Perhaps the most underrated business-client relationship is that of a grocer and his regular local customers. How simply and organically a modestly educated shopkeeper strikes up conversations, stays receptive and attentive and wins trust, in order to identify the needs of each of his customer to fulfill them day after day, is a valuable study in client retention extended over entire lifetimes.
Coming from a family of grocery merchants himself, 37-year-old Sameer Agarwal studied complex courses in finance and business management – namely Chartered Accountancy and MBA at IIM-Kozhikode – but never forgot this cardinal principal at the heart of a trustworthy business. “I always have been fascinated by the upsell and cross-sell approach of a traditional grocer,” he says. Heading a substantial part of SME Cross Sell business at Bajaj Finance only augmented his skillset to strategise and execute sales processes.
For his co-founder, 33-year-old Abhimanyu Sofat, the thought that a value of a rupee today is higher than a rupee after five years always acted as food for thought for his financial discipline. For both the finance-aficionados, the idea of building an individual’s financial capability to achieve his or her dreams was the biggest value creation one could offer.
When professional tramples over personal
But Abhimanyu at his stint as PMS fund manager at a leading brokerage house noted that the financial markets in their current form had certain loopholes and lacked transparency. "Financial products are being peddled without understanding the buyer's need. The current model is a distributor/broker-led model. The intermediaries are aligned to the product, through commission-based selling. This reduces the capability and credibility of an organisation to capture the complete wallet-share of the customer,"he adds.
The plan for AdviseSure, thus, was hatched to bridge this gap and offer financial services by understanding the buyer's perspective.
“We saw a clear opportunity with millions of investors not making money due to short-term trading encouraged by the brokers. We felt that it was a big opportunity by saying no to trading,” says Sameer.
The duo were wary of falling into the pit of commission-based selling. Banks have been focussing on generating income from distribution of high commission products. This led them to devise a system which would be devoid of human biases and errors, and that would offer impartial personal finance and financial planning advice across product category, including mutual funds, capital markets, shares and stocks, sips, tax-saving schemes etc.
“We feel technology can bring a disruption in the industry by providing products as per client requirement at reasonable cost,” explains Abhimanyu.
Thus was born India’s only bionic (part-human part-robot) financial advisor; AdviseSure's in-house software provides real-time investment advice to clients based on age, risk tolerance profile, assets, income, life-cycle events and goals, along with historic analysis of data - which, upon signing up, is at the client's disposal as a DIY product, to turn them into experts too.
After online mapping and once the system generates results, the bionic advisor injects the human element into the advice service, so that the investment advice is further reinforced by AdviseSure'sapproach towards tax minimisation, wealth protection and risk protection.
In the pipelinefor the company isthe integration of transaction capability for various financial products, where the customer would be able to buy and sell at a single click. “We ascertain customer-data safety by incorporating bank-level security in our on-premise as well as on cloud data and certain high-level encryption protocols for the information we transfer over the network,” Abhimanyu explains.
To truly align its services with customer goals, AdviseSure decided to have a multi-asset approach to advisory, so that any client who comes on board gets advice irrespective of the assets class. So, the client can change his risk profile and get a personalised portfolio along with back-tested results upon the click of a button.
Since it is product agnostic, AdviseSure can address specific needs of the client as per their profile. Their main targets were HR managers of companies, individuals having income of Rs 35,000 and above, and the salaried class segment, primarily from the top 20 cities in India. They helped a Dubai-based client, who was on to a start with a financial plan of Rs 7500 identify the shortcomings in his current planning using technology. He sought more help for real estate and life insurance, and AdviseSure saved his cost of investing in MF by suggesting he go for direct plans. “A prospect of Rs 365 has turned into revenue potential of relationship of Rs 20,000.”
According to Abhimanyu, AdviseSure is one of the few buy-side firms in India that is not dependent on revenue as a distributor or equity broking. They are into advisory for direct equity, MF, tax, bond, real-estate, financial planning, other saving product advisory as well as insurance advisory.
Such analytics help gett unique insights into the client behaviour which could be used for a long period to serve the client and can be monetised. Not so fast, said the typical Indian, though. “The traditional thinking in India is, ‘Why should I pay for advice when I get it for free?’”notes Abhimanyu.The duo, therefore, asked more than 100 people if they were willing to pay for advice. This survey led them to devising a fool-proof strategy to win hearts and wallets alike. The firm started offering stock, mutual fund, regular savings and tax saving advise at a nominal fee of Re 1 per day, and a 360 degree analysis to clients on their personal finance for Rs. 7500, which did the trick. They currently have more than 1,000 users, growing at 25 percent on monthly basis organically. “Using technology, we have developed a model that can scale up pretty fast without adding much on the cost side.”
AdviceSure faces competition from other players in the market, like Fundsinindia.com, earthyantra.com, 5nance.com, scripbox.com, but its bionicbuddy gives it a rather unique appeal.
Ready now to raise a round of funding, the company aims to provide retail services to five lakh people by 2020.