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Business News/ News / India/  Meet the women shaping the booming fintech sector in India
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Meet the women shaping the booming fintech sector in India

Breaking through the glass ceiling in the male-dominated sector, women are revolutionising the financial ecosystem through the adoption of technology
  • Mint spoke with three powerful women who are shaping the fintech sector in the country
  • Puja Srivastava – CTO and Co-Founder of spocto, Swati Bhargava, founder CashKaro and Hardika Shah, founder Kinara CapitalPremium
    Puja Srivastava – CTO and Co-Founder of spocto, Swati Bhargava, founder CashKaro and Hardika Shah, founder Kinara Capital

    India is the leading nation in adopting financial technology at 87%--higher than the global average rate of 64%. The Covid pandemic has accelerated the growth of the fintech sector, changing the payment ecosystem smoothly.

    Equity funding into Indian Fintech has grown at a CAGR of 26% over the last four years, but more rapidly so from 2020 onwards, according to central government data. In 2021, the country's fintech sector received funding worth $9.9 billion, led by the payments segment--having 53% of the share. India has 23 Fintechs that have gained ‘Unicorn Status’ so far. In the booming sector, women entrepreneurs have also made a place for themselves in this field. Breaking through the glass ceiling in the male-dominated sector, women are revolutionising the financial ecosystem through the adoption of technology. Mint spoke with three powerful women who are shaping the fintech sector in the country:

    Hardika Shah, Kinara Capital

    Shah is the founder of Kinara Capital, a fintech firm that provides collateral-free business loans to small business entrepreneurs within two days.

    Hardika Shah got the inspiration to start a non-banking financial firm from her mother. Shah noticed that small business entrepreneurs faced a lot of challenges, particularly an utter lack of access to formal financing to grow their businesses. "My mother always had entrepreneurial leanings and ran a couple of small businesses while I was growing up, and I remember these being the same issues she had faced. So I realized that not much had changed for small business entrepreneurs, despite the many economic reforms that the country had undergone over time," she said.

    Shah, who stayed in the US for many years to build her career, steered multi-million technology projects. "While pursuing my MBA with Columbia Business School and UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, I built a new risk-assessment methodology and tested out the concept through an on-the-ground pilot in India. The success of which was the genesis of Kinara, and it inspired me to quit my corporate job and return to India".

    Kinara started as a three-person team operating out of an apartment. Now, 11 years later, its workforce has increased to more than 1,600. And, as per the latest data, Kinara's Net Interest Income stood at 161 crore, making a profit of 15 crore.

    Last week, the Bengaluru-headquartered NBFC said that it has allocated 400 crore for HerVikas; a Program of Discounted Business Loans for Women. 414 crores disbursed across 4,305 plus collateral-free business loans for women-owned MSMEs since FY20. Moreover, Kinara's HerVikas generated more than 125 crore in incremental income and supported 32,680+ jobs in local economies across six states.

    On the last-mile adoption of Fintech Shah said, "The rapid adoption of tech has enabled people to access financial services without the need for physically visiting a financial service provider. This has significantly improved the reach of financial services, especially in rural areas, and also highlighted the need for effectively onboarding customers and improving ease of access through factors like customer-friendly interfaces and vernacular access. The adoption of data-based, AI/ML-led decision models has improved risk assessment, enabling us to analyze customer data and predict potential risks, as in the case of Kinara. Not only has this sped up the decision process significantly, vastly improving our TAT, it has also minimized the margin of human bias in the process, ensuring that we can support our customers with quick and efficient service".

    KINARA CAPITAL

    • Founded in date: November 2011
    • Headquarters: Bengaluru, Karnataka
    • Focused areas: Delivering fast and accessible financing to Indian MSMEs through collateral-free loans, Driving financial inclusion which leads to entrepreneurial income growth and job creation, Supporting women entrepreneurs via HerVikas discounted collateral-free business loans
    • Funding: ~1200+ crores (equity + debt)
    • Net Interest Income FY22: 161 crores
    • Profit FY22: 15 crores
    • Workforce strength: 1,600+ employees
    • Strength: Tapping into the vast potential of the MSME sector by addressing the credit gap in the market, Strong company culture that allows employees to work collaboratively, as well as find their individual strengths and interests. Inclusive and welcoming workplace that has resulted in a diverse and dynamic workforce Women-majority management team focused on mentorship and creating an equal-opportunity environment Fully digital processes and AI/ML data-driven models that enable decisioning-to- disbursement within 24-hours.

    Swati Bhargava, co-founder CashKaro/ EarnKaro

    Born in Ambala, Bhargava was always a whizz kid. She got a scholarship to study in Singapore, as well as, London School of Economics. After finishing her studies, Bhargava started her career as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs for five years. Around 2010, Bhargava got married to Rohan Bhargava and the entrepreneurial journey began. "Rohan always wanted to be an entrepreneur. We came across this idea of "cashback" in the UK. We saw that in the UK, everyone was using cashback sites very commonly whereas in India it was entirely an alien concept. When we started looking at the Indian market, we realised that this will do well here. India's fintech sector was booming because of demonetisation, UPI, e-commerce".

    Before starting a business, Bhargava knew that cashback businesses would not survive if they pay from their pocket. "We came across performance marketing and affiliate marketing. We realized that logistics and payments were relatively solved problems, but customer acquisition wasn't. Over the last few years, we saw that in Indian e-commerce, the cost of customer acquisition has really gone up. And, that is where we come in as a fintech player. We in CashKaro generate sales for our e-commerce sites that are our partners whether it is Amazon, Myntra, or Nykaa. And if someone does shopping from an e-commerce site via CashKaro, they get an extra cashback on it. The cashback that we are giving is not from CashKaro's pocket per se, it is actually the commission that we are getting from our partners".

    CashKaro's journey began in 2013 when Swati and Rohan decided to take a leap and introduced India to a cashback culture. Starting the business with two interns, CashKaro now has a team of 407 people. "In terms of sales, we probably did about 10 lakh to our partners per year. Right now we are doing about 5,000 crore. Even in terms of the transaction, we probably did less than one lakh transactions in a year. Right now, we do 10 lakh transactions a month," Bhargava said.

    Last year in November, the cashback and coupons platform raised 130 crore as part of its recent funding round led by Affle Global Pte Ltd (AGPL). CashKaro has raised over 255 crore from investors including Kalaari Capital, Ratan Tata, emeritus chairman of Tata Sons; Korea Investment Partners, and others.

    With the success of CashKaro, Bhargava launched another product called EarnKaro--a deal-sharing platform, partnered with more than 150 shopping sites across various categories like fashion, beauty, grocery, credit cards, electronics, etc. "Under this, you can create a link to any online deal, and that is called your Earnkaro link. If anyone shops via that link, they will earn cashback. EarnKaro is the largest traffic generator for e-commerce. Earnkaro generates close to 120 million clicks a year for our partners," Bhargava explained.

    On CashKaro's penetration in rural India, Bhargava stated that "We have a CashKaro store network in tier-3 cities, as well as in small villages. Different kirana stores are part of this network. We tie up with kirana store owners and teach them how to use Cashkaro. The owners of kirana stores place an order for their customers via CashKaro and earn cashback. Through these initiatives, kirana stores have been able to increase their incomes".

    • Founded in- April 2013
    • Headquarters- Gurugram, Haryana
    • Focused Area- Cashbacks and Coupons app
    • Funding- CashKaro has secured 130 Crores in a Series ‘C’ funding round led by Affle Global Pte. Ltd. (“AGPL"). Including this round, CashKaro has thus far raised over 255 Crores from prominent investors like Kalaari Capital, Mr. Ratan Tata, Korea Investment Partners, and more.
    • Revenue- Rs. 225 Crores in FY22
    • Loss- CashKaro is consistently keeping losses under Rs. 10 Crores
    • Workforce strength - 407

    Puja Srivastava, Co-Founder Spocto Solutions Pvt Limited

    Having a decade-plus of experience in the US, Puja Srivastava and her husband Sumeet Srivastava decided to start their own venture in India. The couple founded Spocto in 2017 breaking social barriers and making a mark in a space where we find fewer women.

    Spocto is a fintech startup that allows financial institutions to assess customers' risk profiles and monitor portfolios in real-time to ensure smoother loan collection.

    The Mumbai-headquartered company has posted a revenue of 57 crore. Spocto was acquired by Yubi last year and currently has a 75.1% stake in the company.

    On the role of women in the fintech world, Srivastava said, "There's no denying that women have a unique perspective. From managing investments and structuring deals to helping design consumer-facing interfaces and prioritising ambition, women have been at the forefront of making companies like Zopa, InnoPlay, and Paytm profitable. However, reports showcase that fintech businesses usually receive lower applications from female candidates for most roles. With women representing less than one-third of total employees in FinTech, much like the technology industry, the sector needs more diversity. To make our country a trillion-dollar economy, we must encourage participation from the rest of society".

    SPOCTO

    • Founded in date: 2017
    • Headquarters: Mumbai, Maharashtra
    • Focused areas: Innovation in technology and bringing dignity to collections
    • Revenue: 57 crore
    • Workforce strength: 1000, out of which 600 are women employees
    • Strength of your company: The employees
    • Funding: spocto was acquired by Yubi in 2022 and currently has a 75.1% stake in the company

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    ABOUT THE AUTHOR
    Mansi Jaswal
    I write about gender-related issues, women's rights, women empowerment, gender equality, women's health topics, and their wealth management. Also, profiling women who have fought all odds to make their own identities in their own rights. Before Mint, I worked at Business Today and Business Standard. I studied journalism at IIMC, Delhi. Got a story idea? Email me at mansi.jaswal@htdigital.in
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    Published: 13 Mar 2023, 11:22 AM IST
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