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While the financial sector in India is thriving, it has faced considerable challenges, from non-performing assets, cyber threats and money laundering, among others. Another area of concern is the lack of financial awareness among the working population of youth who believe that investing is a complex process meant for finance experts.
If there is one solution for all these issues, it is technology. From mobile banking, cybersecurity solutions, to online investment platforms, today technology plays a significant role in the financial sector.
Here are two women entrepreneurs who are innovatively using technology to help solve two of the most common problems in the fintech sector today – money laundering and investment awareness.
Rekha Shah, AnalyzeNControl
Rekha Shah worked with companies like Voltas, UTI Securities, Kotak Securities and JM Morgan Stanley Retail for almost three decades, where she got to interact with several brokers. She discovered that although the brokers had moved forward with high-end trading systems, the backend systems were scattered, without any centralisation. The end-investor was completely dependent on the sub-broker service levels. “It was clear that to make investing transparent for investors, it was critical to have strong compliant operations and risk management through robust systems,” says Rekha, who decided to foray into entrepreneurship in 2002.
For her, the entrepreneurial bug was genetic, and also driven by the fact that she would have independence in decision making. With a focus on creating and building systems to ease broking industry operations, risk management, and compliance, she started AnalyzeNControl. The company offers quality compliance, risk management and automation services.
The Indian financial market had seen major meltdowns and investors had faced huge losses due to scams. By 2012, she realised that there was no customised product in India which helped brokers track market manipulation and money laundering transactions. The existing products were either too preliminary or banking-based systems were being forced on to the broking industry. She came up with a tailor-made system that can create disruption and give intermediaries a set of dynamic tools that effectively minimise such risks. “Clients who subscribe to our products do not have to worry about risky clients getting onboard, client groups operating in a fraudulent pattern, attempting insider trading, synchronising trades with other brokers because our system facilitates effective client screening and prioritises alerts across multiple scenarios of market manipulation and money laundering patterns,” she says.
The Mumbai-based company’s products offer a unique blend of expertise on financial surveillance and anti-money laundering (AML) risk management. In 2016, they launched an Android app for consolidated regulatory notifications, and in 2018, client screening system and additional compliance-based products were added to their portfolio.
AnalyzeNControl weathered several challenges during the product launch phase. “We realised that Indian markets were still not mature for such enterprise version products and were looking for a quick fix to manage regulatory requirements, and the larger houses preferred in-house development.” But by 2017, their business started looking up and they were able to double their turnover.
Since competitors’ products were priced lower and had basic features, she says it was initially tough to convince users that her product was better and would minimise risk more efficiently. But now, training the users has started yielding results in terms of improved interest in their solution.
On how the technology landscape in India has transformed in the last decade, she says that digital disruption is making financial markets more transparent, accessible, inclusive and efficient. Moreover, regulators can get a better sense of the risks. She believes that the only way India’s financial market can be at par with its global counterparts is to adopt a technology-driven approach. Her own company is technology-driven and working on improving their tech stack. They plan to transition their current system to an AI-powered anomaly detection system, and move the backend of a few products from on-premises to the cloud. They are also experimenting with a few in-memory OLAP (online analytical processing) databases to speed up client result delivery.
Today, AnalyzeNControl has around 50 clients across different product lines, mostly institutional, large retail and wealth management firms and are increasing their reach to smaller brokers. Some of their broker clients represent almost 15 percent of the Indian investor base. “We are continuously engaged in educating the coming generation about surveillance and AML risk management and getting them to understand that it is not just a regulatory requirement, but an essential element of business risk management and investor safety,” she says.
Priyanka Dhavale, Invest N Rich
Priyanka Dhavale was working as a software engineer at Capgemini, but her heart was always in investing. She even enrolled in multiple courses on finance. She realised that an IT sector employee followed a pattern where they enjoyed the first half of the month after payday, and by the end of the month they were broke. “The current generation has no financial knowledge and don’t spend time planning their future. When you have lot of money, you waste it. There’s no backup or proper plan in place for emergencies,” she says.
When Priyanka started working, she invested 50 percent of her salary. “Youngsters have a number of opportunities to save more, and achieve more. They have the risk-taking capacity in their youth, it’s the best time for wealth creation.” She understood that most of them were not aware of financial terms or ways to invest. In 2017, she quit her job after seven years in the IT sector, and along with Prashant Pawar, started Invest N Rich. “To start up, you need patience, good product knowledge, and client servicing skills. I was prepping myself for those seven years. Once I was confident, I quit my job, and my family was very supportive about it,” she says.
Based in Pune, Invest N Rich is a wealth management firm that spreads financial awareness about various products, makes investments easier and more accessible. Priyanka’s inspiration is Warren Buffet, who became one of the richest people in the world, because he learnt to manage his finance in his early years.
Invest N Rich believes that you need discipline in order to manage finance. Since there are multiple products and plans in the market, it’s difficult to know which one is suitable based on an investor’s current situation. They help train clients on multiple ways to invest and create a proper financial plan for them.
Priyanka has been a member of the Tej Gyan Foundation for 15 years, where she learnt how to manage a business. “I didn’t face too many challenges while starting up, as they prepared me for the future,” she says. Her advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is that money isn’t the only focus for a business, and several other factors need to fall into place. “Money will automatically come; you need to focus on the customer. If one customer is satisfied, he will give you 25 more references. If you neglect the customer, the startup will shut down in two years.” She says, for a founder, the startup is her/his baby. “It has its needs and falls down 100 times. You need to take care of it efficiently, and plan to sustain it for the next 100 years.”
Today, Invest N Rich has more than 250 clients, including high net worth individuals, corporates, trusts and institutions in Mumbai, Chennai, and Bangalore. Priyanka says that 90 percent of their business is through word of mouth. “We don’t give you a financial product, we give you a service, helping you take better financial decisions.” The founders were also awarded Fighter of the Week award by Ace Speculum, a family whose mission is to nurture and help business owners grow. Invest N Rich has recently purchased a third-party app for their business, and their goal is to attain 5000 clients in the next 2 years.
Facebook SheLeadsTech for women entrepreneurs in India
SheLeadsTech is a programme by Facebook to support women entrepreneurs in India by providing access to community, tools, resources, mentorship, and more. As part of the initiative, members get to meet other budding entrepreneurs and get access to programmes like FbStart, and monthly Ask me Anything (AMA) sessions.
Rekha says that the programme helps women stay ahead of their learning curve, especially with sessions on marketing and sales. She looks forward to the opportunities to work with other entrepreneurs, and receive exclusive mentorship to help grow her business.
“I know for sure that SheLeadsTech India will help women rise and find their place in the sky,” says Rekha.