Digital Lending and Its Impact on SMEs in India

The growing entrepreneurship and start-up culture in India has increased the demand for flexible business loans to support such new ventures monetarily. However, funds that come through banks, government agencies and other financial institutions are not always easy to procure. The detailed paperwork, the long waiting times to get approval for the required amounts, and the high interest rates to be paid over an extended period deter many new businesses from approaching the conventional sources of working capital.

Propelled by technological developments, an alternative source of loans for small business has emerged in the form of new FinTech (financial technology) lending. In India, the FinTech market has witnessed a period of rapid growth in the last two years. As per reports by KPMG India and NASSCOM, it is expected to cross the $2.4 billion mark by 2020. Its lending model is driven by digital technology and is inherently different from the conventional approach that has been used by banks for years.

Most FinTech lenders specialise in micro financing and SME lending. The loan is granted promptly based on financial statements, bank transaction history and e-commerce transaction behaviour where applicable. As a leading player in the digital lending industry, Capital Float has already carved out its niche and is trusted by entrepreneurs who need quick loans to materialise the innovations in their business plans.

Why are SMEs shifting from conventional sources of finance to FinTech lenders? 

Credit underwriting has been a major challenge with regards to the SME sector. The loan officers in Indian banks still use outdated methods to determine the creditworthiness of a small business. Furthermore, the loans offered by banks are secured in nature, those that require the borrower to offer some collateral – such as real estate, gold, investment portfolio, machinery or stocks – as security. This prevents several enterprising ventures from availing finance even if they have good prospects to grow and the ability to pay back their small business loan on time.

A digital SME loan is comparatively easier to obtain. The FinTech lending structure is backed by the assessment of digitally uploaded documents. The creditworthiness is evaluated using big data, psychometric questionnaires and social media behaviour, in addition to the trading position of the concerned business. If the SME does not maintain a formal balance sheet, alternate documents throwing light on its prospects in the industry can be used to determine the creditworthiness.

The experience of procuring loans before the advent of FinTech revolution was not very customer-friendly. Borrowers had to fill in long paper-based forms, gather many documents in support of their applications and pledge an asset to the lender. Subsequently, there was a waiting period running into weeks before the small business loan amount was approved.

Digital lending companies have improved the user experience by leveraging technology to tone down the paper work and processing time. Just like retail shopping and online travel bookings, the capital market for SMEs also needed to evolve and move online.

Was there a need for this new source of small business loans? 

The emergence of FinTech sector for lending to small and micro enterprises is not only limited to India, but is a global phenomenon. An article published by Forbes has comprehensively analysed the case for this new source of business loans. The financial crisis of 2008 had left the banking sector with almost no scope for innovation. They were heavily regulated by new rules for lending and were urged to limit their risk by demanding for liquid collateral and Tier 1 capital. They also had to be more attentive than before to their back offices and compliance management.

Such changes encouraged finance-savvy and customer-focused talent pools to devise new ways, whereby technology could be leveraged to make borrowing easier. Digital lending services build a bridge between lenders and borrowers. There is a difference in the time taken to process the application, the underwriting process, the actual disbursal of the amount and the period for which the SME loan is granted. While adequate care is taken in evaluating the eligibility of a business for the grant, a FinTech company also ensures that there are no superfluous delays.

In line with the standards established by banks, an online lender must also ensure a high degree of transparency in the process of granting loans. At Capital Float, before a transaction becomes active, borrowers receive complete information on the rate of interest, the tenure of loan and any condition attached to the deal. There are no unpleasant surprises at the time of loan repayment.

Another advantage of procuring unsecured loans from a digital lender is that this new industry can adjust to changes more actively than conventional banks. With lower costs of underwriting using technology, lower rates of interest also become feasible.

Digital lending is helping a new class of business borrowers who have not been able to obtain funding from traditional sources. With an automated underwriting process and risk management, it has a lower operational cost and smoother loan processing. A major  of FinTech-based lending is the assessment of client’s credit worthiness. Unlike banks that use only income statements and formal credit history, a FinTech company gathers substantial data through social media and big data. What’s more, with a strong use of technology in lending, the focus on safety is also uncompromising. There are adequate measures to keep the customer details encrypted and secure. Moreover, they also facilitate tailored finance products keeping in mind the varying needs of different industry segments.

The underlying objective is to support promising entrepreneurs in getting quick funds and realise their new business ideas. Capital Float believes that SMEs can grow consistently if they have secure and quick access to funds. As the government continues to promote digital transactions through e-wallets, mobile-driven point of sale (POS) and Internet banking, the financial structure must also be modernised to give a further impetus to entrepreneurship and the ‘Make in India’ vision.

As a FinTech company, Capital Float has created a business model that is not limited by structural formalities surrounding banks and traditional lending agencies. Our aim is to serve client needs efficiently and help promising businesses flourish progressively.

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5 Common SME Financing Mistakes To Avoid

The SME (small and medium enterprises) sector is an important contributor to India’s economic growth. Even though their product or service may add great value for certain people, many SMEs face challenges. This is mostly because of the lack of research and planning by the business owners about the potential opportunities and risks of the particular niche in which these units operate. Many-a-times such businesses fail to make accurate assessments of their working capital requirements and, even when they do, cannot find ways to finance them.

Some common financing mistakes made by SMEs relate to whether or not to borrow, estimating the correct amount of SME business loan required, checking the full financing cost, the time wasted on getting a loan approved and the opportunity costs.

SME Financing Options and Some Common Mistakes

The Government and the private sector have taken several initiatives to increase availability of small business loans to SMEs in India. Despite the improved availability of SME finance, many units are still struggle with easy access to finance. This is mainly due to the lack of awareness of new-age, innovative financing solutions that are offered by FinTech lenders like Capital Float.

Here are the five most common financing mistakes made by SMEs:

1. Lack of Planning: One of the gravest shortcomings of smaller businesses is the inability to plan for the longer term. Business owners tend to get so involved with daily operations, troubleshooting and trying to complete orders that they fail to step back and look at the bigger picture. In the absence of a business plan, many SMEs do not foresee the amount of cash they would require to grow and expand. They suddenly find themselves in a severe cash crunch, unable to meet their working capital needs.

A sound business plan is essential for approaching a bank for a loan. Moreover, the ability to project a cash crunch or the funds needed to grow would allow SMEs to approach banks in time, since traditional lending institutions may take months before sanctioning the loan. This is where FinTech lenders have eased the situation. By deploying cutting-edge technology, Capital Float can ensure loan approval within hours. The use of powerful algorisms helps determine the prospects of a business, easing the process of loan approval. In fact, such lenders do not require a formal business plan for sanctioning SME finance.

2.Wrong Estimation of Funds Required: Most business owners feel anxious about overestimating their loan requirement and having to pay interest on excess funds. This makes them lean towards underestimating their costs. Thus, even when a loan is disbursed, these businesses are left wanting for more. Of course, the overestimation of the loan requirement hits the bottom-line.

What such businesses need is Capital Float’s Pay Later Finance product, which offers a Predetermined credit amount. While a credit amount is determined, based on the prospects of the business, the SME has the flexibility to transfer only as much funds, as it currently needs. Repayments can be made as the business generates money, and the repayment restores the credit amount, making funds available for future requirements.

3.Hidden Charges: Several lenders burden SMEs with hidden fees. These charges may be exorbitant and the business owner may not even know when they are levied. At Capital Float, perfect transparency is maintained, with no hidden charges. In fact, unlike most traditional banking institutions that impose a fee for the early repayment of a loan, there are no prepayment charges at Capital Float.

4.Choosing the Wrong SME Finance Product: Most SMEs turn toward unorganized moneylenders or traditional banking institutions to borrow money. These loans are not tailored to the specific needs of the SMEs. New-age lenders like Capital Float offer various SME business loans that have been designed keeping in mind the needs, business model and ability to repay of different businesses.

5.Trying to Arrange Collateral: SMEs sometimes put too much at stake to get a loan or do not borrow money in the absence of collateral. Capital Float offers small business loans in India without the requirement for collateral. One can also opt for a Merchant Cash Advance, which converts accounts receivables of a business to quick and usable funds.

Apart from these common mistakes made by small businesses, the timing of the loan approval and receipt of funds plays a critical role in the success of SMEs. Any delay in arranging the necessary funds can prove catastrophic for a business. This is mainly because SMEs often do not have sufficient negotiating power with their suppliers. They need to make payments for raw materials long before they can raise an invoice to their customers.

The rapid evolution of technology to address SME finance needs have revolutionized the lending space. The objective of FinTech lenders is to eliminate the liquidity issues faced by the SME sector by ensuring the quick approval and disbursal of the loan amount, while also making it easier for these smaller businesses to repay the loan. However, to make use of these advantages, SMEs need to be made aware of such options.

Oct 24, 2018

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Coding Guidelines: Programmer’s Daily Bread and Butter

As we work in startup, we are under time pressure to release a lot of new features on time, features which do not have well defined requirements and the complexity of those features is often underestimated and we end up taking a lot of shortcuts / adding hacks to release such time sensitive features.

This may work for a short time, but over the period of time we realize that the same shortcuts that you took to release features quickly are now slowing you down. You can not scale and add new features on top of it, even if you do, they become quite unstable. In this situation you might want to take a step back and revamp/refactor you base system.

One of the easiest things that you can do to avoid this situation is follow coding guidelines.

Coding Standards

Well, what according to you is a good code? The simple definition could be: if it can’t be understood, maintained and extended by other developers then its definitely not a good code. The computer doesn’t care whether your code is readable. It’s better at reading binary machine instructions than it is at reading high-level-language statements. You write readable code because it helps other developers to read your code.

Naming conventions:

As the name suggests, it is a simple concept where you follow a specific naming conventions across teams. This becomes important when your team is growing and are solving problems on daily basis and pushing a lot of code every day.

camelcases vs underscore

This helps a lot when your team becomes big and a lot of developers are working on the same code-base. If you follow some fixed patterns while defining classes/functions/variables names, it becomes really easy for fellow colleagues to understand your code. This directly impacts delivery time taken by a developer to build/modify a feature on top of existing code. For example, let us suppose you want to define a time-stamp field in a database table, how would you name it ? If you have a fixed pattern like a “action_ts” or “action_at” for giving names then you can easily guess what could be the field name in the schema. If its a created time-stamp then it could be either “created_at” or “created_ts”. You do not have to go and check every-time you writing any logic over different database tables.

Function/Module/API writing (Size and Purpose)

Simplicity and readability counts. It’s always better to write to concise code than a messier one so that if any other developer is also looking at it who has no idea, should get what exactly it is doing. Not more than max 10–15 lines. Jenkins is considered as one of the greatest implementations, and has average function length of 2 lines.

A function/module should only do ONE thing and should do it NICELY. By following this, code becomes modular and it helps a lot in debugging. You can solve the problem better and debug faster when you know where exactly it’s coming.

When you are developing features over an established products, more than 50% times, new requirements are of the nature which you can build on top of existing code. In such cases, you can ship those requirements really faster and stable if existing code-base is modular and stable. Writing library functions a savior. There are countless advantages of writing a library code. It avoids code repetition, no surprises when it comes to response formats and of-course code re-usability.

Exception/Error Handling

Unknown errors are real pain in developers life. It’s always better if you know probable exceptions and errors in code in advance. But that is not the case always. Irrespective of all this, you definitely do not want your end-users to see unexpected errors on their screens.

When you have different micro-services and bigger development teams, if you follow standard response formats for across APIs and standard exceptions then there will not be any surprises in production. You can agree upon one format across all the services. Every API can have certain ‘response_data’ and standard set of error-codes. Every Exception will have an error-code and a message. Message could have variation viz, tech specific message and user facing message.

Writing test cases:

If you want to have a good night sleep, then you better have thorough test cases covering almost all aspects of your code. The best way forward with building test cases is at requirement stage only. Whenever a requirement comes, products managers discuss it with developers as well as QA. Both teams start preparing for possible use-cases and test-cases.

A testing unit should focus on one tiny bit of functionality and prove it correct. Each test unit must be fully independent. Each test must be able to run alone, and also within the test suite, regardless of the order that they are called. The implication of this rule is that each test must be loaded with a fresh data-set and may have to do some cleanup afterwards.

Automation plays an important role here. What else is needed for stable product where you have all test cases covered and running at intervals automatically, giving you a report of the all functionalities. Also, whenever you are adding/modifying code, you make sure either you write new test cases or modify existing ones.


Code Reviews:

This one thing save lives, trust me! Every team can benefit from code reviews regardless of development methodology. Initially it takes time if you do not have a procedure setup of doing code reviews, but eventually it becomes a habit. Code review should be one of the core development steps.

Code review generally is about:

  • Does the new code conform to existing style guidelines?
  • Does the written piece of code covers all the use-cases specified in the requirements and has relevant test cases written ?
  • Are the new automated tests sufficient for the new code? Do existing automated tests need to be rewritten to account for changes in the code?

There are several advantages of this process such as –

Code reviews make for better estimates: Estimation is a team exercise, and the team makes better estimates as product knowledge is spread across the team. As new features are added to the existing code, the original developer can provide good feedback and estimation. In addition, any code reviewer is also exposed to the complexity, known issues, and concerns of that area of the code base. The code reviewer, then, shares in the knowledge of the original developer of that part of the code base.

Code reviews mentor new joiners: Code reviews help facilitate conversations about the code base between team members. During these conversations, team members share their views and new alternatives of doing things.

Code reviews take time: It’s an incremental process, where it takes time initially but as your code-base grows, it ensures, you are always pushing verified and tested code.

Hidden truth about code reviews: When developers know their code will be reviewed by a teammate, they make an extra effort to ensure that all tests are passing and the code is as well-designed as they can make it so the review will go smoothly. That mindfulness also tends to make the coding process itself go smoother and, ultimately, faster.

As a fast growing company our self, these set of guidelines have helped us a lot in shipping stable features on time and helping to increase a healthy learning environment.

Source:- Capital Float’s Medium Blog

Oct 24, 2018

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First GST Whitepaper Exclusively for SMEs

We have created ‘GST- An Overview, Its Impact & Significance’ as a comprehensive GST handbook comprising of every aspect related to this new reform, with a special focus on Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). Starting with the salient features, this GST ebook takes readers through the three main components of the tax which eliminate the cascading effects of taxation. Further, the registration process, four-tiered tax structure, the benefits as well as challenges are explained in the GST whitepaper.

How this Whitepaper will help simplify GST for you

  • Revised GST Rates Update
  • Industry-wise Analysis of GST Impact
  • Clear, Brief Descriptions of Key Aspects
  • Easy Roadmap to Implement GST Changes
  • Business Advice by Financial Experts
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Oct 24, 2018