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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Impact on Retailers in India after 2018 Union Budget

The Union Budget for FY18-19 was much anticipated, owing to reasons more than one. The first full-fledged financial plan after the introduction of GST and the last one by the Narendra Modi-led government, the most significant event of the Indian financial year is over. With the national polls looming in, the Union Budget rolled out by finance minister Arun Jaitely was favourable towards agriculture, rural development, social infrastructure and digital transformation. However, international mobile phone companies, bond investors, equity servicing institutions and the defence sector are at the not-so-advantageous end of the spectrum. In general, this year’s Union Budget has been a shift from the typical stance of the government that all segments need equal attention.

An industry segment that sees clear growth opportunities is retail. Amidst public opinion that the budget had not mentioned the retail segment, the various provisions have subtle repercussions that will help widen the scope of consumption. Consequently, this will have a long-term impact on retailers, where they can reap benefits from consumers with a higher expendable income.

Here are the key provisions of the Union Budget for FY 18-19 that have relevant implications for retailers.

  • Reduction in Corporate Tax
    With regards to taxation, the budget has declared a reduction in corporate tax to 25% for companies with an annual turnover of up to Rs 250 crore. This accounts for almost 99% of the companies in India and would have an impact of Rs 7000 crore on government finances. As only 250 companies have a turnover above the threshold value, this is a significant reduction in terms of the business turnover cutoff of Rs 50 crore that had been announced in last year’s budget for the same tax bracket.
    This move has resulted in a decrease in the tax burden for small and medium businesses, who can now use these additional funds to purchase inventory or machinery, expand their premises, hire new employees or for marketing activities. In case it does not cover your entire expenses, retailers can also avail easy business finance from digitally-enabled FinTech lenders who provide customized credit products like Merchant Cash Advance.
  • Increased Investments in Digital India
    Lack of investment in digital infrastructure by the government has always been a pain point that has deterred the productivity and development of startups and small businesses. This is especially true for the e-commerce sector, as rural India is the driving force behind its growth. This year alone, e-tailers recorded a three-fold increase in the number of shoppers in small towns compared to metro cities.
    Under the massive Rs 3,073 crore Digital India Program, over 5 lakh Wi-Fi hotspots will be set up to provide broadband access to 20 crore rural citizens in over 2,50,000 villages. This opens up an avenue for individuals in rural India to harness the Internet for trade, banking, logistics and even to avail formal finance from digital lenders. E-commerce retailers can use this opportunity to its fullest, as 55% of the 185 million active consumers are predicted to be from rural India by 2020.
  • Changes in Personal Taxation
    A welcome move for the salaried middle class, this budget proposed a standard deduction of Rs 40,000 for transport allowance and medical reimbursement. While this may seem irrelevant to retailers, the impact of this allowance does indeed affect them. As personal income increases, so does the disposable component. Consumer behavioral studies ascertain that the disposable income is equitable to spends on retail. Thus, the re-introduction of medical and travel benefits is a favourable budget impact on retailers.
  • Refinancing for MSMEs
    The micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) sector plays a major role as India progresses towards becoming one of the biggest economies in the world. Despite contributing a staggering 15% to the country’s GDP with a high market share of 40% towards employment, these businesses have an unmet credit demand of $ 400 billion.
    Acknowledging the fact, the budget declared an allocation of Rs 3794 crore to the MSME sector for credit support, capital and interest subsidy on innovation. With this reform in play, the refinancing policy and eligibility criteria under Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency (MUDRA) program will be reviewed to encourage easier financing of MSMEs by NBFCs. This impact of the budget on retailers opens plenty of avenues avail formal source of finance in a timely manner.
    A unique Aadhaar-like identity for each enterprise will also be implemented for streamlining business identity. This measure can further enable Fintech lenders like Capital Float to process eKYC of enterprises swiftly and offer working capital finance in a matter of seconds.

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7 Ways to Manage Your Business Cash Flows

Two of the main reasons why businesses face challenges are inadequate cash reserves and business finance. Whether the business is struggling or growing, effective cash flow management is absolutely essential and the key to business survival.

There is always a lag between the time a company pays its suppliers and employees and the time it collects payments from customers, which causes issues for the business to remain operational. Once businesses have used a lot of their finances, they may experience a cash crunch that prevents them from paying suppliers, buying materials and even paying salaries, which hinders business growth and success, since most companies usually lose the trust of suppliers and employees in such situations.

SMEs Need Smart Cash Flow Management

Cashflow is basically the movement of funds in and out of your business. Cashflow is called positive when the amount of cash entering into the business from sales, accounts receivables, etc., is more than the amount of the cash leaving your business through monthly expenses, accounts payable, employee salaries, etc. In the reverse situation, the cashflow would be considered negative.

To attain a smart cash-flow management, businesses need to think beyond just their profit or loss and focus on a positive cash flow, which is key for generating profits. Companies need to have enough cash reserves available all the time to pay their employees and suppliers so that production isn’t affected.  Capital Float is a FinTech lending company fulfilling the business loan requirements of SMEs in India. We offer flexible, short-term loans that you can use to purchase inventory, service new orders or optimize cash cycles. Our online application procedure simplifies the application process and lowers the time required for approval. The loan amount is disbursed within 72 hours.

As mentioned previously in this blog, achieving positive cash flows is fundamentally important to the health of the business. Here are some ways in which you can effectively manage your cash flows, leading to higher profits and business growth.

7 Practical Ways to Ensure Effective Cash Flow Management

1.Collect Receivables: There are times when every business has to extend credit to customers, particularly when they are in the growing stage. When you speed up the receipt and processing of receivables, you will experience quick input of cash, further reducing credit cycles that inevitable lead to debt.

2.Opt for Short-Term Unsecured Loans:  Short-term business loans, from FinTech lenders like Capital Float, are the best solution to overcome cash flow problems and meet immediate cash requirements. Unlike traditional lending institutions, which require extensive documentation to process a loan, these lenders use technology to make financing decisions. Applicants can avail a loan amount from Rs. 1 lakh to Rs. 3 crores. If you decide to pay off the remaining balance of the loan earlier than decided, you won’t not be charged any prepayment penalty either.

3.Adopt Easy Modes of Payment: Try to get paid faster by using mobile payment solutions. Many companies, upon selling their products, provide services through which they receive payment on delivery via banking apps on smartphones or tablets with the use of a credit or debit card. In fact, businesses today are actively turning towards card payment devices, where these Point-of-Sale machines, other than offering cashless transactions, become the instruments for availing working capital finance through services like Capital’s Float Merchant Cash Advance.

4.Pay Later Finance: This financial product helps you make regular payments to replenish inventory and keep your business moving. Many a time, businessmen are presented with growth opportunities, but due to a cash crunch, they are unable to capitalize on such opportunities. Even when they try to, the informal lenders charge exorbitant rates of interest, coupled with other unreasonable demands, making it hard to borrow money from them. Pay Later is a predefined credit facility, unique to each applicant, from which the applicant can make multiple drawdowns. The facility can be restored following repayments, making the facility ready for further use. Interest is charged on the drawdowns and not the entire facility.

5.Online Seller Finance: Capital Float has partnered with the largest e-commerce platforms in the country, including Amazon, PayTM, Snapdeal, Myntra, Shopclues, eBay, etc., to help business owners access fast and flexible working capital loans for business operations in India. One of the unique features is that the loan is offered on the basis of the borrower’s monthly sales and projected revenue We use cutting-edge tech-integration, Big Data and decision sciences to assess the borrower’s business.

6.Discounts on Early Payments: Your profit margin might be effected when you offer your customers discounts upon early payment. However, it will surely help in your business’ cash flow management. Incentivizing customers will encourage them to make payments earlier than the billing cycle, which will be advantageous for your business.

7.Increase the Company’s Sales: This is indeed the most traditional method of increasing cash flow, but it might not always work. Try to attract new customers and sell additional goods or services to your existing customers. You should remember that while new customer acquisition increases sales, selling more to existing customers is cheaper and leads you to increase your profit margin, generating more cash.

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