Meet the Mavericks: Founders who lend to the underserved and bring fuel to doorsteps, Vishal Chopra and Ashish Gupta
A maverick is a person with an incredible vision, someone who challenges the norm and forces people to think beyond the ordinary. With this series, YourStory is going behind the scenes to uncover the inspirations and secrets of the ultimate maverick in the business world: the entrepreneur.
Watch YourStory’s latest Mavericks: Vishal Chopra, Co-founder & CEO, MoneyOnClick, a startup that provides joint-liability unsecured family loans, and Ashish Gupta, Co-Founder & CEO, of MyPetrolPump a startup that’s redefining last-mile delivery of fuel, in conversation with YourStory's Shradha Sharma.
It certainly takes a maverick to deal with a segment that formal lenders are wary of lending to. And Vishal Chopra, who is a part of the exciting new next generation of fintech startups has been focused on changing the course of loan disbursement in the country by bringing their services to an untapped, underserved population of India in tier two and tier three markets.
Lending to this segment also demands a maverick-like approach. Unlike other lenders, MoneyOnClick evaluates the creditworthiness of a family and provides a joint liability loan to the family as opposed to providing them personal loans. They typically focus on “Bharat” customers in small cities.
Simply put, MoneyOnClick is a social lending company.
“What that means is, we are tapping into the network of micro entrepreneurs across India’s 4,000 small towns and cities. We also have a very unique loan product, which is large ticket loans for lower middle class people in India. There are 500 million lower middle class people in India, and through these agents, we market our loans in small towns and cities,” said Vishal.
“We have been in business for almost a year. We do not evaluate the individual because families in small towns and cities are mostly joint families, where both revenues and as well as expenses are pooled together. And if the finances are approached like that, why shouldn’t the lending too? For our customer segment, the only other choice for unsecured large ticket loans is to approach informal money lenders or loan sharks who charge atrocious interest rates. We compete against informal money lending, which is estimated to approximately be a $300 billion industry annually,” he added.
MoneyOnClick’s managing to raise funding even before they began operations was largely because of three key factors: the backgrounds (the founders were former employees of LendingKart), their unique concept of the social selling network as a marketing tool, their unorthodox approach to the product, and finally, the machine learning that powers their underwriting.
The strategy to carry out underwriting using machine learning originated from Vishal’s experience at his earlier job as the Chief Business Officer at LendingKart, while his co-founder was formerly the Head of Data Science at LendingKart. Our previous exposure to the micro SME stood them in good stead. It’s also a little known fact that Vishal was the first Amazon India hire, and that gave him a ring-side view of the Indian marketplace. “All that experience of building a large seller marketplace is now being used in building our social selling solution for lending,” said Vishal.
Vishal said that what surprised him most as an entrepreneur in the lending space was the default rate of the segment. “We are yet to see even one case that has gone beyond 30 days of delay. Most of my customers are everyday hardworking people who are God-fearing. And if you look at the default rates in India, the more you move up the economic ladder, the higher default rates.
Ashish Gupta, our second maverick, had been serving as a reservoir engineer at Shell, a global oil and gas leader, at a remote island on the West Coast of Africa when the idea of MyPetrolPump dawned on him. That island had a meagre population of 5,000, with only one fuelling station in service. Every weekend, people would drive down 25 kilometres, cross a jetty, and queue up several hours to get their vehicles refuelled.
This was early 2016, and Ashish went on to quit Shell in April. He returned to India and spent the next three months researching gas stations, fuel delivery, and the entire oil and gas ecosystem here. He discovered that India required about 85 billion litres of fuel annually, but there weren’t enough petrol pumps to match the demand. Real estate was expensive, and setting up more stations was not a viable option. As a result, serpentine queues at petrol pumps were an everyday sight, and fuel pilferage and adulteration were major challenges for oil companies.
The entire value chain needed fixing. By June 2016, Ashish roped in a co-founder,a techie named Naveen Roy (ex-Infosys and L&T), and set up MyPetrolPump to deliver fuel at the doorstep. Both founders pooled in Rs 1 crore each to set the ball rolling. One year of R&D, testing, pilots, and some regulatory roadblocks later, they launched commercial operations in September 2017.
“What we are trying to do is build the last mile delivery of fuel to the Indian consumers. Today, these consumers go to fuel stations to get fuel, and our idea is to bring that petrol pump to their doorsteps. However, we are currently focussing on the B2B segment, because we see that the pain points for these consumers are significant,” he said.
The potential is also significant. “India has over 20 million generators - one literally for every building, whether it's a residential or commercial complex. If we bring the fuel to the building, it’ll save the owner considerably. In cities like Bangalore, each school has around 30-40 school buses. Each bus going individually to fill fuel makes little business sense, and only adds to the traffic woes. Also, the amount of fuel that has been burned in India, on dead mileage is equivalent to two million tonnes of carbon dioxide.” he said.
In the future we want to explore B2C solutions for people who do not like the inconvenience of waiting in line at the fuel station.
“It's an honour to be part of Y Combinator (YC). Their acceleration programme is very different from the many of the other incubation programmes around. You learn from hearing both success and failure stories, or even the stories of other founders who have gone through similar journeys. In my first week at YC, I was put in front of the Airbnb founders who shared their experiences, the mistakes they made, the successes they celebrated, and how they had managed it all. And the last three months of the YC programme, I got to interact with hundreds of such founders, both who have been super successes or failures. Yeah, so you get to learn all the spectrums of the journey of a founder,” said Ashish.
Ashish is preparing for the future as well. If the world moves to electrification and electric vehicles, the maverick founder says his company can handle that transition as well. “We are delivering a last-mile fuel delivery system, and if hydrogen becomes the dominant fuel tomorrow, we will do that. If it’s electricity we will do that. What we are building is the convenience of last-mile delivery of energy at the doorstep,” he said. before signing off.
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