LTP and Opus Consulting hosted the second FinTech meetup in Pune yesterday, which also saw a partnership with CIIE of IIM, Ahmedabad this time. The discussion themes for this session were payments and lending.
The evening started with a welcome by Ruhita Sardesai of Opus, followed by a presentation by Aditya Khurjekar, CEO of LTP. Since the audience had a good mix of FinTech experts as well as enthusiasts from outside the industry, Aditya laid out the context for why FinTech is a potent platform for economic development, similar to other recent innovation platforms such as the Internet and Mobility, ones that we "typically emerge every 10–15 years." He also shared his framework for defining FinTech at a deeper level than simply financial services + technology enablers. He explained how a combination of rising consumer expectations – who are also prolific mobile users – fueled by progressive regulatory policies (especially in Asia), and the rise of entrepreneurship supported by incumbents and investors is creating the perfect storm for the FinTech Revolution in the region.
CEO of LTP
Aditya also shared his personal journey of more than 10 years in contributing to the contactless NFC payments in the US, which eventually led to the launch of Apple Pay. He delved into the many learnings from the experience – from the need for collaboration and patience to the benefits of being “self-aware, as individuals, companies or industries.” “Service providers pretending to be technology companies cannot achieve the same product experiences,” a point proven by the fact that most joint ventures between telcos, banks and retailers have failed, while similar offerings by Apple, Google and Samsung continue to evolve globally.
In a nod to the budding entrepreneurs in the room, Aditya reminded them of the need to solve real and meaningful problems in FinTech, while looking for inspiration from similar large endeavors from the past. He encouraged the students and aspiring founders to look at the collective impact of going after solutions for large challenges, “not because they are easy, but because they are hard,” quoting JFK – words that resonate even today – more than 60+ years after they were said in the context of sending a man to the moon. Finally, Aditya illustrated the global ecosystem that is supported by LTP and MEDICI in the pursuit of such collaborative innovation.
The second presentation was a segue into the lending theme for the evening. Akshay Mehrotra, CEO of EarlySalary.com highlighted the large opportunity presented by the aspiring youth in India and the difficulties faced by them in obtaining affordable short-term loans for common requirements. He provided an overview of EarlySalary’s product proposition and the importance of keeping the experience simple. There was a lively discussion with the audience that illustrated how these are still early days for nonbank lending in India, and how the practice of running a lending startup can differ considerably from the theory based simply on licensing requirements.
Amit Goel, MD of LTP
In fact, lending was in full focus during the panel discussion led by Amit Goel, MD of LTP. Amit Angarkar of Opus Consulting, Gajanan Songaonkar, formerly GM of Central Bank of India, Pavitra Walwekar, CEO of Kudos Finance and V Krishna Iyer, FinTech Advisor at CIIE, IIMA and former banker & entrepreneur were on stage to share their perspectives on the lending scene in India. Amit Angarkar provided the comparative notes based on what Opus experiences in various other parts of the world, and how quickly he expects India’s digital payments market to reach critical mass – “at least 10 more years.” Mr. Songaonkar relayed his observations as a career banker on how banks and FinTechs are working together far more actively now that even FIVE years ago. He also shared interesting thumb rules that institutional lenders use in evaluating the risk of projects, based more on the people involved than simply the data that comes with the proposal.
There was a counterpoint provided by Pavitra as he explained his company’s focus on small business outside the purview of traditional lenders, and how as an NBFC, Kudos is able to give small merchants a financial identity thus making it easier for them to get traditional loans from banks and other lenders over time. He acknowledged that they have a laborious acquisition process, but one that is inevitable since many of the borrowers in that segment are not smartphone-savvy millennials who could use technology to solve their problems.
Finally, V Krishna Iyer gave a very balanced perspective on how the various government-led and sponsored initiatives in India serve the ecosystem by enabling a variety of approaches to innovation for financial inclusion. He exhorted the audience to look beyond the few million large-salaried employees as the segment to go after and also pay attention to the needs of the street vendors and the disenfranchised population who need FinTech innovation far more urgently and at a far wider scale than what the current FinTech startups in India seem to be offering. However, he said that all entrepreneurship for innovation is worthwhile, regardless of the approach and the solution. Specifically, in India, the demand for credit is so high that it can support many different solutions from the supply side.
Despite the evening festival traffic in Pune, the Moolgaonkar auditorium at the MCCIA was packed to capacity. The event was well attended by a cross-section of Pune’s FinTech ecosystem covering startup founders, students, national and PSU bank executives, global payment network executives, service providers, investors as well as FinTech enthusiasts from adjacent industries such as retail, healthcare and education.