Despite Covid-19 challenges, fintech founders confident of emerging stronger
In these times of COVID-19, when there are more questions than answers, startups seem to have the right opportunity to fundamentally relook at everything, but still remain strongly committed to their main business mission of serving their customers.
This was the enduring theme at the day-long virtual event Smashup! 2020, organised by TiE Delhi-NCR, which brought together the entire startup ecosystem, with multiple sessions and a confluence of divergent thoughts from entrepreneurs, investors, and mentors, among many others.
Setting the ball rolling, Rajan Anandan, President, TiE Delhi-NCR; and MD of Sequoia Capital, said,
“Covid has accelerated many more possibilities, and being #VocalaboutLocal is also about building a global brand.”
He said, from day zero, startups should not just think about the India market, but about the entire world.
Among the many sessions held at Smashup! 2020, the fintech session evinced considerable interest as startups in this area are facing interesting challenges due to the COVID-19 crisis.
The speakers in this session included Lizzie Chapman, Co-founder and CEO, ZestMoney; Upasana Taku, Co-founder, MobiKwik; Alok Mittal, Co-founder and CEO, Indifi; and Satyen Kothari, Founder and CEO, Cube Wealth. The session was moderated by Sandeep Laxman, Head, Fintech, AWS.
Providing the journey of fintech in India, Satyen felt the industry has gone through the stages of building very basic functions and targeting the mass segment. “The easy stuff is one but building for the niche segment is the next big opportunity,” he said.
Given the COVID-19 environment, when there are a lot of questions around movement of capital or presence of liquidity in the market, Lizzie felt the future is still bright despite a very treacherous time now. “If you can navigate these times, where everything about your model is tested, the future can be attractive,” she remarked.
Alok was very confident that the current environment is unlikely to have any major impact, though one needs to come out in a solvent manner. “There is increased drive towards digitisation,” he remarked. According to these entrepreneurs, this was also the opportunity to try out different things, though one must not be swayed by short-term trends.
The important question that was put forward to these startup founders was the question of money and how one could raise capital in the COVID-19 environment when there is greater hesitancy among people.
“It is super hard to raise money right now, but one can put little bit of their own capital if they have the resources,” remarked Satyen.
There was also a general consensus that startup founders were also impacted by the actions of their peers, and the major challenge is trying to avert this short-term outlook. However, the panelists felt it was important for founders to ensure the entire team is gaining materially and not restricted to a select few.
The founders stressed that startups need to have a sharp focus on the performance of various metrics. Upasana said, “We track every metric in our business categories. When one does that regularly, it inculcates the thought process through the entire organisation.”
Alok felt there is enough space for all kinds of fintech players in the Indian market, and it depends on the startup on what niche it has identified.
This is also the time for building a strong Software as a Service (SaaS) platform as existing financial services institutions are looking at speeding up the digitisation journey. However, Satyen cautioned that one needs to be resilient as large banks may not be exactly receptive to a small tech company.
The key question for founders has always been around competition and how they handle it. For this, the panelists advised the key focus always needs to be on the customer and not so much on the competition.
A full-day online conference - Smashup! 2020, organised by TiE Delhi-NCR, discussed insights and trends around the theme ‘Opportunity for Indian Startups to build Global Brands’
Edited by Megha Reddy