How fintech startup Roundups converts a Rs 198 Starbucks coffee into an investment opportunity

The Chennai-based micro-investing app, which operates under parent fintech company Drucker and Grove, hopes to teach young adults the importance of saving money.
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What if your late-night binge on Swiggy could net you monetary returns, along with satiating your hunger? What if the next time you order paintbrushes on Amazon, you also invested in a mutual fund, without even thinking about it or making any conscious efforts to do so?

And, ultimately, what if saving money became second nature to you, so much so that you set aside a little every month to invest?

That was the goal Vikram Hirawat set out on in 2020 to achieve — helping people invest money every time they spent money, to the point where it became a learned behaviour.

“When I started researching, I realised that not a lot of people are in the habit of saving money. Investing was a totally different ball game..I wanted to build a platform that helps people save and invest whatever they could — even spare change that you usually don’t usually pay any heed to,” he tells YourStory.

Roundups, a micro-investing platform that invests users’ spare change every time they make a transaction, was born in 2020 as a result of those efforts.

The app-only platform rounds up users’ expenditure to the nearest hundred, and invests the spare change in a mutual fund, which means if you bought a book off of Amazon for Rs 180, the app rounds it off to Rs 200, and invests the spare change, i.e, Rs 20.

Essentially, every time people spend money on the Roundups app, they also invest a little bit of it in an asset that yields returns, and Vikram hopes this will bring about a change in the way people, especially young adults, think about money as “not just an instrument to buy things, but also something that grows more money.”

Roundups, launched 45 days ago, has already seen 2,000 organic downloads, and around 10-15 daily transactions.

The startup’s founders -- Vikram, Atishe Chordia, the company’s CTO; and Babu Krishnamoorthy, who’s also the startup’s investment advisor; are currently focussed on building a core team that can help scale the product, as well as add more features.

Co-founders of Roundups

Tiny drops of water make the mighty ocean

Saving and personal finance require a lot of behavioural change, especially if they're not already learned skills people pick up in their childhood. Even when people do save money, the Indian mentality is to tie it up either in fixed deposits or recurring deposits, or leave it in a savings bank account where interest rates are not more than 3 percent.

"Financial apps that enable investing merely offer to help people by enabling them to invest in mutual funds and bonds that increase their returns. They’re meant for people who have financial discipline and set aside part of their incomes to put into an SIP or a mutual fund," Vikram says.

Roundups’ aim is different — it hopes to change people’s behaviour when it comes to money, which is especially important for young adults when they’re just starting out in their careers. The spare change-model cleverly circumvents any big deductions from people’s paychecks or bank balance, so it doesn’t feel like you’re losing a whole lot to investment funds.

But slowly, with enough spare change over a long period of time, users can accrue a sizeable corpus and earn meaningful returns, which Vikram hopes will help people see the advantage of investing.

Getting started on the app is easy — the usual KYC process that financial apps need, and giving it the necessary permissions to access bank transaction information. The app auto-debits the spare change amount and puts it towards an investment fund.

Currently, the app offers investment in only one mutual fund, but will add more instruments soon, Vikram says. It earns most of its money from the mutual fund issuer in the form of commission. Once it sees a little more traction, Roundups hopes to launch a subscription model to charge for educational content around finance, as well as investment advisory services.

The startup hopes to build a robo-advisor of sorts, soon.

As for funding, the startup says it has a good enough cash runway till December or January 2022, after which it will look for institutional investors. The company is incubated by doodleblue, a digital strategy consulting firm where one of Roundups’ co-founders, Atishe, is the CEO.

Its competitors in India include Spenny, which also works on a spare change model, as well as DIY investing apps such as Zerodha, Upstox, Groww, and Paytm Money, among others that enable online investing.

Edited by Megha Reddy

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