SME Financing: A Variety of Options Available to Suit Your Needs

The 2017 Union Budget underlined the significant role that Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) play in the development of the country, in terms of industrial output, exports and generating employment. While SMEs contribute to the growth of the country, they face challenges in raising finances due to their size and their inability to provide adequate collateral.
Many SMEs have operational problems due to improper management and as a result, the lenders are wary about extending SME finance. To cover their risk, they charge higher rates of interest, insist on proper collateral, take extra efforts during due diligence, and even try to appoint their representative on the company board. Given the extra effort required when it comes to SME lending, traditional SME finance companies take a long time to disburse the loans.

Institutional route to SME finance

SME need loans to finance their working capital requirements. SME finance for working capital requirements traditionally starts with the establishment of cash credit, overdraft and working capital limits with the banks. SME finance is also required for purchasing assets and for expanding and scaling the business. For this purpose, term loans are secured from banks and SME finance companies for purchasing assets and for meeting other incidental expenses. Apart from these sources of finance, SMEs can also secure funds from the following traditional sources:

  • Export credit to finance the pre-shipment and post-shipment export-related activities.
  • Letters of Credit (LCs) and bank guarantees to facilitate trade and meet the performance and financial obligations.
  • Bill discounting where bills of exchange which are covered by LCs or bank guarantees are discounted by banks, NBFCs or SME finance companies.
  • Leasing where the banks, NBFCs or SME finance companies buy the asset on behalf of the SME and then lease it back to the SME.
  • Factoring and securitisation where illiquid assets are used to secure advances from banks, NBFCs or SME finance companies.
  • Venture capital investments from individual investors or companies.

Government impetus to SME lending

Recognising the issues faced by small businesses and their criticality to India’s development, the Government has initiated several measures to ease the credit availability for this segment.

  • The finance minister has set the lending target for SME finance at Rs 2.44 lakh crore for 2017. In other words the directive ensures that banks and financial institutions will disburse loans to SMEs collectively worth Rs 2.44 lakh crore through this year.
  • The Government’s Credit Guarantee Scheme (CGS) under the Ministry of Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSME), which secures the loans given by banks to SMEs, now has an increased outlay of Rs 2 crore from the earlier Rs 1 crore.
  • The 2017 Union Budget infused Rs 10,000 crore of capital into state-owned lending institutions to promote SME lending.
  • SMEs can continue to avail of loans under the Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana, where SME finance is disbursed to small businesses as working capital loans or short-term loans. The amount ranges from Rs 50,000 to Rs 10 Lakh and no collateral is required as they are covered/secured by the CGS scheme.

Alternative SME finance channels

Rapid strides in technology are changing the banking and financial industry and several new channels of credit are emerging as viable alternatives for cash-strapped SMEs.
New age FinTech companies are using advanced technology to introduce new SME lending products that have quick and easy approval processes. Companies like Capital Float have made it easier to secure SME finance. Such new age SME finance companies have introduced online portals and mobile apps that can be used by SMEs to apply for and manage loans. They have simplified and shortened the loan approval process by using big data and analytics to evaluate loan applications.
New age SME finance companies like Capital Float have also introduced innovative financial products for customised SME lending. These new SME lending solutions include:

Collateral-free financing solutions: These are unsecured loans given by the SME finance companies to SMEs who cannot or do not want to provide any security. FinTech SME finance companies like Capital Float use technology to swiftly assess the credit-worthiness of the loan applicants and speed up disbursal so that a business owner can receive the loan amount in their account within 72 hours. Capital Float also has easy and flexible repayment terms which make the loan easier for SMEs to manage.

Merchant cash advances or credit card receivables: These unsecured loans or advances can be availed of by SMEs who use Point-of-Sale (PoS) terminals. The amount advanced is dependent on the monthly credit card sales generated on the point-of-sale machine.

Online seller finance: This is a working capital loan given to e-commerce vendors for managing their day-to-day operations and leveraging business opportunities.

Supply chain finance: In this kind of financing, the SME finance company liquidates the borrower’s invoices by paying up to 80% of the invoice value to the borrower.

Capital Float is one of the leading SME finance companies that uses FinTech to create SME-friendly credit options. It provides short term unsecured loans to SMEs, and a basket of customised financial products that cater to the needs of small entrepreneurs. These include online seller finance, supply chain finance, merchant cash advance, and Pay Later, which is a revolving credit facility.

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

There are multiple stages in a start-up. At an early stage, most tech start-ups usually include two founding members – a business head and a tech head leading the validation efforts. Further down the line, we notice parallel and vertical streams of teams leading the initial growth of the company. It’s usually at this stage or after this stage, where the business has some solidarity to it and the focus on building tech for a large and scalable model begins. The following points made in this post have been laid out in view of a mature start-up.

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;

– Identify problems of the business

– Prioritize the need of the hour for the business

– Allow for high level architected solutions for each problem

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– Execute in sprints (ideally 2 weeks) for maximum output to customers

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.

Post prototyping, it’s important to pick the right framework for a full-fledged and scaled application. This is where building code that can be re-used in multiple services becomes a factor of efficiency in development. Building custom libraries (back-end or front-end) and even choosing the right frameworks ensure ease of development across resources and knowledge transfer. A choice of using AngularJS as a front-end framework allows for creating directives specific to custom applications and promotes reusable components.

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.

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Important GST Definitions, Terms and Glossary

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GST terms to know 

Certain essential definitions have been mentioned under the Model GST Law, which was first released in June, 2016, and then modified and released again in November, 2016.

Business : Definition: Business refers to trade, commerce, manufacture, profession, vocation or any other similar activity, including transactions related or incidental thereto, irrespective of volume or frequency, as well as supply of goods/ services in connection with commencement or closure of business.

The definition is quite wide and seems to be borrowed from State VAT legislations. Some parts have been modified to include transactions in services.

Place of Business : Definition: (a) A place from where the business is ordinarily carried on, and includes a warehouse, a godown or any other place where a taxable person stores his goods. (b) A place where a taxable person maintains his books of account. (c) A place where a taxable person is engaged in business through an agent.

Since GST is a destination-based indirect taxation system, the place of business is a critical factor in determining the business model and taxation dues of a business that is present in many places.

Time of Supply : Definition: The time of supply is the earlier of the following dates: (a) Date of issue of invoice by the supplier or the last day by which the supplier is required to issue invoice or (b) Date of receipt of payment.

The time of supply is important since it determines the point of taxation i.e. the point in time when goods / services have been deemed to be supplied or services have been deemed to be provided and hence SGST or IGST apply.

Goods : Definition: “Goods” refers to every kind of movable property other than money and securities, but includes actionable claim, growing crops, grass and things attached to or forming part of the land which are agreed to be severed before supply or under a contract of supply.

While the term “movable property” has been mentioned, it has not been defined in the Model GST Law, and one needs to refer to the General Clauses Act 1897 for this. It does not include intangible property such as intellectual property rights (copyrights, trademarks). Also, an item needs to be movable for it to be classified as goods.

Services : Definition: “Services” means anything other than goods.

The GST Model Law clarifies that services include intangible property and actionable claims but does not include money. There are separate definitions for supply of software, works contracts and leasing transactions, even though they fall in the ambit of services. The inclusion of “actionable claim” may create confusion where financial and commercial transactions are involved.

Software includes the development, design, programming, customisation, adaptation, upgradation, enhancement, implementation of information technology software, and is treated as a service.

As far as leasing transactions are concerned, a finance lease would be considered as supply of goods, and an operating lease would be considered as a service under the Model GST Law,

Works Contract : Definition: It is an agreement for carrying on building, construction, fabrication, erection, installation, fitting out, improvement, modification, repair, renovation or commissioning of any moveable or immovable property. Work Contract has been defined as a “Service”, simplifying its taxation procedure.

Supply : The GST has three new definitions related to “Supply”, i.e., Principal Supply, Composite Supply and Mixed Supply.

1. Principal Supply
Definition: It is the supply of goods or services which constitutes the predominant element of a composite supply and to which any other supply forming part of that composite supply is ancillary and does not constitute, for the recipient an aim in itself, but a means for better enjoyment of the principal supply.
It is generally the dominant supply in a bundle of supplies or a bundle of services. For example, in a mobile phone and the charger, the mobile phone will be the principal supply.

2. Composite Supply
Definition: a supply made by a taxable person to a recipient comprising two or more supplies of goods or services, or any combination thereof, which are naturally bundled and supplied in conjunction with each other in the ordinary course of business, one of which is a principal supply.

For example, goods packed with insurance and packing material is a composite supply, with the good being the principal supply. Here, there is a main supply and supporting supply, which normally go together in the course of business and enhance the enjoyment of the main supply.

3. Mixed Supply
Definition: Two or more individual supplies of goods or services, or any combination thereof, made in conjunction with each other by a taxable person for a single price where such supply does not constitute a composite supply.

Take the case of a corporate gift pack that consists of a tie, a wallet and a pen. These are bundled in a package supplied for a single price. None of the items is dependent on the other, nor necessary to be purchased together. This is a case of a mixed supply, where the individual items, which can also be sold separately, are sold together.

Aggregate Turnover : Definition: “aggregate turnover” means the aggregate value of all taxable supplies (excluding the value of inward supplies on which tax is payable by a person on reverse charge basis), exempt supplies, exports of goods or services or both and inter-State supplies of persons having the same Permanent Account Number, to be computed on all India basis but excludes central tax, State tax, Union territory tax, integrated tax and cess.

Reverse charge tax is a system where the recipient of the supply (goods and services), i.e. the client, is liable to pay the tax. Inward supplies are input supplies used as an input for manufacturing the goods or providing the service. Tax paid on input expenses can be adjusted against tax paid on output supplies, through input tax credit. This means that it cannot be treated as a part of the aggregate turnover.

Read more about GST at our GST blog for India.

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