Fintech in India- A Global Growth story

FinTech has emerged as a relatively new industry in India. The year 2018 was a big one for the Indian financial technology and financial services ecosystem. With $2.34 billion being raised across 145 deals, fintech finally unseated ecommerce from the top of the list after years of dominance.

So, what really is FinTech?

In short, it is an industry that comprises of companies(such as insurance, asset management, payments) that use technology to offer financial services. Initially, FinTech started its trial by setting its operating base in the banking industry. But over the last five years, it has seen tremendous development and has expanded to insurance and asset management companies as well. 
By leveraging machine learning, FinTech companies are looking to analyze customer expectations and their responses.

In today’s digital economy, a whole new generation of FinTech’s, including nimble new start-ups with cutting edge technology have boomed alongside behemoths and are now valued more than many traditional banks and financial services firms.
We are witnessing specialization in many of the global fintech centres – London emerging as a hub for investments into open banking solutions, while China has become well known for facial recognition associated with biometric technology and Israel, a centre for cybersecurity.
India, however is yet to find a niche to focus on or a specialization, despite the mass availability of smart-technology talent.
As different hubs emerge around the world and technologies become more mature, specialization will be key to further develop India’s fintechs and continue to lure billions of dollars in investments and talent. Being the jack of all trades in different technologies and solutions, from mobile payments to credit scoring, digital banking and peer-to-peer lending, may have worked at the initial stages of fintech development, but the future will be dominated by specialists. 

To answer the many queries we have about fintech, its utilization and growth in the future, I decided to go ahead and take a personalized approach about this. I prepared some questions I had in mind about FinTech in India, and figured the ideal approach to know more would be to ask people who themselves are part of this industry.

I went ahead and interviewed two people, one who works as an Analyst in ‘Advanced Analytics’ division of MasterCard, and the other who is a Head of Sales and Alliances at Airpay. Both had a lot to say about matters relevant to this field, since a lot of work is being done in India to promote FinTech as a rising industry. Here is what they had to say about it.

Me-

How is the growth of fintech being supported in India?

MC-

India is doing pretty good in terms of fintech and it’s mostly coming from start-ups. Though one of the concerning facts is that most of them are eventually bought by foreign investors so won’t be completely fair to say that India has its in-house fintech innovation or technology. But with Indian government taking great initiatives like launching apps BHIM and UPI interface for P2P payments, it’s a great step towards our contribution to the fintech world.

AP-

  • A large unbanked and untapped market in India has been driving in private players willing to bet on it.
  • The Digital India initiative by the GoI has broadly laid down the framework for going digital and you cannot truly be a digital economy without Fintech.
  • The PMJDY led to financial inclusion of the masses, which has been leveraged by Fintechs to grow.
  • The exponential growth of smartphone adoption, along with some of the lowest mobile data rates have brought the next round of Indians online, which will further fuel digitisation of payments, insurance, etc.
  • The NPCI has been actively involved in churning out cutting edge payment methods like the UPI, which has again spurred adoption of digital means.

Me

There are namely 4 spheres of Fintech: In the systems sphere, in the B2B sphere, in the B2C sphere and B2G sphere. How do you think these are getting impacted, whether interdependently or not?

MC-

I think we are experiencing a major shift in our focus from P2P to B2B or B2C. The P2P space is quite evolved now unlike B2B or B2C space which has great potential. And, when it comes to B2B space, it’s both Corporates and Small Business where we need to focus because one is much more higher in revenue and the latter one is much more in number. There is still a lot of informal lending when it comes to business space and there is a lot of potential to not only improve payments systems in that space from both cost and speed perspective but also, come up with new technology to encourage small business to start using digital ways of money transfer.

B2C is also evolving everyday where every business is trying to value their customer much more than ever and give as personalised recommendations or offers as possible.

AP-

There are definite overlaps in the various spheres and a huge opportunity to create a unified platform. The effort has already begun with the BBPS infrastructure, which brought C2B and C2G payments on a single platform.

Me-

FinTech is reshaping categories and disrupting incumbents across a number of financial services sector categories. These include ‘Savings, Personal Finance, Investment & Wealth Management, Insurance, Block chain & Crypto, Lending & Unsecured Credit, and most significantly, Payments. Could you highlight more on the payments system, considering how big it is, not only in India, but all across the globe?

MC-

Gone are the days when people used to stand in long queues in banks to deposit/withdraw money for their personal use or to transfer it to somebody else. We are also trying to come out of the cheques world which takes 2-3 days for payment processing. This is the age of fast and quick technology, we want everything simple, fast and secure. You press the button while you’re sitting at home and you can transfer money from 1 part of the world to another. This is already embraced by P2P payments world and companies are coming up with efficient and cheap solutions for Small Business and even large corporates. We are yet to capture the full potential of corporate space but fintech is headed in the right path and card acceptance in Small Business and Corporates is a start of it. So yes, payments system has been modified highly not just for ease but also to make it more secure.

AP-

As they say, data is the new oil. Payments are the final layer to any business activity. It is your final signature when doing business with an entity. This payments data generated through digital payments is a rich source for creating patterns and understanding consumer behaviour. We see Fintech as an enabler or a partner for the existing ecosystem, helping them reach out to untapped markets and helping them to create a consumer profile using alternate data points.

Me-

38% of the world’s population lack a basic bank account and an even greater proportion lack the simplest of insurance and investment products. Do you think FinTech, particularly in the form of mobile money, is an essential part of the solution for this or it could face barriers?

MC-

If we just talk about India, out of 1.3B population, we have 800M mobile users. With such high penetration of mobile in India, fintech in the form of mobile money is an essential part of the solution. Apps like Paytm which cater to small business and small local merchants making them reach out to each and every person in India in turn, facilitating P2P, B2C, C2B, B2B payments. Anyway, the future is mobile or maybe something even smaller where 1 device could serve the purpose of everything so it does make sense that we are trying to fit in every payment form in there.

AP-

Absolutely! Digital payments give the customer a footprint that banks and insurance companies can leverage. It is redefining the metrics that a traditional bank or an insurance company would use to evaluate a customer and use the alternate data points to curate the best products. Even for existing consumers, Fintechs are helping the large legacy players get down to the brass tacks of profiling and provide products that stay current and relevant. For example, sachet insurance is a great innovation that does away with larger bulky and one-size-fits-all products and gives the consumers exactly what they want and presents the insurer another opportunity for product uptake

Me-

Is it a boon for cyber security or are we just unaware of how much of our personal data is actually out in the cloud? Fintrusion? A survey said online fraud could reach $25.6 Billion by 2020. Views on this? So, is fintech actually increasing cyber security?

MC-

There is definitely new technology coming up for cyber security and it is surely needed when it is so easy to do an identity fraud or any kind of fraud for that matter because technology will have certain limitations too. Definitely, most of the people are unaware of the quantity/quality of their personal data in the cloud and even, if they are have some idea, they aren’t educated enough on its misuse. And with this whole fintrusion, there is growth of the idea of “privacy” and people are becoming more cautious while sharing their personal data with various websites/apps. But fintech is definitely coming up with increased cyber security. Country like India has 2 step authentication which is a good measure to avoid fraud. Not even that, banks are also coming up with different algorithms to identify fraud and mitigate it in the best possible manner. But there is need for more and at much faster rate especially with new payment methods like Card on File, Contactless, etc. coming in.

AP-

Every innovation comes with its own set of risks. We feel the problem here is that the push is mostly on product adoption, rather than consumer education and then eventually adoption. So rather than being reactive, all the stakeholders must be proactive when it comes to data security and consumer awareness.

That said, there is a whole segment of entrepreneurs and technologists working on data security & fraud prevention, so as the industry matures, we should see this challenge being mitigated.

Me-

50.2% globally saying they do business with at least one non-traditional firm for banking, insurance, payments or investment management, with the percentage reaching the highest in Asia-Pacific (58.5%). How do you think the consumer response has been to fintech since its inception?

MC-

Asia Pacific has a lot of developing countries which is one of the major factors as to why they do business with at least one non-traditional firm. People are still stuck to their old ways and will definitely take time to come up to speed in terms of learning new technology. But overall, fintech has been growing quite fast in these countries and even in better way because fintech isn’t just reaching the consumers or large corporates but also small business or local small merchants which are more prevalent again in developing countries rather than developed countries. China has their own payment system and they are closed to the idea of having the same payment system as the rest of the world but that definitely makes them more secure and India has 2 step authentication which is again unique to it but again, mitigates a lot of fraud already. And because there is a lot of untapped potential and cash is still a king in Asia Pacific, the growth of fintech will be the highest here.

AP-

The consumer response till now has been positive, albeit not uniformly. While banks and traditional institutions invoke trust, the generation coming into the workforce (with disposable income in hands and a key drivers of consumption) values speed and customer experience equally, if not more. That said, there is still an entire section of the population that intrinsically thinks of new-age Fintechs as risky. This trust deficit hampers a digital-only strategy. So as a Fintech, our ideal sweet spot is to partner with the traditional institutions to combine the trust that banks inspire with the speed and customer experience that Fintechs offer.

Author
Purnima Dutt
Volunteer- FinTech
(MSc Finance, NMIMS Mumbai. Batch 2018-20)

Connect with Purnima on LinkedIn
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