Driving Financial Inclusion In India With P2P Lending: Interview With Ajit Kumar, Founder & CEO, RupeeCircle
RupeeCircle, since its inception in 2017, has been growing at a fast pace, not just in the amount disbursed in loans but also in the number of lenders and borrowers registering with the site. Driven by a proprietary machine learning credit rating algorithm, RupeeCircle has disbursed loans worth Rs20 million to unbanked and underbanked individuals, thus spearheading the aspiration for a financially inclusive society.
At the helm of this firm is its Founder & CEO, Mr. Ajit Kumar. Hailing from Bokaro, Jharkhand, Ajit completed his engineering from the prestigious IIT-Bombay and has 12+ years of experience in the corporate finance sector, having served as the AVP in Citigroup, GDM, and Head of Marketing Campaign Analytics in Axis Bank.
Here, Ajit shares his experience of starting RupeeCircle, the challenges conquered and the journey ahead.
What are some of your best memories from IIT-B?
The opportunity to meet with people from diverse backgrounds and the times spent with friends will always be special, but my fondest memories would be my birthday celebrations and the birthday bumps my friends would dole out.
What inspired you to start RupeeCircle?
Many companies starting in the Fintech sector were focused on the tech side of the segment rather than finance. Fintech, especially P2P, lending should always be about better risk analysis supported by smart tech. This along with my eagerness to contribute in the lending space led to RupeeCircle.
Did you start the venture alone?
RupeeCircle was founded by me but I was soon joined by my IIT-B batchmate Mr. Ashish Mehta. Within 4 months we became a team of 4 with Mr. Abhishek Gandhi, and Mr. Piyush Saurabh joining us as co-founders.
Abhishek is a Bachelor in Computer Engineering and has an MBA, cum laude (from RSM, Erasmus University (Netherlands) and CFA, USA, and Piyush is a BE in Computer Science with an MBA from MDI Gurgaon / IAE, Aix-en-Provence (France) and is a master A.I. designer.
What were the initial challenges you faced?
Convincing my family and relatives about the business model was the first hurdle; getting the first lender on board the RupeeCircle marketplace was the next.
What initiative are you working on currently?
India has the second largest unbanked and underbanked population in the world and bringing them under the ambit of financial inclusion will always be priority at RupeeCircle. Our target for the next 5 years is to reach out to 1 million unbanked and underbanked people.
Are the underbanked individuals aware of P2P borrowing?
P2P lending has become mainstream in the US and Europe; however, it is still at a very nascent stage in India. There are about 13 companies operating in this segment with each one doing its part to spread awareness amongst the masses. The next 2-3 years are very crucial for the P2P lending segment. The performance of the products and investment returns are also critical to drive investors into our marketplace.
RupeeCircle was the first P2P lending platform to get RBI’s NBFC-P2P licence in 2019. How will it help the company expand?
The RBI licence will augment our credibility as a serious player in the P2P segment. We are also backed by Mahindra & Mahindra Financial Services, and the only P2P lending company in the Oracle global startup ecosystem. All these factors will only boost investor confidence in us.
Was it difficult to get the right people into RupeeCircle?
Getting the right people to believe in an idea and work in a startup was always going to be difficult. I am lucky to be part of a young and talented team who are dedicated to making the vision of RupeeCircle a reality.
What is the work culture in your organization?
I have always believed that the success of an individual is the success of an organization. At RupeeCircle people are encouraged to experiment and improve their skillset and enjoy being part of a revolution.
How has RupeeCircle helped you develop?
Before RupeeCircle I feel like my knowledge was limited to only one aspect of the business but now I have experienced the whole lifecycle of the lending business. It also gave me an opportunity to connect with industry veterans and attract good talent. Overall my confidence has increased, and I have become a good salesman as well.
How is RupeeCircle different from its competitors?
All our co-founders are from a tech-background and proficient in automating processes. With a strong focus on financial inclusion we plan to develop an advanced and seamless platform that caters to the masses.
What are the current challenges?
Achieving exponential growth while scaling across India all the while keeping the culture intact.
What do you do in your free time?
I spend time with my kids and enjoy watching shows and movies on Netflix.
Do you plan to expand outside India?
Currently we are focused on the Indian market, but we are keeping a close eye on Southeast Asia, and maybe with the right investors expand our horizons.