[YS Exclusive] KreditBee, Ola’s Avail Finance, Indiabulls Housing in MeitY target list of digital lenders
A section of the ministry’s list accessed by YourStory features a host of lending platforms, including ones that had been pulled up earlier by other authorities, as well as Teen Patti and Rummy apps. Worryingly, some of the fintech platforms claim the entities on Meity’s list are impersonators.
Tuesday February 07, 2023,
4 min Read
Lending platform, , now part of Ola Money, and Indiabulls Housing Finance Ltd are in the government’s crosshairs as authorities target hundreds of fintech and gaming platforms for their Chinese links or compliance issues.
These names feature in a section of the target list prepared by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, which YourStory has accessed. The ministry on Sunday ordered a ban on 94 lending apps and 138 betting apps for their ‘Chinese links’.
Worryingly, some lending platforms claimed entities bearing their names on MeitY’s list were impersonators—raising the spectre of another high-risk issue that’s mostly gone unnoticed until now.
A KreditBee spokesperson said the domain on the list, kreditbee.en.aptoide.com, was “a clear case of impersonation and the domain in the list has nothing to do with KreditBee.”
Among other prominent digital lending platforms on the ministry’s list are PaymeIndia, Faircent and RupeerRedee.
Teen Patty and Rummy platforms AllRummyApp, GetRummyApp and NewRummyApp, instant loan apps Buddy Loan, True Balance, mPokket, PayRupik, Quikfinance and CashTM, and Delhi-based trading app VictorOption also feature on the MeitY list accessed by YourStory.
Several of these apps continue to be available on Google Play store. CashTM, which was removed in 2021 following an order by the Reserve Bank of India, is now available on Android mobile app marketplace Aptoide.
KreditBee said the Aptoide entity on MeitY’s list was an impersonator.
“Aptoide is a third-party app store, with which we have no formal or informal partnership. We are speculating that it’s a proxy app on Aptoide, and investigating this further,” a spokesperson for KreditBee said in an emailed statement. "Blocking of the Aptoide link is a favourable outcome for us."
PayMe said both its iOS and Android apps were operational and that the platform on MeitY’s list (paymeindia.en.aptoide.com) was an impersonator. Spokespersons for RupeeRedee and mPokket said in replies Thursday that the versions on MeitY's list were likely proxy apps on Aptoide.
True Balance said in a statement late Tuesday that the entity on MeitY's list was "a proxy app present on the app store Uptodown with which we hold no direct or indirect connection." Balancehero Group, which runs and operates True Balance, is an Indo-Korean business with "no direct or indirect connection with China or Chinese stakeholders," the company added.
For Avail Finance, too, the MeitY list mentions an Aptoide domain. Ola acquired Avail Finance in April last year, only to shut the service and integrate it with its Ola Money platform last month.
Ola, True Balance and Faircent didn’t immediately reply to emails seeking comment.
MeitY’s ban has thrown the fintech lending industry in a tizzy, with the ministry also halting the operations of players without apparent Chinese links. The crackdown, as per sources, is also because of complaints of strongarm collection methods and other compliance issues.
Fintech founders were hoping to meet with MeitY officials in Delhi on Tuesday.
A fintech industry source said the government is wary of Chinese fund flow into the system via new-age digital lending apps, but other platforms are also being pulled up for not adhering to proper compliance standards “despite warnings”.
Buddy Loan, a marketplace for loans, may have been mistaken for another platform called Buddy Cash, which had been linked earlier by state authorities in a cheating case. Buddy Loan's website is currently blocked although the app is functional, a spokesperson said, adding that the company is clarifying with MeitY that it is not a digital lender but a loan service provider.
The Bhopal Cyber Crime Branch had in January busted a gang involved in cheating borrowers through the Buddy Cash app, as per a report in ThePrint. Citing a senior police official, the report said the platform was a Chinese app developed in Thailand.
In 2020, Andhra Pradesh police listed a bunch of problematic digital instant loan apps, including CashTM, for harassing borrowers.
[Correction: The entity mentioned in the Bhopal case was not Buddy Loan. Buddy Loan and Buddy Cash are different entities. The error is regretted.]
[The article has been updated also to include replies from companies that the entities bearing their names on Meity's list were impersonators or proxies on third-party app marketplaces.]
Edited by Feroze Jamal