This is the age where banks chase customers, offering them credit cards, loans and mortgages. But that’s on the personal side. There’s one sector in business that is yet to gain advantage from the rapid growth of the BFSI sector. This week we spoke to Lucas Bianchi, co-founder and head of operations & finance at Namaste Credit. From his journey on the Wall Street to starting his own company here in India, Bianchi talked to Analytics India Magazine about how they are trying to help the small and medium enterprises secure funding.
Analytics India Magazine: Tell us a little about your background in the Finance sector and how you started Namaste Credit.
Lucas Bianchi: Before Namaste Credit, I worked at Copal Amba, a Moody’s subsidiary. I was with them for a number of years, and during that time I got some exposure in India. I understood what the Indian market was about and got a fresh perspective on it. That’s when Gaurav Anand, who is now our co-founder and the head of sales and strategy, and I decided to create a credit-focused technology company based in India and focused on India.
AIM: Why did you decide to focus on the SME sector?
LB: We basically had a great understanding of credit and that’s why we decided to focus on the small and medium-sized enterprises segment. You see, the SME segment requires a lot of credit understanding. It’s many data points you have to look at. And we came from a credit background having been with Moody’s, so we wanted to leverage that as well.
The other thing is that there’s a lot of capital in India, there are a lot of banks, a lot of NBFC. The problem lies with the facilitation agency. It’s the matching and the process of doing that efficiently. Allocating capital where it can be best used, where it can be priced correctly and so, we built a platform that created a marketplace to do that.
AIM: What banks and financial institutes are you working with right now in India?
LB: We are working with a whole a bunch of different players from different parts of the spectrum in terms in the BFSI sector. The banks that we are working with are the ones who have to do a lot of heavy lifting, say, around mortgages or around business loans.
As of now, we have tied up with about 50 banks in India.
AIM: Which shoe does Namaste Credit fill in with respect to SMEs and facilitating their interaction with these big banks? How are you using analytics and machine learning here?
LB: One of the key elements that I think is somewhat unique and problematic about India is extensive reliance on the paper trail. It’s not just because the banks require it, it’s also because that’s the kind of standard and norm that’s in the market. So, everything around the whole loan process is focused around kind of this trading of paper around him or something.
So we’ve built licensed systems for these banks which enable them to feed in a document that’s been scanned, not just generated from a system. We use OCR to grab that data, we use machine learning and analytics to clean it, put it into a format that the bank would want, and then push it to them in their format. We pull the data in a format-agnostic manner. This enables us to take data from many different document types, many different format types. This intelligence layer helps to identify what it is that we’ve grabbed and then categorise it accordingly. This is where we get to machine learning is in that process of categorisation of correction.
AIM: How has Namaste Credit grown over the years?
LB: We started our operations in early 2015, so we are about four years old. We have about 250 people today. Now we have about 15 offices across most of the major cities.
AIM: Have you ever faced trouble in hiring people for tech roles at Namaste Credit?
LB: I think hiring good people is the biggest challenge that any startup faces. There are a lot of people out there, but finding the right match is a challenge. What I’ve seen in India, is that a lot of times you’ll go onto a site or something like that and people will say stuff on their resume and then you bring him in to test those things and they won’t work. Like they just don’t know those things. They’ll put things on the resume that they don’t even know.
Another thing is that many of the techies in Bangalore are service oriented people. So, they come to a workplace with a sort of baggage that they carry from their previous (usually big) employers. We kind of try and stay away from that kind of mindset because we want people to come on board and use their own mind to try and think about what should be done and how to solve it.
AIM: What, what is the next big thing that you’re looking for that you said, apart from the leap this year for the next round of funding?
LB: In terms of the overall company growth, I think we’re looking to expand our channel partner base a lot. So, today we have about 4,000 channel partners on board across India. We want to expand that to, let’s say 10,000 to 15,000 over the next year. So, it’s a fairly significant expansion.