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Making SMEs Loans a Breeze With Capital Float – ProductNation

Interviewed by Kritika Prashant

Typically, choosing to finance the SMEs looking for working capital loans, is not easy. First, the SMEs have smaller ticket size. Then they expect quick service and have high operational costs associated with it. ProductNation interviewed Shashank Rijyasringa and Gaurav Hinduja who started Capital Float in early 2013, a digital finance company that serves the loan requirements of SMEs in India.

Shashank having worked with McKinsey and Bain, has a background in creating, and packaging financial instruments. Gaurav on the other hand had grown and sold his family business before they met at Stanford as classmates.

“We were looking to address financial inclusion. We observed how the fin-tech space was being disrupted in US and China, and saw the huge opportunity in India. With 48 million SMEs, second just to China, with 50 million, India needed lenders who would tailor their offering to the needs of the customers. The rate of interest by the banks was much higher than expected. Also, the loan disbursement ate up a lot of time. So this need was largely catered to by the informal sector”, says Gaurav.

Registered as an NBFC with RBI, they started with an instrument for invoice financing (building loan product against invoice of blue-chip companies). The duo gradually evolved their products to provide working capital loans for SMEs. They developed underwriting models which address the specific scenarios of the SMEs.

“There are 2 broad categories of sellers coming up on eCommerce portals. First are those who sell on platforms like Zovi and Myntra, where the sellers are also the manufacturers. Other category includes retailers who sell on sites like Snapdeal and Paytm. They generate a huge demand for loans available at short notice periods with minimum hassle. That is where we found our sweet spot”, shares Shashank.

Here are some experpts from the interview:

How did you overcome the problems of traditional lending?

SR: “Firstly, our experience came in handy. My in-depth knowldge of micro-financing, packaging and selling loan instrument meant we could build the right services. Gaurav with his experience of running a business out of India, knew how to deliver the services we wanted to build.

Secondly, we met with our customers to understand what their problems really were. To a small business owner, every hour spent off the floor is an hour wasted. We came up with innovative methods like allowing same day approvals and providing loan facility over phone and laptop. These businesses needed greater accessibility and straight-forward procedures. They wanted someone who could understand the value of their time.

Third, and definitely the most crucial point was that we adopted trial and error method. Like any startup, we didn’t know exactly how things would work. We were building our instruments in-house. So we had to fail fast and experiment quickly. With agile methodology, today, we can deliver new loan products in 2 weeks. A bank would take about an year to do the same.”

How is the policy environment evolving in India, with respect to your industry?

GH:  “The Mudra banks for refinancing are a welcome move. With 950 million Aadhar numbers issued, allowing eKYC, is it much easier to issue loans. The Digital India initiative to create better internet connectivity will help us reach a much larger customer base.”

They are leveraging the Indian stack to refine their instruments and are growing with it.

How difficult is it to get payback of loans?

SR: “SMEs are the most financially aware and responsible segment, since they always manage their finances tightly. Also, our screening process mitigates high risk customers, allowing us to cater to the needs in minimum possible time frame. So that’s not much of an hassle.”

What would be the 3 lessons you have learned from your journey?

GH: “1. Perseverance – One needs to believe that the idea would work, when no one else knows if it will. It is important to stick to that optimism and keep trying to find the exact fit.

  1. Strong fundamentals – From the first day, the business needs to know where its money will come from. The cash flow should not be dependent on where one is, in the funding cycle.
  2. Rounded team – Build a great team if you want to build a great product. A strong team stands by you to make it possible.”

What would you say to the entrepreneurs starting up fresh out of college? 

SR: “There is no right time to startup. Whenever you get passionate about a problem and see a large market for it, go for it. Here are my 3 tips:

  1. Address a big problem. If you go after a problem which is not so big, it may not be worth all the effort. India provides huge opportunities with really major problems that need to be addressed.
  2. Maintain discipline. Whatever you do, think big and build for the long term.
  3. Understand your responsibility. As you grow your team, you need to realise that families of your employees are getting dependent on you. It is essential that you take your decisions wisely.”

What are the mistakes you wish you did not make?

GH: “We were too slow in the start. We should have been aggressive, and believed in ourselves more. We thought people might not accept a technological solution. We have realized however, that technology has to lead the change in society. Invest in constantly being disruptive and you will definitely make a difference.”

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

Oct 24, 2018

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5 Reasons Why Making a BizResolution Can Help You Grow Your Business

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Having got off to a good start, a business typically aims to grow and explore new opportunities. To make this happen, businesses need to move in the right direction. This is especially true for a business in its early days when managing operations efficiently is a challenge, thereby taking precedence over matters of strategic importance such as goal-setting and business development. One way by which you can change gears from the routine rigmarole is making a #BizResolution. These are exactly like making New Year Resolutions, except that these will help you boost business growth in your enterprise.

A business resolution is like a promise or commitment you make to achieve specific objectives in the coming year. Since it involves your enterprise, the level of commitment to making it happen is high.

Here are 5 ways business resolutions can help drive growth in your business. Business resolutions can help:

Set realistic goals: While your company is being steered by a sound business plan, it is critical to break down broad business objectives into achievable goals. So, while your plan projects a specified growth rate, you need to identify smaller goals that will lead to this result. For instance, your #BizResolution could be to “improve relationship with suppliers,” which will have a positive effect on inventory, product availability, and therefore customer satisfaction and higher sales.

Drive business strategy: It is common for new entrepreneurs to get lost in the operational hassles and simply not have the bandwidth to focus on more value adding tasks such as digital marketing or human resources. The urgent matters take precedence over what’s important, and the business slows down for want of strategic inputs. In this case, a #BizResolution can pinpoint to strategic focus areas, thereby helping realign the business priorities for growth.

Upgrade skills: Running a successful business is a constant learning process, which involves learning from competition, adopting best practices, upgrading skills and so on. This is a must in today’s rapidly changing environment, which demands that companies constantly innovate. Yet, somewhere in this quest for efficiency, the learning element takes a backseat. Having a skillset-oriented business resolution can help foster a culture of continuous learning and skill upgradation.

Focus on expansion: A high-growth focus is what most investors look for before investing in a new business. To expand, you need capital for which enterprises usually need investors or lenders. Hence, you must assess the potential for new markets, new partnerships, complimentary product categories (upselling and cross-selling), new channels (online), and new customer segments. Making such growth-centric business resolutions will keep you firmly on the road to expansion and success.

Develop a niche product: A niche product builds on the premise that certain small market segments are typically underserved. Find your blue ocean strategy and explore a better chance to grow. Make a #BizResolution to invest time and effort into a promising, niche product, which allows you to differentiate your offerings and create an uncontested market space.

Business resolutions need not be yearlong commitments. Periodically assess your product or solution with respect to the industry environment and change tack—set new objectives or redraft your existing ones. The idea is to stay in tune with emerging opportunities and align your company with market needs to make the most of growth prospects.

Create your #BizResolution today and share it with us to stand a chance to win exclusive prizes such as: Exclusive tickets to a T20 cricket match in your city Amazon vouchers Click here to get started.

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Oct 24, 2018

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Financial Inclusion in the Digital Age – Global Report

An eminent panel of experts from International Financial Corporation, Stanford GSB and CreditEase curated a report and highlighted Capital Float as one of the 100 companies in the world facilitating Financial Inclusion. Our co-founder, Gaurav Hinduja spoke with Anju Patwardhan, MD of CreditEase China on Capital Float’s business model, strategic direction and technological breakthroughs. Read the full interview below.

1. What inspired you to start your business?

The fact that India had more than 50 million SMEs with no access to formal credit who, despite contributing a staggering 15% to the country’s GDP with a high market share of 40% towards employment, had an unmet credit demand of $ 400 billion. Traditional lending institutions are limited by the constraints of their conventional underwriting models that restrict financing due to the volatility of this sector. This, in turn, pushed SMEs to the informal sector where the high interest rates charged by moneylenders fettered borrowers to a chronic cycle of debt. Capital Float was established with the objective to bridge this gap in the market with innovative and flexible credit products for SMEs, delivered in an efficient and customer-friendly manner.

2. Who is your target user base and what is your mission for this group?

Capital Float aims to service high potential, under-served, SMEs with an annual business turnover ranging from Rs 10 lakhs to Rs 100 crore. Our mission is to provide a seamless borrowing experience using customized finance products that cater to the specific needs of different SME segments. Here, technology plays a crucial role in reducing turnaround times, implementing paperless processes and pioneering predictive lending.

Also, we drive our products and processes to realize the national objective of financial inclusion. A recent example of this is the introduction of the Proprietor Loans product that facilitates business growth for micro-entrepreneurs in India. The product targets the small retailer segment such as mom-n-pop stores, salons, medical stores, mobile phone retailers, small restaurants, etc. who face challenges in obtaining loans for business expansion from traditional lenders owing to a lack of formal credit history and sufficient collateral. Capital Float is the first company in India to introduce a product that finances this segment. Moreover, we’ve disbursed the quickest SME loan in India, for this loan, in under 90 seconds.

We designed the Proprietor Loan app in collaboration with IndiaStack. This simple loan app enables small retail store owners to apply for a loan ranging from Rs. 25,000 to Rs. 5 lakhs without having to leave their store. Benefited by the merits of a completely paperless process, the applicant has to merely provide their AADHAAR number to apply for the loan. The app fetches the relevant data using the number and underwrites the customer in real time. We disburse funds to the applicant’s account within minutes of the application. We achieve scale by partnering with ecosystem leaders, such as Metro Cash and Carry, PayTM, Amazon Business, Payworld, etc. and serving storeowners operating on these platforms.

3. What is the central “friction” that your company is striving to overcome/mitigate, and what is distinctive about your strategy for enhancing financial capacity your user base?

Predominantly, traditional banks and non-banks have employed a conventional approach to underwriting. They have constantly shied away from utilizing data points from public sources such as social media, and those that are available from the Government in the form of Aadhaar and GST information. Capital Float has designed its credit underwriting with the fundamental understanding that every SME is different. Leveraging data points from partners in each industry sector along with conventional data, our rigorous credit underwriting engine processes loan applications and disburses funds in real time.

In terms of enhancing the financial capacity of SMEs, we lead a partner-driven approach. The company has partnered with ecosystems across various verticals such as e-commerce (Amazon, Flipkart, PayTM, eBay, Alibaba, Amazon, etc.), retailers (Storeking, Metro Cash & Carry), PoS payment enablers (Mswipe, Pine Labs, Bijlipay, ICICI Merchant Services), digital remittances (Wirecard, Payworld, Eko) etc. By taking an ecosystem led approach, we are able to maintain a low OPEX and cater to a wide range of SMEs without increasing our sales headcount.

We have the widest portfolio of working capital finance products, ranging from Merchant Cash Advance (loans against card swipes) and Supply Chain Finance (loans against bills receivables) to Unsecured Business Loans (traditional business instalments loans) and Proprietor Finance. We designed a unique credit solution called ‘Pay Later’. By using this product, borrowers can make multiple drawdowns from a predefined credit capacity. Interest is charged on the utilized amount and not the entire credit capacity, and the balance gets restored upon repayment. ‘Pay Later’ can be used to make supplier payments within 24 hours.

A collaboration of partnerships with industry leaders and niche products ensure that we can expand our outreach to a majority of our target base and enhance their financial capacity.

4. How does your business model balance the objectives of (a) providing benefits to your user base and (b) meeting the financial targets of your investors?

The SME sector in India is restricted by technical as well as functional limitations that inhibit their access to formal sources of finance. Most small enterprises simply cannot afford to expend time for the lengthy processes and immense documentation requirements that are mandatory to avail a loan from banks or traditional NBFCs. Presenting sufficiently valuable collateral for the loan amount they require is another barrier that most SMEs can’t overcome. Capital Float has a completely digital loan application process that eliminates the need for borrowers to be physically present at a lending institution’s premises to apply for a loan. The use of unconventional data points further reduces the need for a multitude of documentation for credit underwriting. All our SME-oriented credit products are unsecured in nature, which facilitates easy access to finance for a previously ineligible majority of business owners.

Customer satisfaction is immensely significant to us, which drives our efforts to ensure that we offer the best-in-class user experience to our borrowers. This is made possible through continuous innovation that enables us to adapt quickly to the ever-increasing demands of our core target base. Apart from these, we are willing to venture into unexplored SME avenues that face a significant credit deficit. We have recently launched credit products such as Proprietor Loans, Franchise Finance and School Loans for niche customer segments that have previously received little financial backing from lending entities in India. Our constant product & process innovation to reach out to new audience ensures that we never fall short in fulfilling the financial expectations and reinforcing the continual faith of our investors.

5. To what extent, if at all, are traditional deposit-taking financial institutions potential collaborators for fulfilling your mission?

Being an upcoming technology driven lender, we view traditional banks and non-banks as collaborators, not competitors. Capital Float operates India’s largest digital co-lending model, wherein we co-lend with banks, NBFCs and others. We currently have several banks and NBFCs such as RBL, IDFC, IFMR and Tata Capital participating on the platform. Loans are presented on the platform and offered on a first-come- first serve basis. We co-lend up to 30% of each loan to ensure that we have our skin-in- the-game and risks are mitigated. This model works emphatically well, as participating entities are able to leverage the strengths of the other. Banks and large NBFCs possess immense balance sheets, which when made available on the platform lowers our cost of capital. Meanwhile, banks are able to meet their priority sector lending targets by lending to SMEs via the platform. Our data-driven assessment and speed of processes, backed by a robust digital infrastructure significantly lowers the cost of acquisition for participating entities.

The co-lending model currently contributes to 40% of our AUM. We expect this figure to reach 50% of our AUM by end of this financial year.

6. Stepping away (perhaps) from your own company’s mission, what do you see as the major regulatory or technological breakthroughs needed to take a major next step forward in building global financial capacity?

Digital lending companies have evolved as disruptors in traditional financial markets, with an estimated one third of consumers worldwide using FinTech services. To sustain the efforts of this upcoming sector and extend their outreach to the majority of their target group, opening public sources of funding is a necessity that requires government intervention. In India, public funding initiatives such as MUDRA and SIDBI refinances institutions that lend to MSMEs, but within regulations of their own. As a result, refinancing support fails to cover the high operating cost of the small-ticket, short duration unsecured loans that are provided by FinTech lending institutions.

Creating a sustainable digital infrastructure that facilitates easy transfer and recovery of finance offered by FinTech lenders is the need of the hour. This, when implemented via eNACH, will help the digital ecosystem in achieving faster adoption.

Also, enhanced access to government data is yet another factor that will be a game changer for building global financial capacity. With the introduction of a new indirect taxation regime in the form of GST, India has acquired a verified database of tax compliant businesses that offers significant information to determine the credit worthiness of business loan applicants. If this data can be shared with FinTech lenders and credit rating agencies through a secure API, this will result in increasing lending opportunities to myriad SMEs across the country.

Download the full report here.

Oct 24, 2018