seller. It involves a quick and easy application process and minimum documentation.

E-commerce loans can be applied online through a simple process of form filling. Approvals are instant in most of the cases. Seller should be registered with the respective e-commerce company to avail the financing scheme. Usually, e-commerce loans are unsecured loans, i.e. loans without any collateral.

Lenders focus on many records related to the seller. Here are some of the Influencing factors based on which lenders determine the quantum of e-commerce loan:

1) Cash Flow Management: 

When you are selling products online, it’s important to ensure healthy cash flows. Online sales are quite difficult to predict, especially during the festive season and on big sale days. Failure in your marketing strategy can leave you with a lot of inventory that you could not sell. Seasonalities are common in the online selling business. You may end up facing cash flow problems, which ultimately lead to a financial crunch. Effective management of cash flows is a vital element. Lenders take your cash flow forecast statements into consideration while determining the loan limit.

2) Past Record:

Lenders take into consideration the entire business record of the seller since inception of the enterprise. Some of the documents taken into consideration are:

  • Business license,
  • Incorporation or registration details
  • Timely payment of sales tax etc.

The lender will then check your business plan and the performance since inception. They do this to understand the pattern and size of your business. So, be mindful of maintaining a good business record right from the onset.

It’s important for online business owners to keep their records updated. With good records, you may get a preferential rate on credit.

3) Operational History: 

Numbers of years in business counts more in getting the e-commerce loan approved. Generally, most of the financial institutions provide e-commerce loan to online sellers with more than a year of operation. The biggest fear for lenders when providing loans to online sellers is the possibility of default. Hence, stability of business is taken into consideration. Your entrepreneurial experience plays a major role in getting a credit facility for your online business.

4) Return on Sales: 

The efficiency of your business is measured basis the return on sales. Lenders consider the ratio of profit and sales to determine the credit limit that they can offer. The loan amount is determined by lenders based on your sales records of the last six months.

5) Type of Business: 

A lender decides the percentage of finance that they can offer to an online seller. It depends on the type of business. If your business is fast moving and the frequency of buying such products is more, you are likely to get higher loan.

6) Customer Satisfaction and Review: 

Earning customer loyalty and trust is key to being successful in online selling. The first impression of a seller needs to be good for customers to consider purchasing from the seller. Positive customer feedback will ultimately lead to more business. This creates more demand in the online marketplace. Customer review and rating defines your service quality. This helps you in building brand loyalty on the e-commerce platform. High customer satisfaction will ultimately boost your sales. This creates competitive advantage for you in the online marketplace. Lenders consider these elements to evaluate the level of your service quality.

CONCLUSION

With many e-commerce companies collaborating with financiers, availing credit for online businesses is no longer a challenging task. As lenders partner with e-commerce companies to offer customized finance solutions to e-sellers, more opportunities are available for new entrepreneurs to explore the online selling business.

Raising working capital for an online business is now convenient. It has become easy with the financial assistance from e-commerce companies.

With the help of details like:

  • Cash flow forecast,
  • Number of years of business experience,
  • Profitability,
  • Sales volume
  • Customer satisfaction report, etc.

Financial institutions are able to underwrite e-commerce loans for online sellers.

Oct 24, 2018