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 excerpts 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- Maintain discipline. Whatever you do, think big and build for the long term.
- 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.”
We thank Shashank and Varun for sharing their insights on the FinTech sector and wish them the best for their journey.