“In the consumer internet product space, everything is replicable, but what really makes you distinct from your competitors is the thinking, orientation and value system that you bring in. And that’s true for us,” says Subramanya S V, co-founder and CEO of fisdom.
Fisdom is a nine-month-old wealth management app that helps people manage their money. The startup’s website says, ‘fisdom takes the guesswork out of sound, long-term investing’. Breaking down this thought further, Subu, as he is commonly known in industry circles, says, “fisdom’s vision is to be a complete online wealth manager, making investments accessible, easier and quick for anyone who is willing to invest.”
Fisdom - an idea that turned a venture capitalist, an investment management expert and an investment banker into entrepreneurs
A former venture capitalist at Bessemer Venture Partners, Subu wanted to move on to life on the other side of the table – as an entrepreneur. During that time, Ramganesh Iyer (Ramg), who was his classmate at IIM Ahmedabad and an investment management expert, happened to visit Subu’s home. They started discussing ideas and that’s when Ramg suggested the idea of starting an online marketplace for financial products distribution. Ramg had nearly a decade of experience in management consulting at Bain and the Boston Consulting Group, and had been involved in research and advice on over Rs 250 crore of client assets.
A month and a few discussions later, the idea was beginning to gain clarity. Subu says, “We realised that it was best that we started off with one product that could deliver a great experience to customers rather than trying to offer too many things right in the beginning. We decided we could start off with the problem of how to help people save and invest their money.”
He says, “We observed that a lot of people let money lie idle in their savings accounts, running at three percent interest post tax. They don’t invest in high-yielding assets, particularly the capital markets. This was primarily because investing, for many, is difficult and complex.”
Sharing how the third-co-founder, Anand Dalmia, came on onboard, Subu says, “Anand and I have been friends for a long time. The idea of fisdom got him interested in joining us.” Anand has more than a decade of experience in the investment banking space and has worked for reputed organisations like Macquarie, UBS and Avendus. Anand joined fisdom from Macquarie Capital, where he led their investment banking business in the technology space in India. Today at fisdom, Ramg heads research and content strategy while Anand leads the business development efforts.
The three co-founders bring distinct yet complementing expertise to fisdom. While Subu comes from an internet background, Ramg is the financial services domain guy, and Anand comes from a sales and business development background. With a laugh, Subu says, “Even in our personal orientation, we are all very different. While Ramg is a deep-thinking guy and Anand is very outgoing, I am somewhere in between.”
Fisdom began its journey as a rough idea in early 2015, and after a few months of refining the concept and researching the market, the founders incorporated fisdom in June 2015.
Making investments accessible, understandable and quick. Sans marketing gimmicks.
Talk to many professionals, especially from non-finance backgrounds, and they will tell you that while they want to invest their savings wisely, they find investments tricky. Especially when financial advisory comes with loads of jargon.
Then, there are hundreds of companies who all promise the same thing – the best ever deal to help your money grow, irrespective of who you are or what you want. At the end comes the stressful paperwork. After all this, you are never sure about what is really happening with your money.
This is where fisdom stands apart.
Through its app and website, fisdom lets users manage all their investments right from their smartphones, and that too without confusing you or compelling you to buy a particular financial services product.
And as a first, this wealth management company speaks a jargon-free language. Subu says, “By keeping jargon out, we are making investing really simple. The app and the website speak the language of the customer. We don’t throw words like FMP, dividend fund, long duration bond fund, and short-term gain around when the customer may not really understand what they actually mean. Instead, the jargon is simplified and presented to the users in an understandable way.”
Fisdom has a one-time registration process that involves users sharing their ID proof, PAN card and other details for regulatory compliance purposes. Once this is verified, subsequent transactions are easy and fun to operate. And all this is done on the phone. If you are a KYC completed customer or if you have an Aadhar number but have not completed KYC, it takes less than 30 seconds to complete an investment through the app.” Subu explains, “Know Your Customer (KYC) is the first step when it comes to getting people to invest. That, in general, has been very messy; so, we decided to address that problem by taking a mobile-first approach and introducing digital KYC.”
Subu says, “We were the first ones to introduce digital KYC, a zero-jargon app, and goal-based investing.”
- Goal-oriented investing model
Your goal / objective forms the starting point for all their research and algorithms to rally behind. Through a couple of simple questions, they learn from you the timing and amount of the goal. This allows them to compute what investments would make the most sense, in order to minimise a user’s monthly investment towards the goal. If users don’t have an exact timing and amount in mind, they use heuristics to suggest both.
- You can start investing with as little as Rs 500
There is no lower limit to how much you can invest; you could start off with something as low as Rs 500. Alternatively, you can also pick your own investment mix, based on your own calculations and the risks that you are willing to take. Users can also redeem their investment anytime, anywhere; in just two working days, the money will be back in their accounts, as opposed to the regular way, which generally takes seven working days or more, coupled with stressful paperwork.
- Ongoing monitoring and rebalancing
Whether or not you have time to periodically look at your money, you can relax with the comfort of knowing that someone is actively looking at it to make sure it is earning the best returns possible. Fisdom’s rebalancing algorithms optimise for tax and load, as applicable. Whether it is a change in GDP, exchange rate or some personal situation, fisdom helps you rebalance your investments.
- Curated content
All of these features are complemented with some interesting curated content – interesting blog posts and easy-to-understand infographics .They also have one interesting feature called Fiscomics, that provides you with a light hearted take on financial investment – You can see Rajesh Khanna’s famous dialogue, albeit slightly altered to get the point across – ‘Babu Moshai, Salary SIP mein jaani chahiye, EMI mein nahi’.
Subu says, “We introduced these features because we are a not marketplace model. We have a vision to help our investors make an informed choice and thereby make money work for them.”
The ifs, the buts, and what’s next in the startup journey
Today, since the app’s launch in January 2016, they have had about 35,000 downloads across both Android and iOS. He says,
“We have seen our competitors copy some of our features. That’s something we are excited about because it validates that we are doing something right and exciting, thinking fresh and taking a step ahead.”
In January, they raised $500,000 (Rs 3.4 crore) in seed funding from TaxiForSure co-founders Aprameya Radhakrishna and Raghunandan G, besides other angel investors. So we asked Subu whether he found it easier to crack the questions that investors generally ask considering that he had been one himself. The response is honest and spontaneous, “You can say, I do. My experience helps us understand what investors are looking for.”
At the moment, Fisdom’s primary source of revenue is through commissions from asset management companies, and in the time to come, they are hoping to generate revenue from advisory services as well, which Subu says is in the works.
That said, like any startup, they have challenges to deal with. Subu says, “The challenges are not unique, but some things that most startups grapple with almost every day everywhere – hiring, keeping in sync with all the moving parts of the business, and keeping track of data and using that data to make the right decisions.”
So what does the roadmap for fisdom look like? The co-founder says, “We want to expand more investment-related products at fisdom. Also, we want to offer more services in relation to managing personal finance, such as tracking monthly expenses and filing tax returns. We want to be the one-stop solution when it comes to personal wealth management.”
The second key focus for fisdom is cost effective customer acquisition. Subu says, “While these are our focus areas, we are very judicious with spending money. We are a 20-member team, and there is a crazy amount of work. That doesn’t mean we will hire without a strategy. Also, we have been cautious when it comes to marketing spend.”
Responding to what he has to say about life as an entrepreneur, Subu sums it up by saying,
“Company and life are not different anymore.”
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