[Tech30] These industry veterans’ startup encourages millennials to save and invest money smartly
Money is easy to spend, hard to earn, and even harder to save. And investing smartly seems like such a monumental task, mainly because of how complicated money management can be. These challenges and the need to make money management a simple concept was the main idea behind fintech startup Sqrrl. Founded in 2016 by Samant Sikka, Sanjeev Sharma, and Dhananjay Singh, the startup has registered close to one million downloads and footprints across its app and website.
Based in Gurugram, Sqrrl mainly targets youngsters, encouraging them to get into the habit of saving and investing money. The startup allows users to invest according to their needs and goals.
It does so by letting users save spare change and invest it later. Whenever a customer makes a transaction, the number is rounded to Rs 100 or Rs 500 (as per the user's discretion) and this is invested in mutual funds. Sqrrl also allows unlimited and instant withdrawals, round the clock.
L to R - Dhananjay Kumar Singh, Samant Sikka, and Sanjeev Sharma
“We have been solving the 3Cs (complexity, convenience, and communication) of personal finance. We offer mutual funds for wealth management. Now, we also have started offering insurance and personal loans,” says Dhananjay.
Its offerings in the mutual funds’ category include Sqrrl Away, where it rounds up spends and invests automatically, SIPs (Systematic Investment Plans), goal-based investing, lumpsum investing, and tax saving ELSS funds.
Another key factor is its focus on the vernacular languages. It offers support in languages such as English, Hindi, Telugu, Malayalam, Gujarati, Bengali, Marathi, and Kannada.
The app is available in the name of SQRRL on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. It has close to 7,00,000 downloads across both iOS and Android platforms.
Journey so far
Samant Sikka worked for almost two decades in the financial services domain across sales, business development, strategy, marketing, and digital.
He roped in friend Dhananjay and ex-colleague Sanjeev to start Sqrrl. Both Sanjeev and Dhananjay have over 18 years of experience, each. While the former has worked in business setup, financing, and operational excellence, Dhananjay is a data science and analytics professional.
Their vision was to build a digital financial services platform aimed at millennials. The startup initially offered services around savings and investment, powered by mutual funds.
At present, Dhananjay says that close to 70 percent of its users are under the age of 30. “We have a healthy DAU/MAU base of 15 percent across 60,000 customers.”
The Sqrrl team is as big as 24 people.
Initially bootstrapped, Sqrrl raised $1 million in its Pre-Series A funding round from Equanimity Venture Fund last year.
According to IBEF, the Mutual Fund (MF) industry in India has seen rapid growth in Assets Under Management (AUM). The total AUM of the industry stood at Rs 23.80 trillion between April 2018-February 2019. At the same time, the number of Mutual Fund (MF) equity portfolios reached 74.6 million as of June 2018.
Sqrrl competes with investment-focussed startups like Groww, Scripbox, Expowealth, and Smallcase. Bigger players like Zerodha and Paytm Money have also forayed into this space.
But the founder says that Sqrrl’s differentiator lies in offering unique mutual fund investment options suited for a young population - ‘Sqrrl away’ for small automated investments and savings, ‘Bring Your Own Dreams (BYOD)’ for goal-oriented investments, and ‘Axe Tax’ for optimal tax savings.
“We are the only personal finance platform to do vernacular offerings. We have married spending and saving by rounding of spends and automatically investing them. Ours is also a goal-based offering with personalised asset allocation,” claims Dhananjay.
In case of Sqrrl Away, for example, the minimum savings amount is Rs 100. In case of BYOD, the minimum saving will depend upon your goal and how soon you want reach it. For Axe Tax, minimum savings amount is Rs 1,000.
The startup generates revenue in the form of distribution fee from underlying AMCs (Annual Maintenance Contact) from manufacturers in regular funds. It also has a commission on insurance and lending products.
Sqrrl plans to go to market with its offerings aggressively and intends to expand to loans, insurance, payments, and aspires to morph into a digital bank.
The startup wants to be among the top 10 digital financial players by 2022 with an asset under management (AUM) of $14 billion, catering to 12 million customers.
(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)
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