Y Combinator-backed startup Kodo is simplifying expenses for the likes of Groww, MobiKwik, Epigamia
Founded by Deepti Sanghi, Mumbai-based corporate card startup Kodo aims to relieve founders of finance-related anxieties around their businesses.
Deepti Sanghi has worked across startup and traditional financial services institutions like SBI Capital Markets and Edelweiss Capital. In her career as an investment banker, she was struck by the impact that offering credit tended to have on businesses — across small, medium, and larger entities — and the people running them. Credits offered by microfinance institutions helped businesses accelerate rapidly.
At the same time, she was also the ‘finance friend’ entrepreneurs in her network would turn to for help.
“These are well-educated people with all the resources and very passionate about building their startups and products but don't want to deal with the complexities and all the anxieties when it comes to finance,” she tells HerStory.
In 2019, she launched corporate card startupwith an aim to relieve founders from the anxiety of managing the company’s money and optimising cash flows. Based in Mumbai, the venture was also an attempt to become a “finance friend at scale”.
After it took three months for Deepti to obtain a corporate card from the bank she had been banking with for over a decade despite a clean credit record, she decided to start by trying to solve this pain point.
Hence, Kodo’s first and main product was a corporate credit card with an integrated expense management system for businesses via a mobile application.
The startup’s system allows companies to issue multiple cards to their team members who can then conveniently file receipts on its mobile app. Once the receipts are uploaded, the Kodo app automatically generates the expense report, saving time and trouble of filing receipts manually and reimbursing them later.
Kodo Pay also allows direct payment to all vendors through direct bank transfer or Unified Payments Interface (UPI) even if they do not accept card payment. The companies can then pay Kodo at the end of the month or on a three-month-long EMI plan.
“The complexity in money when it comes to business lies in the controls and compliances. And we are leveraging technology to solve the experience of managing money just like taking care of personal payments,” she says.
Some of Kodo’s clients include, , , , , , , and , among others.
Having partnered with the State Bank of Mauritius for card issuance and ICICI Bank for other components, Kodo also curates discounts with partner companies like Amazon Web Services and Azure, as well as on the purchase of laptops and mobile.
Becoming an entrepreneur
Deepti has always been curious about running a business. Growing up in a business family in Delhi, she engrossed herself in biographies of entrepreneurs, reading about the journeys of enduring businesses like The Body Shop, Virgin Atlantic Airlines, Google, and Starbucks, among others.
While she was certain of becoming an entrepreneur, she decided to venture into investment banking after completing her MBA in finance and marketing from Management Development Institute in Gurugram.
“I helped companies raise private equity funding and work on mergers and acquisition transactions with a strong focus on the financial services sector. I did that to understand the business ecosystem, and it was a well-paying job that helped me accumulate some savings before taking the entrepreneurial plunge,” she says, adding that she was also making seed investments in startups.
Noting the importance of tech to build a scalable business, Deepti joined Mumbai-based fintech platform MoneyTap in 2016. The rest is history.
Navigating the fintech market
The Indian fintech market is expected to increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12 percent between 2022 and 2027. Deepti assures that there aren’t many peers with as comprehensive platforms as Kodo.
While banks have their own corporate card offering, many like State Bank of Mauritius and ICICI Bank are willing to collaborate and make the best of Kodo’s tech capabilities.
Notably, the rise in digital adoption during the pandemic was not just restricted to consumers as most companies also began adapting to digital needs.
“They were spending a lot more on online advertising for increased awareness and for that they need cards to spend on online marketing. As it became remote with a distributed workforce, they needed to subscribe to a lot more tools to run a digital business. Tech-savvy corporate cards became necessary for those pens,” she notes.
Besides the challenges of adapting to regulatory changes, Kodo witnessed strong growth in 2020 and got selected in Y Combinator’s Winter Batch of 2021. Through the connections developed there, it went on to raise $8.75 million in a seed funding round from a slew of investors that include Brex, Goat Capital, Pioneer Fund, and other Silicon Valley investors.
Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta