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Women have been financially independent since just a century or so in India. Now, in the 21st century we have some inspiring women in Fintech who are making a wave.
A woman’s best protection is a little money of her own- Clare Boothe Luce
Clare Booth Luce was an American author and politician who was born in an era where finance was an arena where women seldom entered. But times have changed with more women entering the workforce and an increasing number of women-led businesses!
With the world’s 2nd largest population, access to digital technology and growing number of business ventures, India is an ideal market for Fintech companies.
Currently there are over 2000 fintech companies which use technology innovatively to provide Financial services to different segments. These emerging businesses are digital payment gateways, lending portals, portals for personal finance management, insurance aggregators and neobanks. As the opportunities continue to increase, Indian Fintech market is expected to realize a value of $ 100-150 Billion by 2025.
Like every other sector, few women entrepreneurs have entered the Fintech space and made a mark. Let’s read about their exciting journeys!
Digital payment start-up Mobikwik was co-founded by Upasana in 2009. They entered the market when consumers were wary of using technology to make payments. It was clearly an uphill task to help consumers cross the barrier and register on Mobikwik to enjoy the benefits of digital transactions.
Mobikwik started as a website and focussed on building partnerships with merchants in both online and offline space. Initially they focussed on normalizing regular payments like mobile recharges, DTH, electricity, etc through Mobikwik. Eventually, they shifted focus to support online shopping behaviour which was growing at a fast pace.
Over the years, Mobikwik evolved from being only a digital payment company. They started providing small loans to their registered users. Currently they have expanded their financial offerings to include insurance policies, investment solutions and even mutual funds. Mobikwik helped the Indian consumer accept the idea of digital transaction and kept pace with the consumer journey for over a decade now.
Upasana said in an interview “It is not necessarily a pivot, but rather a smart shift, where we already had the users who continue to do payments on our platform and we realised that there is a huge gap in terms of the financial products that are available”. Currently the company has one of the largest bases in the country with 300+ billers, 3 million merchants and 120 million+ users. Over the years, Mobikwik has raised close to $ 165 Mn which includes equity and debt funding. It recently made headlines as it gets ready to file for an IPO and may seek a valuation of $1Billion.
With a burgeoning count of 63 million, MSMEs contribute to roughly 30% of Indian GDP. A manufacturer dreams of his own factory, an entrepreneur wants to buy machinery, an artist wishes to export his designs, a techie plans to expand his IT business. All of them need funds to spread their wings and grow. But understanding their business and providing necessary financial support is no longer restricted to only banks!
Hardika Shah saw the credit gap as an opportunity and left behind her Silicon Valley life to start her entrepreneurial journey in Bengaluru. She started Kinara Capital in 2011. The firm provides collateral free business loans for asset purchase and working capital for MSMEs. Kinara Capital has provided over 56000 loans disbursing over Rs. 2000 crores and is estimated to have contributed to income generation of Rs. 700 crores.
Hardika had started building risk- assessment modules during her B-school days. Currently her firm uses AI/ Machine Learning based data-driven automated credit decisioning. They offers loans ranging from Rs. 1 lakh to 30 lakhs with a 24- hours disbursement cycle using a user- friendly vernacular digital application process. In India, Women entrepreneurs face more systemic challenges in their journey compared to male counterparts. Kinara Capital focuses on reducing this gender gap. They have launched the HerVikas program where they offer discounted business loans for women entrepreneurs.
In May 2019, Kinara Capital secured Rs. 100 Crore loan from private equity and impact investors. In early 2021, they secured $10 Million funding from IndusInd bank. While talking about the impact of the pandemic, Hardika stated that approximately 25-30 percent of MSMEs have gone digital in these times and the shift is essential to survive the third wave of the pandemic and continue to grow their business. Staying true to the purpose of supporting the MSMEs, Kinara Capital continues to service the changing dynamics of the market.
As accessibility of financial loans continues to increase in Indian market, the debt collection space becomes equally important. Debt collection is a tedious task which is often met with a lot of animosity and becomes a costly initiative for the lenders. Large finance companies focus on strengthening their collection arm. But smaller players are still figuring out how to build this capability. Using technology is one way of solving this emerging need gap in the market.
Swati Lad was an experienced digital marketer who was born in Kenya, raised in the UK and has been living in India for the last 10 years. She co-founded Credit Mate as a 2-wheeler lender aggregator in 2016. They utilized technology in their collection methodologies which provided better results than traditional methods. Looking at the growing traction amidst lenders, they pivoted to become a collections’ software business.
Credit Mate now enables lenders of all sizes to collect through online or offline methods using machine learning efficiency. During the pandemic, they completely stopped physical debt collection. Instead they created a lighter version to enable users to access with even low bandwidth. Credit Mate was launched with the help of a few angel investors and is currently backed by PayTM. Debt collection has been an industry shrouded with negative perception. Credit Mate has smartly used technology to change the ways of working and built a successful business venture.
Financial services can be easily accessed by middle to upper-middle class households who have a stable source of income and adept in managing their cash flows. But what about the lower-income households which have uncertain income and wavering cash flows? They are completely dependent on the unorganized sector, localized chit-funds or moneylenders for their needs. This behaviour is the result of lack of financial products suitable for these consumers and also the accessibility.
Sucharita Mukherjee co-founded Kaleidofin, a Chennai-based neobank to cater to the demand of this segment in 2017. Their focus was to design financial solutions suited for the informal sector customers and making them accessible through technology. They devised a differentiated approach in developing these products keeping the end goal in mind, instead of only the “financial product”. If consumers want to invest in the children’s education, they may be saving up in gold or neighbourhood chit-fund. Kaleidofin works to provide them access to a better product while keeping their end goal in mind. This is done by using machine-learning algorithms which devise the right product basis the consumer persona created for each individual.
Kaleidofin partners with a large network of MFIs, Co-operative banks and corporates to make their offering accessible and user- friendly to the target segment. As of May 2021, they have 110,000 customers and partnered with 40 entities to deliver their services. Making the payments easier to the consumers who have limited access to technology is also a critical lever. During the lockdown in 2020, they launched a limited mobility environment which allowed consumers to complete loan transitions through various lenders digitally.
In a recent interview, Sucharita talked about how women are still reliant on using their husband’s phone for transactions but wanted to keep their savings confidential. Backed by this insight, Kaleidofin supports women who prefer to use a friend’s smartphone and provide the desired level of confidentiality. Sucharita said, “We saw women as the gateway to the family, being the custodian of the household’s financial goals.” Their in-depth understanding of the behavioural aspects of the target segment and customizing solutions has enabled them to consistently win customers.
Learning to manage your finances is an important life-skill which is often missed out in Indian curriculum. Some parents tend to handhold their children even after they start working for their first loan, insurance and even taxes. But some parents may not be in a position to support them financially through their education and aspirations. Hence providing financial assistance and guidance to the next generation becomes more critical.
Henna Jain co-founded StuCred, a one-stop application for college students’ financial needs in 2018. It was started as a Fintech app that allows students to get instant and real-time loans for starting at Rs. 2500 and going upto Rs. 30000 at zero interest rate. Henna’s experience of living abroad and using the overdraw facility the bank offered to tide over the expenses in the last week of the month gave her the insight for this venture.
StuCred platform was designed to service the needs of Indian students in finding interest and collateral free loans for small values. But has evolved to enable users to manage their finances and improve their credit scores. Henna had stated in an interview “StuCred is teaching them all the processes of the credit system, which no one really teaches unless and until you are out there with a job and a salary. So, we make sure that our borrowers understand this system beforehand with small but important sum values.”
Currently, StuCred has roughly 60000 students enrolled from over 1650 campuses across the country. StuCred was launched as a bootstrapped business and is part of Kreon Financial services, an open credit and financial services platform.
These women in Fintech are playing a vital role in reshaping not just the industry but the society as well.
Hardika’s Kinara Capital has a women-led management team and welcomes the LGBT community and physically challenged members in the workplace. Swati supports a diverse workplace and Creditmate’s team has 54% women employees which is the same representation in their management team. Their own challenges in starting a business and thriving as women leaders enables them to understand how best to support other women-led businesses.
Images source: LinkedIn & Twitter
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