How a colleague’s job loss amid COVID-19 led this entrepreneur to found a startup focused on financial wellness

Valyu.ai is a Gurugram-based fintech startup that enables working professionals draw an advance on their salaries, giving them access to easy credit.
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When the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many people lost their jobs and their sources of income due to the nationwide lockdown. And one of Gaurav Kumar’s ex-colleagues too was laid off, leaving his wife to deal with all the expenses by herself with her paycheck, which was not enough to cover all the essential expenses. 

When the colleague asked for financial help, no one would help him. “When left with no other alternative, his wife turned to her employer to advance her salary but wasn't granted the request given the economic scenario. The sheer stress that this family was facing made us think about a solution, and then the idea for Valyu dawned upon us,” explains Gaurav. 

Along with Priyam Bhargava, Purna Chandra, Pramod Lamba, and Anil Siwatch, Gaurav started Valyu in June 2020 in Gurugram. Rashoo Kame, who had co-founded the company, is no longer a part of the team. 

It focuses on financial wellness for salaried employees by providing an array of financial products and services. 

Solving for employers and employees

Valyu.ai started by building and offering advance salary solutions, enabling employees to withdraw their accrued (MTD) salary without waiting for the payday. This amount is then settled through payroll deduction facilitated by employers using a technology-led platform that provides paperless, instantly approvals and three-minute disbursals. 

The startup has partnered with banks and NBFCs to support the funding of various products, all of which comply with RBI regulations. Furthermore, Valyu.ai partners with organisations that wish to expand their financial support options for their employees. In a nutshell, the fintech startup focuses on delivering meaningful, simple, and secure products to its end users.

Gaurav explains that they solve two key problems – for employees, the platform gives them access to simple, easy and instant credit, helping them avoid financial stress. It also enables them to stay clear of the traps of over-expensive and coercive, non-regulated lenders. 

For employers, they enable them to roll out powerful employee benefits policies without taking any hit on their cash flows. Employees feel 'cared for and valued for' by their employers, which ensures better productivity and retention and a happier and loyal workforce. 

The workings 

After the idea was conceived, the team decided to do their own research. The data showed that the expenses of close to 50 percent of women and more than 65 percent of men frequently extended their salaries midway through the month. This situation has worsened as the pandemic has progressed. 

“We ran a few more surveys and interviews across industries and cities to validate the need, acceptance, and relevance of our advance salary concepts. All these surveys reinforced the same thing – that this is very much needed, and it indeed relieves the employees of their stress. We decided to go forward with the idea and started building the ecosystem and a core team. We grew to a team of 12 members by September 2020,” Gaurav tells YourStory

The approval process takes one minute without any paperwork, and no CIBIL score is required. 

Valyu.ai provides employees with the opportunity to withdraw a percentage of their accrued earnings straight into their salary account as and when required. The corporates pay the disbursed amount to Valyu.ai, and the employees get the balanced salaries by the end of the month. 

The team has a flat monthly fee, based on the employee salary slab. For the higher income bracket – there is a 20 to 24 percent interest, and 0.5 processing fee. Until now, the company disbursed close to Rs 80 crore. 

The model and future 

“The service will further reduce financial stress on employees that may arise due to an emergency or unplanned expense. These advances are given to the employees without any cumbersome paperwork or delays through secure channels by NBFCs who have partnered with their organisation. This, in turn, helps employees absorb a financial shock or an unexpected expense with easy repayment options,” says Gaurav. 

Currently, while there is no direct competition to Valyu, Pune-based EarlySalary too has corporate tie-ups, and there is PayMe India as well. 

Gaurav says, “Our products aren’t B2C; we follow a B2B model. The employer plays a significant role in terms of user data comes from the client data systems. This makes fraud levels lower. The recovery comes from the employer, who, in turn, cuts it from the salary.” 

The authorised share capital of Valyu.ai is Rs 35 lakh, and its paid-up capital is Rs 3.5 lakh. It currently services 10 lakh employees nationally and expects to reach out to 25 lakh employees in the next four to six months. In the next five years, the company envisions disbursing Rs 2,500 crore.

Kudos Finance and Investments and Arthmate (Mamta Projects) have joined hands with the startup as its financing partners. The startup has also tied up with leading HR technology company, PeopleStrong, as their channel partner. While the team refused to share how much they charge, they said the charges are very nominal and are on a daily basis. 

The startup is currently bootstrapped.

Edited by Kanishk Singh

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