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Home >Companies >News >Piramal keen to launch non-mortgage products: CEO Jairam Sridharan

Piramal Retail Finance on Thursday said it has entered the used-car financing business and plans to add four segments over the next 12 months, including two-wheeler financing, education loans, unsecured small business loans and loan against shares. Jairam Sridharan, the chief executive of the non-bank lender, said in an interview with Mint that it will add 1,000 employees in FY22 to expand its sales, credit underwriting and technology teams. The Piramal group also won the bid for Dewan Housing Finance Corp. Ltd (DHFL) and is awaiting a few approvals to close the deal. Edited excerpts:

How do you plan to tap the existing customer base of DHFL?

We will have to see how the transition happens. The way I think about it is that the DHFL business has roughly one million customers. You have their database available and can cross-sell them various products. The question is what we can do with that base and how many of them we can cross-sell other products. Even though we have launched a lot of non-mortgage products, with the DHFL acquisition, which is almost entirely a mortgage business, our business is going to become very mortgage heavy. That is why we are keen to launch all of these non-mortgage businesses now so that we have something to cross-sell to the large base of customers as and when the transaction happens.

Considering what happened in the past couple of years, what do you think of the DHFL brand, now that you are acquiring it?

We are still doing our research to try and find out what the various constituents think of it. There are multiple constituents here: the lending customers in various geographies, channel partners, and the regulatory community, among others. We got to look at all these constituents and see how the brand looks in their eyes and then make a decision on how we are going to think of the surviving brand. We will merge DHFL with our existing businesses and want to be in a place where the organization is very clean and clear. We have a lending business, and the big acquisition comes and joins it. We will have one retail business at the end of it and no separation between the organic retail and DHFL, as and when it happens.

What gives you confidence in the unsecured lending business?

If you look at what has been happening at banks, in terms of business that banks have done in February and March in particular, there is a lot of unsecured business. Irrespective of all the talk in the market about whether they are worried or not, whether they are going slow or not, large private banks have actually done historically high volumes of unsecured lending in February and March. We are starting up and got to take things a bit differently and, when I talk about unsecured lending, I want to be clear that it is very unlikely that we are going to do large volumes at a meaningful scale for this segment. These businesses take years to build, but we need to start doing some experiments and try out various product constructs in different markets. I have no illusions at all that we are going to do any meaningful amount of unsecured lending in the short term.

You plan to double your employee base in FY22. Which roles will you be looking at?

The big roles here are going to be in sales, credit and technology. Yes, we are going to hire a lot in technology and are setting up a tech and engineering centre of excellence in Bengaluru where we are hiring a lot of engineering and tech product management talent. In that same centre of excellence, we are also setting up an artificial intelligence (AI) centre and are going to hire AI and machine learning roles as well. Of course, we are hiring some technology talent in Mumbai as well. As we continue to expand into geographies, we will continue to expand our sales presence and the digital-physical mix is what we are looking at. In small towns, physical presence remains important. We will also invest in credit roles as we are realising that in this market, underwriting the customer and knowing the earning capacity of that customer is a skill. The idea is to be present in 1,000 locations in the next five years and I would like to like to have some presence in locations where people should feel they have access to the Piramal brand.

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