We want to be the financial umbrella for a billion people, says Ankush Aggarwal of Avail Finance

In a refreshing chat, Ankush talks about using technology to go after a different market in an ecosystem where people are building apps for the consumer space.

There’s no better job than interviewing founders. The knowledge of the range and scope of solutions they offer through their respective startups often proves to be uplifting.

Two days ago, I interviewed Cred and its Founder Kunal Shah, who, despite popular wisdom, is building a product for the 30/40 million urban market. His members-only startup Cred incentivises creditworthy individuals and gives exclusive rewards to members for paying their credit card bills on time.

Today, I want to share the story of yet another Bengaluru-based fintech platform, Avail Finance, which is aiming to be the financial umbrella for a billion people. Contrary to Cred, it is targeting a mass market which has so far been underserved.

Ankush Aggarwal with Shradha Sharma

Started in 2017 by Ankush Aggarwal and Tushar Mehndiratta, Avail Finance focuses on the blue-collar segment by offering them easy credit solutions.

Its multiple products like personal loans, salary advances, and savings are customised for the blue-collar segment. It also helps its customers in understanding the importance of being financially independent.

In June this year, the startup raised its Series A funding round of $9 million led by Matrix Partners India.

In March 2018, the company raised pre-Series A round of $17.2 million led by Matrix Partners. This round also saw participation from Co-founders of Ola Bhavish Aggarwal and Ankit Bhati, Flipkart Co-founder Binny Bansal, Cred Founder Kunal Shah, and Mswipe Founder Manish Patel.

The last fundraise was a mix of debt and equity, including credit lines from multiple NBFCs. Before that, Avail had raised $200,000 in a funding round led by Ola Co-founder and CEO Bhavish Aggarwal.

Tough problem to crack

In a refreshing chat with Ankush on his well-lit and green office terrace, he tells me that in an ecosystem where people are building amazing apps for the consumer space, he is using technology to go after a different market.

“I grew up in Ludhiana and like all Indians, have witnessed drivers and household helps asking for salary advances. I moved to Singapore for higher studies and then to the US, where I took a semester off and interned at the Ola auto platform. That was my first first-hand experience with the blue-collar workers, the auto drivers. The major pain-point I saw in the driver community was that their access to capital was a big bottleneck.”

Watch the full interview here.

Ankush returned to India after graduating from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and started thinking seriously about providing a solution for this segment. He met Tushar, his Co-founder and CTO, through mutual friends. Tushar is an alumnus of IIT-Roorkee and has previously worked with Adobe.

The startup caters to the blue-collar segment in India, which includes security guards, delivery executives, drivers, housekeeping staff etc, who have a monthly income in the range of Rs 8,000 - Rs 25,000.

It has two main products. One is a short-term personal loan of Rs 20,000 for five months -- the average ticket size and tenure. The other product is of an even smaller ticket size of Rs 5,000 for one month and is an interest-free one to assist them during their frequent cash flow problems. Borrowers have the flexibility to leave a tip if they are satisfied with the service and experience.

Customer-first culture

Ankush says going forward he does not see Avail as just a pure-play lending platform. “Instead, we see Avail as a bank in this segment’s pocket. We want to be a platform where the blue-collar employee lives his/her financial life. Be it credit, micro-savings, and insurance, we want to help give that to them.”

Considering Avail is operating in a high volume, low ticket size market, he says he looks to sachetising his products like the FMCG companies. And Ankush is betting big on their technology for this. “Our biggest challenge is the missing credit history of the customer. So we look for alternatives like professional history and other information we ask for on the app.”

The startup has a 150-member team which works closely with its customer segment. “Our culture is being customer-first and data-obsessed,” says Ankush. He adds that the problem they have picked is not an easy one, hence it helps to have an open culture, which incidentally is also pet-friendly. The office pet Penny, an aptly-named mascot for their startup, is proof of that.

I wish Ankush and Tushar all the best in their journey.


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