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These 11 fintech startups are working to make financial inclusion accessible and affordable for Bharat

(Sindhu MV)

The accelerator programme by Bharat Inclusion selected these 11 fintech startups for developing innovative solutions to democratise access to improve Bharat's financial health.

The Financial Inclusion Lab, the accelerator programme by the Bharat Inclusion Initiative, has selected 11 fintech startups for its inaugural cohort.  The Lab focuses on incubating and accelerating early-stage startups developing technologies for the benefit of underserved communities of 'Bharat' in the areas of financial inclusion, skilling and livelihood.

The startups selected for the first cohort are developing innovative solutions to democratise access to credit, information and technology, facilitate easy digital transactions easier, make savings simpler, smarter and flexible and thereby improve the financial health of ‘Bharat.’

Bharat Inclusive Initiative inclusion

Here are the 11 early-stage startups working on realising the dream of financial inclusion for 'Bharat' to drive healthy economic growth.

WonderLend Hubs

Founded by Ram Ramdas, Anusha Jathanna and Rajesh Iyer, serial entrepreneurs and industry leaders with 80 years of cumulative experience across the banking, financial and software sectors, WonderLend offers a credit gateway solution to enable zero-friction credit assessment of the rurban and new-to-credit population, through its B2B2C digital lending hub platform.

The two-year-old Mumbai-based startup believes that one of the key reasons why the underserved have not been able to get easy access to tailored credit products is because ‘for the banking and financial institutions credit assessment of this particular segment has been challenging with low machine decisions, high underwriting and high credit operations costs, making it unviable at scale.

Through a unique combination of its configuration-driven platform, ‘pay as you go’ managed service model and augmented credit intelligence solutions, WonderLend Hubs aims to become the credit gateway for old and new age lenders, fintech players, aggregators and marketplaces, enabling end-to-end friction-free processing of consumer and small business loans from origination to disbursal.

Navana Tech

A team of graduates from Cornell Tech and the University of Michigan, Raoul Nanavati and Jai Nanavati have come together to empower low-literates with user-friendly digital interfaces to improve their quality of life. The founders observed that the current smartphone operating systems, apps and services are not designed for the low-literate Indians with their heavy reliance on text and widespread use of western iconography.

Navana Tech is creating local image-based design standards and voice-assisted developer tools to make digital services accessible to those with low levels of literacy. After receiving investment from Cornell Tech, they moved to Bengaluru in July 2018. The startup believes that simplifying interfaces will encourage low-literate users to independently learn new technology, enabling them to access the same information, content and services that literate users have access to.

EasyPlan

Founded by two Harvard graduates, Manisha Pandita and Sanjay Gandhi, EasyPlan is a mobile app that helps young Indians save money in a simpler, smarter and more flexible way. Today, 40 percent of urban Indians below the age of 30 say they are unable to save any money, while 60 percent say they don’t have savings to cover them in case of emergencies.

EasyPlan is addressing this challenge by helping users automatically save money from their paychecks. Unlike conventional savings products like FDs and SIPs, EasyPlan is super flexible. Users can reduce the savings amount in one click or skip it without penalties. In case of an emergency, users can also instantly withdraw savings, again without any penalties.

Finlok

By bringing communities together onto a digital platform, promoting savings and enabling them to borrow from each other, Finlok aims to digitise informal group-based financial models. Started by Tanuj Sinha and Atish Poddar, the 18-month-old startup believes that people earning a monthly income in the range of Rs 8,000 to 25,000 save less and have limited access to formal financial services, thus are exposed to predatory credit or risky investment offerings.

“By bringing the underbanked community together to save, building a corpus fund, and enabling them to even borrow from each other in addition to borrowing from Finlok, we are encouraging discipline towards saving while negating the need for credit. Our credit model linked to group savings is one-of-its-kind. It will tremendously benefit the blue-collared workers and people starting careers in the IT and ITeS sector, among others,” say the founders.

Kaarva

Kaarva is on a mission to enable people access to their hard-earned salary when they need it, rather than waiting for it for 30 days. With Kaarva, one can get access to their already earned salary, on demand, with no fees, no interest or hidden charges. Users voluntarily contribute what they like, and receive their money in their bank account instantly.

The founding team, Khushboo Maheshwari and Agam Goyal, are graduates from Harvard Business School and IIT-Bombay. They have diverse experience with companies like InMobi, BlackBuck, P&G, Nike, Booz and have also built their own startups previously.

ExpressMOJO

The startup claims that 40 percent of the nine million strong transport trucks in India lie idle at any given point of time due to lack of return loads or finance. And over 70 percent of these trucks are owned and operated by individuals or small fleet owners. The startup is working on creating a technology platform which improves access to information and credit to help these small fleet owners and single truck owners grow their businesses.

At the moment it has created an online classifieds site where fleet owners and driver-cum-owners can create business profiles, choose to work with verified transporters and commission agents and find available loads in the market. Co-founders, Akshay Gautam and Dipankar Sarkar, say “Through ExpressMOJO, we are democratising access to information and credit.” The team at ExpressMOJO consists of entrepreneurs and graduates from IIT Delhi and IIM Ahmedabad, with prior experience in logistics and banking.

GramCover

With lack of awareness about insurance and its need among rural customers which is further compounded by complex product features and claim settlement processes, there is low penetration of insurance products at the ground level. GramCover is addressing this challenge by co-creating simple, affordable, and easy-to-understand insurance products and using a technology platform to deliver these products seamlessly to rural customers.

By working with village level entrepreneurs and providing them with the right mix of technology, products and training, GramCover aims to provide simple and affordable insurance products to rural customers. GramCover started operations in December 2017, after receiving its license from IRDAI. The founding team consists of Jatin Singh, an alumnus of Boston University and Rishabh Garg, an alumnus of IIT Roorkee and IIM Lucknow.

munshiG

The startup aims to empower kirana stores with Artificial Intelligence to enable them to manage inventory and finances more efficiently.  Some of the available tech solutions are text input-intensive, which makes it cumbersome for adoption by small kirana store owners due to the long learning curve. munshiG overcomes this challenge by making their AI solution ‘voice-based’.  

This AI-powered book-keeping tool for kirana stores harnesses Natural Language Processing (NLP) to capture information and makes billing hassle-free. The platform also enables the vendors to send SMSes of bills to the consumers and thereby brings in transparency and cuts down paper usage. By integrating these and many other features into an Android application, they are bringing a low-cost solution to the unorganised retail industry. The startup was co-founded by Nishant Sharma and Ishan Mohammed in April 2018 in Udaipur.

SureClaim

Even with the health insurance market in India standing at $3.2 billion and growing at a CAGR of 30 percent and a plethora of health insurance schemes run by state and central governments, various sources estimate that out-of-pocket medical expenses still make up 62 percent of all healthcare costs in India. This has been attributed largely to the limited understanding of health insurance policy benefits and restrictions among customers and the complex claims mechanism.

SureClaim aims to address this market gap through its intelligent and comprehensive claims platform which enables patients to check their eligibility for treatment coverage in an easy-to-understand language, matches a claimant’s expenses with policy coverage and automates the entire claim process for them on a single platform. As a result, the platform ensures maximum payment out of policy to the claimant and reduces their out-of-pocket expense.

All this is made possible without the claimant needing any technical competency to deal with the insurer. The startup also plans to make claims processing simpler for claimants in other verticals of insurance as well. The Bengaluru-based startup has been founded by Varun Kansal and Anuj Jindal, who formerly worked with Practo.

Jai Kisan

A team of graduates from Texas A&M University with prior work experience in private equity, venture capital and management consulting have come together to help small farmers get access to affordable credit. Jai Kisan’s fintech platform utilises a hyperlocal credit scoring assessment and an innovative securitisation solution that helps financial institutions (banks and NBFCs) make a more accurate assessment of farmers, thereby enabling lower cost of financing to farmers and filling a substantial financing gap in the agriculture sector.

Jai Kisan was founded by Arjun Ahluwalia and Adriel Maniego, graduates of Texas A&M University.  The team comes with diverse work experience across private equity, venture capital, restructuring and management consulting.

Xtracap

Xtracap provides retailers in small towns and cities an easy and simple mobile application ‘Bridge2capital’ to connect with banks and NBFCs to access short-term liquidity. According to founders Mohammed Riaz and Nishant Singh, “The UVP of our model is the simplicity of our product, ease in product delivery and the trust generated in all the stakeholders on account of transparency."

They added, "Our model is designed to be an aggregation model, wherein we create value for all stakeholders by encouraging them to come together on our platform. In turn, this will establish a trusted and efficient local digital ecosystem which will be facilitated by digital financial transactions.”

Making inclusion possible

Launched in August this year, the Bharat Inclusion Initiative (BII) from IIM Ahmedabad's Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship (CIIE) helps tech entrepreneurs across the pre-incubation, seed and scale-up stage. This includes access to research fellowships, sprints, incubators, accelerators, seed funds and similar support programmes to create an end-to-end enabling ecosystem to bring inclusive, for-profit businesses to life. The programme is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, J. P. Morgan Chase, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation and the Omidyar Network.

The Financial Inclusion Lab, a key component of Bharat Inclusion Initiative component, offers customised and differentiated support worth over $70,000, which includes prototype capital of up to $30,000, mentoring by distinguished practitioners and sector experts, opportunities to partner with financial and other institutions to build and test products, curated sessions on essential business skills by faculty members and experts from IIM- Ahmedabad, access to scale-up capital via the Bharat Inclusion Seed Fund, cloud credits, legal, marketing, and other ancillary services.