MEDICI Video Q&A with CEOs of PhonePe and INDwealth

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In the wake of the current COVID-19 crisis, MEDICI has started a series of webinars titled Braving the Crisis with Tech and FinTech,” the first of which was held on April 08, 2020, co-organized by IAMAI and MEDICI. Sameer Nigam, Founder & CEO at PhonePe, and Ashish Kashyap, Founder & CEO at INDwealth, took time off their busy schedules to participate in this thought-provoking webinar as panelists. Amit Goel, Founder of MEDICI, hosted the webinar. 

The objective of the webinar was to hear directly from the industry leaders who run large organizations on how they’re coping with the current COVID-19 crisis as well as how they’re managing people and processes. This webinar series is aimed at bringing out some learning from the industry leaders and elicit some inspiration so that others can emulate and benefit. The panelists went on to share their thoughts and perspectives on how they are dealing with the impacts brought on by the COVID-19 outbreak. 

This article provides a summary of the panel discussion, which was followed by a Q&A session. The article evaluates the discussions and highlights a few important takeaways from the webinar.

Here are the five topics that were discussed during the webinar:

1. Coping with the crisis

Amit enquired how they were coping with the fear or the panic that the crisis brings, and how their business was doing in general. Sameer Nigam acknowledged that there was a sense of anxiety but that there was no room for fear in these times. Aashish Kashyap shared that one of the strategies they were using to overcome the pain was to get the teams occupied with targets and goals.

2. Specific measures at work taken during this crisis

Sameer discussed how they implemented a DNWFH or ‘Do Not Work From Home’ on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays as a mandatory measure to help members stay mentally grounded and happy, which he considers as very important. Sameer also pointed to how they focused on all the roadmaps that were in place and made sure that every team continued executing hard and maintained productivity.

Aashish shared that he has put in place a system called “Objectives and Key Results (OKR),” which he used to follow in his Google days earlier and which was also refreshed recently by Zeta’s CEO, Bhavin Turakhia. Aashish says that it was a game-changer and would recommend others to embrace it as well. He also had a message to the team: work harder and chase the target. 

3. Are there any new opportunities evolving?

In a probing question, Amit asked the panelists if there were any opportunities in terms of products or services that they never thought about before, but seem to present themselves given the crisis. 

Aashish shared his thoughts about how personalization or delivering customized solutions is getting very valuable for the users in these times by quoting examples of how his own company is offering customized solutions to users.

When asked about products or services that they are planning to launch, Sameer said that they have over 10 million businesses on their platform and that the company is trying to solve for discoverability of these businesses. Sameer added that they had launched a service recently where customers can now go in and filter pharmacies and grocery stores, specifically by availability and those who are willing to deliver. Sameer expects that the focus in the next 90 days in terms of innovation will be around helping small businesses and hyper-local shops re-engage with their customers digitally. He further believes that the current situation will make everyone in the ecosystem respond way faster. 

4. About the collaboration between government agencies and FinTech

Sameer highlighted that some of the talents in his company are volunteering with their local government entities in the health domain to build apps. He also said that people from the industry have already partnered and collaborated with the government in building track-and-trace solutions such as the Arogya Setu app. He says that the government also understands that technology can play a critical role in limiting the outbreak. He also talked about how a few entrepreneurs have come together to establish funds aimed specifically for job creation and health care provisions. 

5. Wish list to be fulfilled by government or regulators

Ashish Kashyap described a few bottlenecks that are present in the financial services ecosystem and highlighted possible solutions such as digitization of financial transactions and processes and reducing friction. He suggested that there is a need to work on these opportunity areas on a war footing. He even offered to work with one or two banks on digitizing processes as a pilot and then extend it further.

In terms of what governments can do for the FinTechs, Sameer suggested that there is a scope for the governments to help in the payments space as there's been an unnerving amount of fluctuation in policy over the last couple of years.

Key takeaways from the webinar 

  1. These unprecedented times gives the financial ecosystem an opportunity to identify a few areas where there is scope for digitization; once identified, digitization in these areas should be accelerated with an aim to make certain processes frictionless. FinTechs can refocus their attention in these areas to help drive this digitization. Example areas may include KYC, domestic money transfer, investment products, and fixed deposits. 
  2. Opportunity to collaborate with government entities and use technologies to come up with solutions to limit this outbreak. E.g., Arogya Setu app, a track-and-trace solution.
  3. In the payments space, there has been a lot of fluctuations over the years. With these fluctuations, the business models become increasingly uncertain. The industry needs clarity in terms of the regulatory framework. A regulation-based approach to growth (instead of risk-based, algorithmic-based growth) is prescriptive and limits innovation.
  4. There is a change in consumer behavior. Consumers are rebalancing their money by moving debt money into equity.

Questions from the audience

  1. Have you observed a spurt in saving-based investments since the start of the lockdown? Assuming that the top 15 million saves on fuel, commute, entertainment, etc., what has been the consumer response to a higher disposable income?
  2. Should we not work on friction when it comes to physical banking? Why should ATM cards need a PIN? Why can’t biometric cards be promoted or face recognition tech be adopted? 
  3. Digitization requires human interface as well for customers availing wealth management services. Will they cut down human resources?
  4. Given where we are today, what’s bound to happen to your customer acquisition techniques? Is the growth going to come from a different channel? How has it changed from the past? What will be the number one source of growth? Will the CAC go up or down?
  5. In terms of finance and accounting, how are you dealing with cutting expenses, vendor payments, and accounts receivables? Any new techniques or ideas? 

To know the answers to all these questions and find out the in-depth thoughts and views of the panelists, watch the recorded webinar here.