For Shailesh Jacob, co-founder of the Gurgaon-based Loan Frame, starting a lending marketplace for SMEs was more than a big opportunity — it was also about contributing to the overall economy. According to the Ministry of MSMEs, the sector contributes around 38% to the GDP and provides the largest share of employment, after agriculture. “In India you have over 50 million SMEs and credit penetration is less than 10%,” Jacob points out. In August 2015, he launched Loan Frame partnering with around 20 lenders.
Founded in August 2015, Loan Frame is a fintech SME lending marketplace focused on solving the financing problem for millions of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in India. Loan Frame enables SME lending through partner lenders, by providing them the technology to efficiently originate and assess small business borrowers.
- Shailesh Jacob, Founder and CEO
- Rishi Arya, Co-Founder and CFO
- Akshun Gulati, Co-Founder and Head Corporate Development
Start date: January 2016 | Location: Gurgaon | Fund Raised since starting up: $2.25 million | Employees: 30+
India is currently one of the most active FinTech markets in the world. It has drawn the maximum investments in the sector, along with China. Two important missions led by the Government of India, one of Financial Inclusion and the other of a Digital India, are driving innovation. Though it maybe a challenge to turn India into a completely cashless economy, given it’s sheer size of population and scattered geography, digital payments has grown quickly – thanks to the rapid growth in smartphone and e-commerce penetration. A country where cash had usually been the go to mode of transactions, a digital world of financial services have found a place to thrive.
In the last couple of years, the alternative lending space has literally exploded. With the growing shift to digital, fintech companies are leveraging technology to innovate and disrupt traditional business models.
Founded in 2015, loan aggregator firm, Loan Frame is one such innovator which has found a unique niche to operate in – a niche which offers value alike to funds-starved small and medium enterprises and the banks and financial institutions.
Here, in a chat with ETCFO’s Mannu Arora, Rishi Arya, CFO and Co-Founder & Shailesh Jacob, Co-Founder and CEO, of the Gurugram-based online lending firm take a few questions about the finance function especially in start-ups, fintech and their business too.
For the past 50 years, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) have powered India’s economy, especially in rural and semi-urban areas. But they often fail to get adequate financial support from government agencies, banks and financial institutions, according to the SME Chamber of India.
India’s booming fintech market could be their savior.
The startup world may never ride the high waves of 2015 but 2017 proved that big ticket funding is not a thing of the past. After a year of drought in 2016, the stars of the Indian startup ecosystem came back to prove they still possess the confidence of the investors.
However, the downtrend of 2016 did result in substantial cutback on their valuations. While Flipkart ended its drought with $1.4 billion from Tencent, Microsoft, eBay, and Naspers in April this year at a reduced valuation of $11.6 billion (from $15 billion), Ola raised $404 million from Falcon Capital and Softbank Group a few days later at a reduced valuation of $3 billion (from $4.5 billion).
Rising non-performing assets (NPAs), overleveraged large companies and the general unwillingness of banks to lend money has meant small businesses are now finding it next to impossible to raise money. As loan portfolios sour, banks do not want to take the risk of lending to an SME.
Coupled with that is the fact that a large number of small businesses have no access to formal sources of finance, are under banked or have little or no credit history. For these businesses, there is no chance of getting a bank loan. It is with this understanding that a troika of entrepreneurs banded together to start Loan Frame.
Whenever an SME (Small And Medium-Sized Enterprises) business wants to get business loans, it can get very frustrating because most of the qualities required to get the loan are structured with big businesses in mind. This is understandable because financial institutions would like to plug into developing companies but they do not want to bear a large proportion of the risk that comes with this move. It is, therefore, a common trend that SME businesses in India have limited options when it comes to capital financing. However, this is not only particular to India as developing countries also face these impediments.
Fintech firms have been generating a lot of interest among investors and borrowers. One aspect that perhaps has not received due attention is that of career prospects, especially relative to banking.
Fintech, as the term suggests, is a combination of technology and finance. This combination serves three purposes: a) it reduces cost of providing a service; and b) it widens the reach of the said service and c) provides a better customer experience. The primary categories of professionals a Fintech firm would attract are Information Technology, Risk, Finance, and due to high growth rates and customer orientation, Sales. There are compelling reasons for candidates from these fields to choose Fintech over Banks or NBFCs. Let us look at a few of these.
In an exclusive interview with SME Times, Shailesh Jacob, Founder & CEO of LoanFrame.com, a fintech company that provides a comprehensive range of financing solutions to small and medium scale enterprises, gives a thorough picture of the SME financing situation in the country.
He adds that India, compared to its global peers, has the most neglected SME sector, which is reeling under some major challenges such as lack of funds and higher interest rates, over-reliance of banks on large corporates as a customer base and demand of collateral by the financial institutions.
Excerpts from the interview…