Instant money is a scheme that many banks tend to say but fail to provide because it takes more than a day to get these loans. However, since the pandemic, people are scrambling for money, and there aren’t many platforms where you can avail smaller amount of loans for a shorter period. to make a difference, there is an Indian-born company named Smart coin aiming to change this once and for all.
Smart coin is a financial assistance company that offers short-term loans from one thousand rupees to one lakh rupees anywhere between a week or a month’s tenure. It’s quite the company for anyone who might be seeking short-term loans for any purpose. Moreover, the signing up is simple where there are generic questions and documents asked to open an account and secure the amount after successful validation. Speaking with Rohit Garg, the CEO of Smart coin, Bangalore Insider was entitled to know more about the startup and learn everything there is to know about it. Find out from the entire interview provided below.
How important is the company’s vision and mission to you?
As one of the leading tech-enabled pioneers of the Indian fintech ecosystem, Smartcoin Financials is consistently guided by the pursuit of excellence in every field. In sync with its core beliefs and underlying business philosophy, the new age fintech player is on a mission to address credit requirements across a wide spectrum of ‘Emerging India’ with a heightened focus on serving the financial needs of a vastly underserved middle and lower-income segment that consists of over 300 million micro-entrepreneurs, micro-merchants, aspiring professionals and blue/grey-collared workers. SmartCoin endeavors to ride the next wave of Indian growth by underlining the need to provide urgent credit access to the hugely underserved middle-income and lower-income groups and raising user awareness to accelerate the process of financial inclusion amongst the nation’s hitherto underprivileged and under-banked factions. Furthermore, by incorporating new age proprietary prediction models based on AI and ML, the next-gen fintech firm aims serving the next half a billion people lacking a CIBIL score or formal access to bank accounts.
What is the average loan amount that SmartCoin usually disburses to its users and what are the most common reasons mentioned by users to avail them?
Smartcoin enables its vast number of users to gain access to financial credit without the rigmaroles involved with traditional legacy banks. Having disbursed over 300,000+ loans to over 100,000 users, the finance company offers an extensive credit margin wherein applicants can choose to obtain loans ranging from INR 1000 to INR 1 lakh. In the time of the pandemic, lakhs of users availed our customised loan suites for meeting a plethora of essential necessities. These ranged from fast-paced medical loans for paying hospital bills, procuring medicines and other necessary personal safety equipment, transportation and travel bills, or simply loans that were meant for supporting their livelihoods in a period that saw widespread economic stagnation, loss of jobs and incomes.
How do you measure and project the growth of the company over so and so timeline when you’re in front of your investors? What’re the feelings running through during these crucial times?
By estimating the sheer value of loan transactions, Smartcoin has financed loans worth over $40 Mn to small business users and micro-entrepreneurs and a cumulative loan dispersal accruing to almost INR 500 Crores. While the pandemic visibly dented the company’s operations in the initial quarter, the last six months have witnessed significant pre-pandemic growth with Smartcoin claiming an expansive user base of 5 Mn+. The unprecedented pandemic proved to be a veritable litmus test for every organization, irrespective of its stature and size. We, as a new-age AI-enabled loan financing company with fully-digitised processes, were fortunate enough to have shepherded ourselves through the treacherous ravines of the post-pandemic financial landscape. By fully optimising the best of technology and innovation, Smartcoin has managed to stay on its feet even during these testing times by offering timely and relevant financial service suites to the country’s vast underserved and under-banked sections. Our unwavering dedication to our core principles of building user trust through exemplary customer service, sustainable sustenance, corporate responsibility, and comprehensive economic advancement has enabled the company to glide safely through choppy waters and extend valuable loan service to its users at a time when they need it most..
Do you currently work on a model whereby once user trust has been established, the platform itself could possibly become the first choice of approach for more personalized, data-backed financial products in this underserved segment?
That is absolutely correct. Cementing trust is one of the most essential foundational pursuits on which a company is built. We, as an organisation have succeeded in creating an intimate bond based on trust and certitude with our customers around the country. Our focused dedication towards ensuring user happiness and social equanimity by accelerating financial inclusion in the country has won us a reward in the form of widespread acceptance that we have gained all across the country. We are totally sold to the idea of constant innovation and enhancing our existing product suites as we believe there is always scope for further improvement. This means foraying into novel directions and verticals like developing customised and reliable micro-insurance products for the underserved and uninsured segments of our society, flexible repayment options, and championing financial awareness and education.
We also intend to amplify our efforts across Tier-4 regions and the remote regions beyond, by enabling credit access in hitherto underserved sections of the national populace. Furthermore, besides extending a number of essential financial services and credit facilities to the underserved, we are also engaged in enabling trust in these desperate times. We also intend to amplify our efforts across Tier-4 regions and the remote regions beyond, by enabling credit access in hitherto underserved sections of the national populace. In fact, we have managed to spread our presence across more than 17,000 pincodes around the country. So, yes, you could say that we are well on our way to becoming the trusted face of personalised and data-backed financial products across the underserved segments of the nation.
Since SmartCoin’s market offering is so fundamental to the economy; is there a conscious way that you follow in order to keep track of the economic progress made by SmartCoin’s users – say users who have been with SmartCoin since its early beginning? This would undoubtedly be how the company approaches its marketing. But at the same time, yes we do understand that the economic trends over the last 3-4 years have not helped many cohorts of Bharat in terms of economic progress. So please know that you work should be highly appreciated.
We are the inherent rebels of the fintech ecosystem as we have consciously decided to steer clear of conventional marketing methodologies prevalent in the country’s financial environment. Smartcoin helps us to stay connected with our users and try being a facilitator in their growth journey by understanding their needs. We come up with products, which would help them in a financially responsible way. We pride ourselves on our deep understanding of the consumers’ mindset, their various preferences, and financial concerns, especially in the post-pandemic period.
Our operations have exponentially surged across the country owing to the substantial financial penetration that we achieved on account of the splendid word of mouth that we received from our customers. Smartcoin boasts of catering to over 5 million active subscribers presently and about 40-50% of them are repeat customers. That said, the adulation that we have received across various financial strata of the country is simply due to the high user trust and service contentment that have become synonymous with Smartcoin Financials.
You’ve mentioned that – Smartcoin has disbursed more than 300,000 loans to its 100,000+ users worth INR 500 cr. while also mentioning that – SmartCoin’s growth rate has gone back to pre-pandemic times by clocking a user base of 5Mn + unique users downloads. Does the number of users to whom loans have been given in such a case still be around 100,000+? How many downloads do you think are being converted into loan disbursals?
With an estimated total loan book size of INR 50 crores calculated in the month of January this year and we are experiencing an average of 20% month-on-month growth. This has primarily been instrumented through the next-gen tech optimization spearheaded by Smartcoin to overcome the gamut of challenges faced by consumers in the wake of the pandemic. We have successfully leveraged AI-powered technology and ML algorithms to provide small-ticket loans while creating a distinctly superior business model that ensures even the underprivileged and vulnerable sections, elusive access to credit facilities.
By completely digitising the financial credit pathway for the underserved, pioneering an alternative credit scoring index as well as automating the entire loan underwriting process, Smartcoin has registered a 50X growth with its users increasing from one lakh to over 50 lakhs in a span of mere 2 and a half years.
A network of 17,000 pin codes is probably essential to increase the loan book size and reach more users in a country like India; however, is it operationally expensive to maintain? Being 100% online; from disbursal to collection ought to be driven by the smartphone alone. Therefore, why is an on-ground network so important; apart from one of the reasons being collection.
Headquartered in Bengaluru, Smartcoin has a workforce of 100+ professionals engaged across a number of core functions such as technology, customer support, etc. Moreover, we enjoy a substantial digital footprint across the country but have deliberately limited our on-ground physical presence in the market due to the extensive smartphone and internet penetration observed across the digital Bharat, comprising mainly of tier, 2, tier-3, and tier-4 regions. The pan-India digital initiative has calibrated an exponential spread of smartphone technology. It has offshooted novel market trends and customer predispositions that are in perfect accordance with our digital marketing strategy and digitized presence in the evolving post-pandemic landscape.
Different institutions have different business models. In a conventional lending setup on-ground presence is very important for potential customers and existing customers. This gives them visibility and of course, the collection aspect is there as well. Having a 100% digital solution, we lay greater emphasis on our proprietary underwriting solutions.
For the users, the offerings will get better as they proceed in their journey with us. In this journey based approach, our underwriting decision-making keeps getting stronger and more robust. Moreover, our collection-based algorithms and solutions enable us to strategically identify cohorts, which may be needing greater attention at different stages. Thus, technology and robust solutions help us navigate through the need of having a physical team on the field.