Here is an interview with one of the most successful Indian startups in fintech. Adhil Shetty CEO Bank Bazaar speaks candidly.
Q1 We last interviewed Adhil Shetty, founder and CEO of Bankbazaar in 2008. https://decisionstats.com/2008/09/04/bankbazaar/ Those were early days. Since then what milestones have you crossed in terms of customer fulfillment and others
The last ten years were a fantastic time for BankBazaar. We moved completely to the B2B business and are today India’s first neutral online marketplace that offers end-to-end instant services across leading financial institutions of India covering loans, credit cards, and insurance products. Supported by global investors such as Walden International, Sequoia Capital, Fidelity Growth Partners, Mousse Partners, Experian, and Amazon, BankBazaar.com’s goal is to deliver a marketplace that can help users access the right financial product and provide them a simpler, smoother, end-to- end experience in their financial journey.
With its focus on harnessing mobile technology to deliver paperless transactions, BankBazaar aims to be the leading marketplace for financial products. The company offers the largest number of financial products from more than 85 partner organizations over a highly secure, user-friendly, and intuitive platform. The partner organizations include the biggest nationalized and private banks, NBFCs, and insurance companies in India, providing a never-before range of financial products and services.
BankBazaar conceptualized India’s first and leading world-class digital marketplace. With changing times, online financial services have come to their own and there is a lot of demand from customers for a more holistic range of services. There is also an aggressive push from the government in this direction. BankBazaar has championed presence-less, paperless, cashless initiatives that will go a long way in democratizing personal finance and bring banking to the large unbanked population of India. We have been actively involved in developing an infrastructure ecosystem similar to the India Stacks framework that can provide online verification and consent system.
Introduced last year, the proprietary BankBazaar Paperless Stack is one of the biggest innovation that makes the experience of purchasing financial products synonymous with online shopping for the first time ever. The proprietary BankBazaar Paperless Stack is the world’s first multi-brand, paperless e-KYC platform for instant loan approval. The Bankbazaar Paperless Stack eliminates the need for physical document submission for loan approvals through the company’s online platform, and customers can now opt to retrieve and submit their documentation online for authentication and KYC purposes. This infrastructure stack, developed completely in-house, brings down the processing time substantially from as much as one week to one business day.
With its technology automation, BankBazaar can deliver more than 20% savings in cost of customer acquisition for financial institutions. Simultaneously, they enjoy features that remove redundancy, on-ground team and cumbersome paper based verification with features like auto-submission of applications, and e-KYC document verification. This reduces the cost of selling a financial product without the financial institutions having to invest heavily in the underlying technology.
Today, BankBazaar sees 100M customers per quarter, of which more than 60% opt for the paperless route. Currently, more than 75% of the traffic is organic. Paperless has also contributed significantly to conversion rate, with 3X conversions in 1/3 time.
BankBazaar’s modular, scalable technology has helped them extend the scope of services rapidly across products and partners, not just in India but in other Asian countries as well. Apart from India, BankBazaar.com also has offices in Singapore and has commenced operations there and in Malaysia this year.
Q2 What do you think makes BankBazaar stand out in the world of online fintech
At BankBazaar we recognise the individuality of each of our customers and their unique needs. Our biggest USP is that we have personally experienced the difficulties our customers face while accessing the right financial product in the larger offline personal finance ecosystem regardless of whether it is a loan, credit card or mutual fund product. We enable financial brands to deliver financial products instantly over our platform, thanks to our robust, secure, and scalable technology, so that our customers can access the right financial product seamlessly.
Today, we offer the largest number of financial products in the market as well as the largest number of partner organizations including the biggest nationalized and private banks, NBFCs, and insurance companies. Currently we have partnered with more than 85 institutions to provide more than 100 distinct products.
BankBazaar provides an end-to-end financial services. We have a full-fledged application platform where people can search of offers, select the one that suits them the best, and then apply for it online. BankBazaar does not close the process with the application. We provide constant support and assistance at every stage of the application process all the way to the final disbursal.
Unlike our competitors, we do not follow a lead-based system where all customer details are passed on to banks as leads. Only once an application is submitted are the customer details are passed on the respective bank along with the application. We have strict privacy norms in place to make sure that customer data is not passed on to any third party, so there practically zero chances that our customers will be spammed.
Q3 What are your growth and expansion plans for India and/or other markets
Our main focus for FY19 is to maintain our aggressive growth. FY 2018 has been a year where we grew more than 100 percent in multiple categories, including insurance and mutual funds, and have seen more that 1M Experian credit score pulls per month. We are aiming to overshoot this performance in FY19 and are expecting to grow by more than 2X.
Our operating revenue, too, witnessed 90% growth in FY18 while our total costs grew by only 30% as compared to same time last year. Since Q3-18, we are seeing positive unit economics net of HR and Marketing. In FY19, we are expecting to be EBITDA positive. This is because we are a tech driven company with a long-term consumer-centric vision of PaperLess financial products accessed over the mobile and do not have high overhead expenses such as offline agent commissions.
Our core strategy continues to be very focused on bettering what we do. In FY19, we are looking to consolidate our presence in every category with a bigger variety of products from more number of partners so that the customers have the highest number of options ever to choose from.
We are also focused on bringing more and more paperless presenceless products from a larger than ever number of partners so that our customers can apply for the product that is right for them get an approval in a matter of minutes. There is a lot of R&D going on in the paperless, presenceless processes, and we are working on simplifying and speeding up the process even further.
On the international expansion front, we have plans to eventually expand into Philippines, UAE, Hong Kong, and Australia. Currently, we are working on narrowing down our options.
Q4 Do you use Machine Learning and AI in your products.
As Fintech company, we deeply care about providing the best shopping experience to our customers. One aspect of this is matching the product to the customer and providing the right mix of options every time the customer visits our site. We use analytics to find the sweet spot of our returning customers to target financial products accordingly, so that the ecosystem expands. This is an important area where analytics and machine learning made a difference.
One place where our analytics and technology succeeded was in the way it utilized non-financial data to bring financial inclusion especially in areas where penetration of the financial industry has been hampered due to difficult terrain or remoteness of the location. Our analytics has helped us reach out to tier-2 and tier-3 towns and border areas with products and services suited their typical demographics.
We are slowly moving towards the use of cognitive computing to improve product matches and profiling for a more personalized and improved customer experience. We are also working on ways to use data to enhance the financial health of our customers.
Q5 What makes Bankbazaar.com a great place to work for current and future employees
The key to retaining employees is to make sure that they have enough incentives to stay with an organization. While the salary package is important to attract the right employees, retaining them is a slightly different ball game. At BankBazaar, we look for employees who are innovative and like to take challenges head-on. The biggest support we can provide them is to give them a work culture that encourages innovation and disruption. We have a flat organization that makes it possible for employees at all levels to seek out others across teams and hierarchies. We encourage open communication and make sure that employees know they are being heard.
At the same time, we make sure that the employees know where the company stands and the direction in which it is growing. This kind of open two-way communication builds employee confidence. It also eases their concerns about the direction their career is taking. To make this doubly sure, we try to provide a clear career growth path to our employees, which is closely aligned to the company’s growth. So, the employees know how their career will pan out over the years. This makes them confident about staying and growing with the organization.
We make sure that employees do have sufficient time to brush up on their skills. We have training plans and schedules in place that let employees select, plan, and undertake trainings and certifications relevant to their fields. This is a continual process and is highly encouraged. On one hand, it motivates and encourages employees. On the other, we end up with a highly motivated and skilled workforce.
We are a resource-intensive company, and prefer to build our leaders. So trainings help us identify and nurture these leaders as well. The opportunity to learn something new and apply it in your day-to-day work is something that all employees enjoy, and we try to give them this chance.
Above all, we make sure that individual contribution of our employees are recognized by their peers and the senior management through spot awards and other recognitions.