[Product Roadmap] How ‘Flipkart mafia’ started Groww to make investment simpler through customisation and tech
When Lalit Keshre was working at Flipkart, he realised one thing: consumer experiences around him were significantly improving and transforming. Whether it was ecommerce in terms of fashion, or cab booking, or food delivery, there was growth and change everywhere. But financial services continued to remain opaque and significantly old school.
And this was true for investments. Most people in India were looking at traditional means of savings and few genuinely looked at investment as an option. Thus, after quitting Flipkart in 2016, Lalit along with Harsh Jain, Neeraj Singh, and Ishan Bansal, started working on a product for investments.
Neeraj, CTO, Groww
Coincidently, 2016 was also the year of demonetisation. Looking at the shift towards online payments and the growth of UPI, the ‘Flipkart mafia’ plunged deeper into the segment and launched Groww, an investment platform, in 2017.
focuses on simplicity and transparency, and has been designed as an adviser or ‘buddy’. Its platform is powered by intelligent UI and UX. The startup offers paperless investing options, letting customers buy and sell mutual funds online.
“At Groww, we are on a mission to make investment simple and accessible for everyone, and technology is at the heart of it,” says Neeraj, Co-founder and CTO. The team focuses on two things - simplicity and safety. Neeraj says the idea is to make investment simple by making the user experience intuitive and great. Also, the next step in any financial product is making them safe and compliant.
“Our first product was built by a six-member team, comprising the four founders and two engineers. For the first cut, we needed someone passionate who wanted to work in a fast-paced environment, on a salary less than the market standard and had his own laptop to code. Among the two engineers we onboarded, we were lucky to have one with relevant experience, someone we had worked with in Flipkart earlier. The other engineer joined us as a fresher,” says Neeraj.
The team initially started with three mutual funds on the Groww website. It took them two months to build the first version.
“As a team, we were enough to build the initial product and we worked with the same capacity for more than six months. In these six months, we focused hard on the experimentation front. We built MVP for various features - customer profiling, Robo advisory, and risk analysis along with MF transactions. We did rigorous testing with users and kept on learning,” says Neeraj.
Working on user needs
Keeping user experience in mind, the team kept adding or retaining the necessary features and removed the ones that were not helping the users.
They made a major change after six months where they dropped many features like Robo advisory, customer profiling, and moved from just three mutual fund schemes to having all mutual funds and all AMCs. These iterations were made the basis of user feedback.
Neeraj says, “In my opinion, we were never satisfied with the product we built and never found it convenient enough for users. However, the feedback was good. Users loved the design, simplicity, and the options our platform offered. In the initial days, however, winning customer trust was a big task as we were a small startup and not many had heard about us. To solve this problem, we handled customer support and we used to talk to customers and resolve their queries, while ensuring that our product/tech was stable enough to handle scale. This won us trust and people started recommending our platform to family and friends,” explains Neeraj.
It was the evolving user behaviour which led them to make the necessary changes. As they grew, user expectations also grew. And so, handling scale and serving to a variety of users successfully was the main focus. While emerging market trends influenced the team, it did so more from a product strategy point of view and didn't necessarily push the team to make technology top ups.
Understanding user insights
The team realised that for users, investment was a puzzle. Therefore, educating users and spreading awareness about investment products and risks became important.
“Sometimes, user insights are surprising and totally opposite to our hypothesis. Our greatest learning was - what helps users most is showing the most relevant information to them at the right time and keeping everything transparent,” explains Neeraj.
The team uses technology at each user touch point to provide a hassle-free experience. This includes onboarding, KYC, showing the relevant funds for investing, and the flow is automated and paperless. The team uses ML and AI-based algorithms to verify details within a few seconds.
“Building systems is what we were always confident of. Handling scale, security, data analytics is something we had dabbled into in our earlier professional engagements. However, fintech was new to us. We learned that apart from focusing on user journey, we also need to be mindful and informed about the compliance and risk management angles,” says Neeraj.
The team realised that investment as a function also needed heavy customisation. The investment process for the first-time investor is different when compared to an investor who wants to track external investments using Groww.
The team uses technology like image processing which uses machine learning models. This helps automate manual workflows, reduce error, and increase user ease throughout the journey.
Groww is backed by marquee investors including Ribbit Capital, Y Combinator, Sequoia Capital, Kauffman Fellows Fund, Collin West, Propel Ventures Partners, Yinglan Tan, Cypher Capital, Insignia Ventures Partners, and Mukesh Bansal (Founder of Myntra and Curefit).
From April to December 2017, the company claims to have processed close to 1,00,000 transactions on its platform.
Some of the other players in the space are INDWealth started by Goibibo Founder Ashish Kashyap, CubeWealth, founded by Satyen Kothari. Paytm is also looking closely at this space.
“Our focus was to put technology at work to handle the scale. We have lots of in-house solutions which help us move faster with accuracy. For example, managing customer queries with a relatively small team, faster account opening process where you can start investing in two minutes, and making onboarding paperless,” says Neeraj.