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.

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Capital Float secures $13 million in funding to give loans to small businesses – YourStory

Written by Jubin Mehta

Capital Float is a digital finance company that provides working capital loans to underserved small business in India via a technology-led loan origination and credit underwriting platform. The Bangalore based company today announced that it has raised $13 Million in Series A financing to support the company’s rapid growth. The round was led by SAIF Partners and Sequoia Capital, with participation from existing investor Aspada.

Founded in 2013, Capital Float has created a proprietary technology platform to evaluate the financial health of SMEs and efficiently deliver working capital to a segment that is underserved by traditional banks. Businesses can apply online and get funds in less than 7 days (see how it works). The company currently lends to e-commerce merchants, small manufacturers, and B2B service providers across major cities. The company has been founded by Stanford MBAs Sashank Rishyasringa and Gaurav Hinduja and is a registered Non-Banking Finance Company (NBFC). Along with the headquarter in Bangalore, Capital Float has offices in New Delhi and Mumbai.

To date, the Capital Float platform has delivered nearly Rs. 40 Crore in loans to SMEs across 10+ cities in India. The company claims to have achieved record results in 2014 and saw a 10x increase in online applications, particularly in the e-commerce market where it has partnered with leading marketplaces such as Snapdeal, Flipkart, Amazon, PayTM and Myntra to finance small merchants selling online.

This round of funding will help expand Capital Float’s technology, enabling it to scale up nationally and launch new loan products. The company had raised a $4 Million seed round in mid-2014 from Aspada and SAIF, bringing the total capital raised thus far to Rs. 100 Crore in this fiscal.

“We started Capital Float with the belief that technology and data would be the key drivers in cracking SME financing in India,” said co-founders Gaurav Hinduja and Sashank Rishyasringa. “Over the past year, we’ve focused on building the platform to deliver what our customers want above all else – flexible and ultra-convenient access to finance that can scale with their business. By leveraging alternative data in our underwriting model, we are increasingly able to not only make faster decisions but also lend to emerging business models. We are very excited to partner with SAIF, Sequoia, and Aspada, and truly believe that we now have a world-class set of investors to propel us towards this vision.”

News piece sourced from YourStory. Read the full piece here

Oct 24, 2018

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Accelerating the Growth of Ecommerce in India – BWCIO

Written by BW CIOWorld

Capital Float is a digital platform that provides capital finance to SMEs in India. They offer short-term loans that can be used to purchase inventory, service new orders or optimize cash cycles. Vaibhav Singh, Associate Vice-President, Business Development, Capital Float, in a chat with BW CIOWorld shares some insights on e-commerce in India.

The e-commerce boom has birthed young entrepreneurs with limited transactional history that directly impacts their accessibility to credit. Capital Float has identified this opportunity and has launched new debt products to serve this rapidly growing segment. Most banks continue to implement underwriting models on online sellers which were originally designed to underwrite debt of offline sellers, argues Vaibhav.

“At Capital Float, we have built our underwriting model bottom-up based on evolving data and metrics to identify creditworthiness of online sellers. The approach is tailored to be more relevant to online businesses and offers more accurate results, says Vaibhav. Explosive growth in the e-commerce segment has overwhelmed traditional banking institutions and companies like us are able to share the burden of offering credit to unserved SMEs in the market.

E-Commerce platforms are attempting to standardize processes while increasing scope and scalability of existing sellers. This effort is likely to cause a churn in the seller e-community creating a metaphoric sieve through which sellers will be filtered. Consequently, the best performers will experience geometric growth, increasing competition between sellers in the space.

Building individual brand identity would be a challenge
The nature of the business fosters competition on the basis of pricing. In the attempt to offer best prices, sellers would be challenged to build their individual brand identity. Accessibility to credit through traditional channels will continue to remain a hurdle for e-commerce sellers in the foreseeable future, as conventional sources of credit begin to adapt to the dynamic capital environment.  The fiery growth in the e-commerce segment can only be sustained if companies like us are able to share the burden of offering credit to unserved SMEs and ecommerce sellers in the market.

There will be a slow change in the mindset especially in a hitherto human-intensive space like lending.  People have to become comfortable with trusting machines to do everything a man can do; stepping in only where expressly human traits of experience and intuition are needed, even if this means that at volumes approaching statistical significance, we let a few true-positives slip through in the interest of overall productivity. It’s about slowly giving up control and trusting technology to pick up the slack.

Algorithms and big data will drive eCommerce growth
Capital Float has used technology innovatively to ensure that seller in the ecommerce domain have access to collateral free working capital loans and enable business growth in a simple and efficient manner. Leveraging analytics, algorithms, big data and other disruptive technology trends to make lending decisions quickly based on verifiable data thereby ensuring efficient and fast turn-around time is the future. Technology has also enabled Capital Float to expand business faster and reach out and support the SME and seller community across India. The acceptance of new forms of technology would only fast forward the growth of facilities needed to continue the growth of ecommerce.

– See more at: http://bwcio.com/accelerating-the-growth-of-ecommerce-in-india/#sthash.zDdwY1Q3.dpuf

News piece sourced from BW CIO World. Read the full piece here

Oct 24, 2018

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Implications of GST for Trading

India is amongst the fastest growing economies of the world, with retail trade contributing an estimated $600 billion+ to the economy. The impact which GST, the unified indirect tax structure introduced by the Government of India on July 1 2017, brings on such a major economic lever will be highly significant.

Further, the implications of this new taxation procedure on the trader will vary on the nature of the trade, i.e., wholesale or retail. In this blog, we explain the opportunities within the new tax reform that traders can leverage, and discuss how they can prepare themselves from a GST perspective. Read on to know the effects of this latest indirect tax reform for:

  1. Wholesalers
  2. Retailers
  3. Importers and Exporters

1. For Wholesalers:

The wholesale market is fundamental to extending the reach of goods and services to the interiors of the country, especially the rural markets. Most wholesalers operate in cash transactions because of which there is a good chance that some transactions are not accounted for, which was previously a concern but ceases to be one under GST.

Given below are the main advantages that GST brings to wholesalers.

  • Transparent tax management: The introduction of technology into the taxation system can be a blessing in disguise, an opportunity to bring about transparency in tax management. Rather than relying on cash transactions, wholesalers will now get an opportunity to go digital. They will also be able to avail the facility of input tax credit. Input tax credit is where the businessman will be able to claim tax on all input goods and/or services. For example, if a wholesaler is renting a tempo for transport of goods, going ahead they will be able to claim the tax paid on the rental and receive it as input credit. They will thus be able to reduce the final market price of the transported goods by making up for that amount.
  • Financial streamlining: Because the entire supply value chain including tax flows will be on GST records, wholesalers will be better connected to retailers and suppliers. For example, the payment for a consignment will reflect in the accounting records of the supplier company as well as the wholesaler, leaving no ambiguity about payables and receivables. This will make it easier to process payments and get tax returns in a timely manner, thereby improving the cash flows of traders. A reliable positive cash flow will help build confidence in the new regime, by making working capital available and aiding opportunities to grow the business.
  • Reorganization of supply chain: GST will enable high visibility and streamlining of the supply chain, providing wholesalers with a transparent view of supply movements. For example, taxation at the “place of supply” is already mobilizing FMCG companies establish fewer warehouses, the sizes of which will be larger than before. This will aid business efficiency in the long run. However, in the initial transition phase, many wholesalers may undergo de-stocking since they would have already paid VAT on their current stocks, and would like to avail of the input tax credit on the basis of the GST rules.
  • Ease of borrowing through digital lending: Because financial and tax transactions will now be recorded in the GST system, even small traders will have digital records of their company finances and credit status. These digital records will act as a ready reckoner of information when a trader opts for a loan. Financial institutions and online lenders like Capital Float can now easily assess the loan eligibility of small traders such as Kirana owners by accessing this data, and provide them quick and easy loans. Borrowing funds online and doing business will now be easier.

2. For Retailers:

Almost 92% of the retail sector in India is unorganised, operating in cash payments. They are, essentially, the tangible representation of FMCG multinationals to end-consumers; yet they are challenged by chronic issues such as the lack of technology enablement and low operating margins. A majority of the retail market consists of “kirana stores”, which are often the smallest link of the trade chain.

Here are the benefits of the new taxation system for retailers.

  • Input tax credit facility: As mentioned for wholesalers, retailers too would be able to claim taxes paid for input products and services availed. This will present a cost advantage to retailers. For example, under the previous tax regime, if a retailer purchases a refrigerator to store perishable goods, they were not able to claim credit for tax paid on it. Under GST, they will be able to claim the tax paid on the new refrigerator when they file their taxes. This will be possible due to tax connections reflecting in the GST value chain at each stage of the transaction. Availing input tax credit means financial gain.
  • Ease of entry into the market: The market is expected to become more business-friendly due to the clarity of processes related to procurement of raw materials and better supply logistics. This is a good opportunity for new suppliers, distributors and vendors to enter the market. The registration process has also become very clear under the GST, aiding entry into the market.
  • Retailer empowerment through information availability: Small retailers often do not have complete visibility into their stock receipts, payments, etc. and are forced to blindly rely on the word of the supplier. GST will streamline these supply and cost challenges and empower the retailer with readily available information through digital systems. For example, when different types of bills like invoices, credit and debit notes, etc. are stored digitally as proposed by GST using accounting software, these will provide retailers with real-time reports on sales, stock information and live balance sheets, in addition to performing error checks before placing an entry into ledgers.
  • Better borrowing opportunity: The retailer scope for business growth can be increased by increasing the retailers’ access to finance. This is where Fintech lenders like Capital Float step in – they can ease their passage to the new tax regime. Capital Float recognises the financial challenges these small business players face and strives to bridge this gap by financing them with small ticket loans. As “kiranas” move onto GSTN, Capital Float will be able to better serve this micro-entrepreneur segment, helping them overcome upcoming challenges by leveraging the GST-enabled digital footprint.

However, like any new reform, there are certain challenges that need to be addressed. We see that both retailers and wholesalers must manage the following eventualities of GST implementation.

!  Higher costs of input services: Input services such as manpower, legal, professional services, auditor services, travel expenses, etc. will now be taxed at 18% as against the earlier bracket of 15%, leading to higher costs to the wholesaler.

! Additional costs to upgrade technology: Many wholesalers, especially rural ones, are not technology-savvy and will need to rely on help from their supplier companies to undergo a technological transformation. This means that supplier companies may need to increase commissions for wholesalers— an added cost to the company, or wholesalers and retailers themselves will need to invest in new systems, incurring additional expenses.

3. For Importers and Exporters

According to the financial reports of 2016, India is the 16th largest export economy in the world with the net value of exports contributing to one-third of the GDP. The subsuming of various local state level taxes will have a direct impact on imports and exports, a critical component of trade. For example, the Countervailing Duty (CVD- an additional import duty levied to offset the effect of concessions or subsidies, currently 0% or 6% or 12%) and Special Additional Duty (SAD- a special kind of customs duty paid on imported goods currently at 4%) have been done away with under the new GST regime. However, Basic Customs Duty continues to be applicable and importers will need to pay it as per previous rates.

Here is a look at the overall impact of GST on trade:

  • Imports Taxation: Every import will be treated as an interstate supply, and will be subject to Integrated Goods and Services Tax (IGST) along with Basic Customs Duty (ranging between 5% and 40% depending on the good imported). This implies that IGST will be levied on any imported item, based on the value of the imported goods and any customs duty chargeable on the goods (say 10%). IGST is a combination of SGST (say 9%) and CGST (say 9%). For instance, for an import item worth Rs 10,000:
Total Duties + Taxes Payable Basic Customs Duty (10%) GST (18%) GST Cess(if applicable)
₹2800 ₹1000 ₹1800 Nil

Thus, imports taxation is an added tax liability for retailers who import goods or services.

  • Exports Taxation: Exports will be treated as zero-rated supply, i.e., no GST will be charged on exports. This is in line with the “Make in India” campaign that aims to make India a global manufacturing hub, for which exports are important.
  • Import of Services: The new clause of import of services places the onus of tax payments on the service receiver when the services are provided by a person residing outside India. This mechanism is called reverse charge and will apply in certain scenarios. For example, if the assessee has no physical presence in the taxable area, then the representative of the assesse will be required to pay tax. In the absence of representation, the assesse has to appoint a representative who will be liable to pay GST. Another example is when a registered dealer is buying goods or services from an unregistered dealer. In this case, the registered dealer will have to pay the tax on supply.
  • Need for restructuring working capital: A major shift is that GST is based on “transaction value” rather than MRP. In the old system, CVD was charged as a percentage of the MRP. Under GST, IGST will be charged as a percentage of the transaction value. This will affect the cash reserves of retailers and wholesalers, and they will need to reassess their working capital needs.

On the whole, GST is expected to bring domestic players at par with large multinational corporations due to the renewed import and export norms and the rules for FMCG suppliers. This is a good sign for Indian trade and exports in general, and thus the implementation of GST shows promise to propel India onto the international trade arena.Visit our GST blog to know more about GST and keep track of latest.

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Oct 24, 2018