Most startups fail in the first year of operation, and lack of funding turns to be one of the common reasons. Hence, it is a rare instance to see a new company raise seed funding in its initial days. But this also shows the investor confidence in the vision of the company.
Bengaluru-based epiFi was started to boldly reimagine the world of financial services for the digital natives or millennials. Started by Sujith Narayanan and Sumit Gwalani in May 2019, the fintech startup aims to leverage technology to make financial transactions a seamless experience for millennials.
The startup recently announced a seed round of funding to the tune of $13.2 million led by Sequoia India and Ribbit Capital. The round also saw participation from Hillhouse Capital and angel investors including David Velez, Founder of Nubank, and Kunal Shah, Founder and CEO, Cred.
Sujith and Sumit have a strong pedigree as they were the key people behind Google’s Tez, or now popularly known as Google Pay, the fintech app for digital payments.
Opportunity to reimagine
Given their successful background and having closely watched the payments space, the duo realised that something bigger could be done for the retail consumers where technology would be that critical enabler.
“In the world of financial services, we found a significant opportunity where we can immensely help the consumers in this entire journey,” says Sujith.
He breaks down the entire financial journey of a consumer on four key pillars: store, access, grow, and borrow. This meant that the consumer would have four key financial needs which are to save, spend, invest, and take credit.
However, the founders also realised that in each of the four aspects, there were enough distortions which prevented a consumer from having a fulfilling or seamless financial experience.
For example, a consumer may see a loan option on the app or website, but a click on that will actually take them to the physical world where one needs to fill multiple forms and answer queries. This makes the whole experience very jarring, and epiFi wants to change this entire model.
“All this has to happen in a simpler and easier manner. We believe this is an interesting opportunity to solve while looking at the various financial needs of a consumer,” says Sujith. He further remarks, “It has a lot to do with how one uses the money better to save and spend smartly.”
epiFi’s fintech product is still on the stealth mode and even their website does not provide any inkling.
Speaking about this, Sumit says: “Our vision is how do we bring the best of technology and take it to areas which are touched before.”
One can call it neo banking or open banking, the technology platform that epiFi is working on goes much beyond that.
As Sujith says, “Banking in some sense is stuck in some era, at least from a technology perspective. We want to create a product which is differentiated and does not become a one size fits all category.”
Sujith provides an inkling on their technology platform, which is going to be operational in a few months. The startup it is also in talks with various banks to develop a product, which will look into the store aspect of financial services.
epiFi is working on a product which will create that simplified way of transacting with money by bringing many different aspects of finance.
Focus on millennials
Speaking about epiFi’s focus on the millennial segment, Sujith says, “Their needs are very different, and they are largely digital products, but at the same time they are open to experimenting.”
According to the founders, they are very clear about their mission as a startup - put the consumer at the center of everything and provide the best kind of service or product through technology.
Sumit says, “Today, banks think each of their products - whether it is debit card, credit card, loans, netbanking, etc., as a separate product. The question is how do we ensure there is a seamless journey through all of this. That is where we come in.”
epiFi wants to create a financial platform, which can integrate all kind of financial services with a key focus on enriching customer experience.
The consumer spending in India is expected to grow from $1.5 trillion at present to nearly $6 trillion by 2030, according to World Economic Forum. This shows the massive opportunity for a fintech startup like epiFi and its competitors such as digital wallets and online lending platforms.
Reason for investors backing
Behind epiFi’s vision is also the kind of backing it has received from its investors, where reports suggest that the funding was received at a valuation of $50 million.
On the investor support, Sujith says, “We kind of articulated our vision of this space and how this maturing which needs a long-term serious effort.”
It also boils down to the fact that epiFi has a team which had a track record of understanding the consumer and building the right technology around it.
The founders are also happy that epiFi has managed to attract a bunch of individuals who are deep domain experts in the world of technology. The startup, which has a 30-member team, has individuals who have come from companies such as Google, Netflix, PayPal, and Flipkart.
“Better products emerge when you take talented people and give them the freedom to innovate. Mistakes do happen, but the organisation needs to rally around them,” says Sujith.
The team at epiFi also wants to emulate or create the similar kind of work culture which is present among Silicon Valley giants like Google and Netflix.
In one year down the line, epiFi hopes to create a completely new experience for the consumer on how they would look at financial services.
(Edited by Megha Reddy)