‘Our Customers Are A Core Obsession For Us’
In an interview with BW Businessworld, Rati Shetty, Chief Product Officer and co-founder, BankBazaar.com talks about the market potential, the trends in the Fintech space, the funding, and the hurdles she faced along the way
BankBazaar.com, established in 2008 and headquartered in Chennai, is India's first neutral online marketplace that gives you instant customised rate quotes on loans, credit cards, and insurance products. In an interview with BW Businessworld, Rati Shetty, Chief Product Officer and co-founder, BankBazaar.com talks about the market potential, the trends in the Fintech space, the funding, and the hurdles she faced along the way. Edited excerpts:
What is the market potential in a country like India where digital literacy is still limited to urban and semi-urban areas?
The potential is significant. In the first place, with the recent push for digitisation, digital literacy is becoming an unwritten mandate of the government. This means that digital literacy itself is set to rise in the coming days. At the same time, the technology and infrastructure is itself growing at a very fast pace. Today, India has over 1 billion mobile phone users and internet connectivity is covering a larger population every day. So, more people are coming under the digital umbrella.
Secondly, India is a huge country with a large number of people living in inaccessible geographies. A combination factors including the remoteness, the low population densities, etc., have restricted the physical reach of financial institutions in these regions. The mobile and the internet are enabling banking services to these places and people. This is evident from the number of applications we receive from remote and border-regions like Leh, Jaisalmer, Imphal, and Kargil. For people in these cities, the smartphone has opened up more avenues and options than ever before.
How have you differentiated yourself from others in the market? What is your USP?
At BankBazaar, we recognise the individuality of each of our customers and their unique needs. Our biggest USP is that we have personally experienced the difficulties our customers face while accessing the right financial product in the larger offline personal finance ecosystem regardless of it being a loan, credit card or mutual fund product. We enable financial brands to deliver financial products instantly over our platform, thanks to our robust, secure, and scalable technology, so that our customers can access the right financial product seamlessly.
Our customers are a core obsession for us here at BankBazaar. The reason we exist in this space is to streamline the painful process of taking a Home/Car/Personal Loan, Credit Card or Mutual Fund product from days or weeks into an instant. We're continuously enabling this on all our platforms - web and mobile -fortified by a fantastic customer experience on our product and backed by really smart, reliable technology.
What are your source of funds — details on funding and investors?
Our first round of funding in 2008 was from our personal network of friends as angel investors and a well-known Chennai-based business house, AVT Infotech. We focused all the resources in building a fantastic marketplace where customers would get multiple offers from the banks we invited to integrate with us and to bridge the customer to bank gap via us. Going ahead, we had the luck of being in partnership with some fantastic investors including Walden International, Sequoia Capital, and Amazon, and continue to learn a lot from them.
In 2011, Walden International, the California-headquartered VC firm, believed in our seamless banking marketplace technology and invested $6 million in series A funding. In 2014, we raised $13 million from Sequoia Capital with the purpose to educate customers that now banking is as easy as shopping and they could get seven-minute loan approvals online compared with seven days required to get the same through the offline channel. Then, in 2015, we raised $60 million in Round C funding which was led by Amazon, with participation from Fidelity Growth Partners, Mousse Partners, and returning investors Sequoia Capital and Walden International. Amazon's partnership is extremely significant as we both share a very common tenet in our approach and businesses - a deep care for the end customer.
What has your biggest challenge been in terms of getting traction to BankBazaar? How did you overcome?
Our challenge was to sell the idea of a digital platform driven by scalable technology, unencumbered by time-consuming paperwork and red tape that is a staple of the offline loan decisioning process, to an industry accustomed to traditional offline methodology. In addition, there were concerns about online security. However, this presented the opportunity for disruption. We were excited to build an amazing product to deliver our vision, make an impact and provide much-needed solutions to several customer challenges when it comes to accessing the right financial products - something that continues to drive us today.
What are some of the trends you see in the Fintech space?
The Fintech space is a dynamic one and we are seeing some interesting trends. The first trend is a distinct shift away from addressing just traditional banking activities to a far broader engagement across a customer's financial journey with the need for personalised services covering a gamut of diverse financial services including retail, money management, wealth management, insurance etc. The second trend is the rise of the discerning customer who is well-informed and has unlimited access to information and a wider choice of products, underscoring the need for banks and Fintech players to create refined, well-integrated ecosystems to foster customer loyalty. The third trend is a heightened focus on digitisation, post demonetisation thereby calling for innovations in digital lending, digital cash management, payment infrastructure, cybersecurity, IoT and linked devices, and one-stop shops for personal finance management that go beyond pure banking.