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Happy: Digital lending startup that has disbursed over $20 million to Indian micro enterprises

Sajan C Kumar
Startups, PEs, VCs, E-commerce, consumer Internet companies, private equity

Mumbai-based digital lending start-up Happy, after securing $20 million in fresh capital in May this year, is all set to grow by making flexible digital loans increasingly available to micro and small business in over 500 locations across India.

In its first two years of operations, Happy has disbursed over $20 million (`140 crore) through more than 32,000 loans to over 80 kinds of businesses, with most loans taking only minutes from application to disbursal. With access to 2.5 million micro enterprises across 20 business partners, Happy is now ready to expand its digital lending operations across India.

Happy was founded by Manish Khera, Gautam Ivatury and Shweta Aprameya, a team with over 50 years of collective experience in delivering and designing alternate and innovative financial services in markets from India to Kenya and the United States. The company's loans for small businesses are less costly and more reliable than informal borrowing. Its mission is to support and increase the financial strength of small and micro-entrepreneurs, the heart of Indian commerce.

Happy's co-founder and managing director Manish Khera says the prime focus of the company is to empower Indian microenterprises by channelising credit seamless towards them. "We have collaborated with multiple remittance players including POS solutions providers and mobile wallet platforms. This has increased our effective reach to over 2 million micro-merchants in India and has paved the way for seamless credit disbursement to them. We offer working capital loans ranging from `2,000 to `1 lakh with a minimal interest of 2% per month," he said.

Aprameya and Khera had started Yatra Tatra Sarvatra with this vision, which was later acquired and ultimately emerged as Airtel Payments Bank. Aprameya is also the founder and director of ArthUdgam Welfare Foundation and South Asia's digital finance advisor for World Bank. Ivatury, on the other hand, has previously been associated with International Finance Corporation and CGAP (Consultative Group to Assist the Poor). All of their visions have finally converged as ArthImpact Finserve, the parent organisation of Happy, he said.

"Long journeys begin with a small step. We began our journey with discussions amongst three friends, on a whiteboard and charts in a rented apartment, on a hot summer afternoon.We moved to a shared space, with other similar startups, in an incubator and now we are taking another big step in our journey-our own office, our own Happy working space," he said.

To serve the target customer segment better, it intends to further develop its product and brand to meet the dual objectives of livelihood improvement and financial inclusion. This requires building the brand in order to directly reach merchants through marketing campaigns and a smartphone app, besides furthering development of AI based credit model to incorporate alternate data going beyond electronic transactions. It is also looking at building a social media presence and creating technology readiness for block-chain based use cases.

"Additional financial products to be offered via our platform include insurance, wealth management," he said. According to him, strategic tie-ups are an integral part of the business model. "We currently have 20 strategic partners onboard and are going to increase this number by 50 over a period of six months," he said.