The Indian School of Business [ISB] and SAP Labs India have entered into a collaboration to nurture technology-based start-ups in the social space, focusing on ventures which are working in areas that have relevance to national priorities.

Image Source – Jumpstart Social Enterprise Accelerator

Titled Jumpstart Social Enterprise Accelerator, the programme aims to identify and support 10 early stage and 5 growth stage promising ventures by providing guidance, mentorship and scaling up their technology solutions that can bring about a large scale impact in the lives of common people. Start-ups targeting sectors such as education, healthcare, water & sanitation, energy, agriculture, financial technology, infrastructure, livelihoods and others are eligible to apply for the programme.

Sharing ISB’s objective in promoting the initiative, Professor Rajendra Srivastava, Dean, ISB said

ISB is committed to its goal of taking on a larger role of incubating and supporting entrepreneurial ideas as well as scaling up ventures that will potentially generate employment, foster economic and social progress and create significant social value for the country.

The ISB SAP Jumpstart accelerator programme is one such initiative to support promising entrepreneurs in thinking big and help scale their businesses to create impact in areas of national priority and help build a better tomorrow.

Dilipkumar Khandelwal, Managing Director of SAP Labs India & Executive Vice President, Enterprise Cloud Services, SAP SE said

We are pleased that the SAP ISB Social Enterprise Jumpstart program is growing to accommodate more social enterprises.  Through this initiative, we are supporting in creating investible and growth oriented social enterprises which can contribute to the economic development of our country.

The first cohort of this accelerator programme was launched in  July 2016 where ISB and SAP received 400+ applications from diverse sectors. Five early stage start-ups in the areas of financial technology, sustainable development & livelihood, agriculture and skill development were shortlisted and mentored. As a result, all the 5 ventures from the first cohort have scaled up their business operations, received funding or have been taken over.

How to apply for the Jumpstart Social Enterprise Accelerator

Start-ups will be short-listed through a nation-wide selection process based on their innovation, social impact and scalability. Shortlisted finalists would be invited for a business plan pitch and interview by a panel consisting of business experts, investors, faculty & members of the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at ISB, & SAP. To know more about the application process and criteria, click here

Kings Learning, a technology-driven spoken English learning startup, has raised USD 2.5 million in funding from Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, together with other US based tech investors. The organization aims to address the employability issue in India amongst underserved youth owing to poor English language and communication skills, through offline, online and blended delivery channels.

Image Source – 1, 2

Enguru, Kings Learning’s mobile-based spoken English app, allows users to self-learn both general spoken English and employability-focused conversational English.  It also allows users to learn English in their native language and currently supports 28 different languages. The app has been downloaded about 2 million times till date, and is currently being used to improve spoken English skills by more than 120,000 active users monthly. The app’s platform is adaptive & gamified with real time assessments, which makes it easier for not just individuals but also corporates to use it for their employee training modules.

Arshan Vakil, Co-Founder and CEO, Kings Learning, said

Our goal is to leverage innovative technology and creative content to deliver high quality and engaging English education to all. We are excited to partner with our investors as we move into the next phase of our growth which will primarily be focused on scaling up our offerings like Enguru, strengthening our technology and analytics engine and expanding the Kings Learning team.

Prachi Windlass, Education Director, India, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, said

English has become a ticket to enter the booming knowledge-driven job economy of India, however, few have access to quality English language training. Almost half of the graduates in India, primarily from underprivileged backgrounds, are considered unemployable in most of the sectors due to lack of spoken English skills. Thankfully, mobile internet explosion, supplemented by exemplary work undertaken by technology-driven organizations like Kings Learning, is helping address this problem. We are excited to support Kings Learning’s efforts in their journey ahead.

About Kings Learning

Founded in 2014, Kings Learning is an ed-tech startup aimed at providing employability focused English language & communication skills training through technology products. For more information, please visit Kings Learning and EnGuru App Website

Brigade REAP, an accelerator program with its key focus on the Real Estate sector, had its Handover Day of the second cohort at the Sheraton Grand Hotel, Bengaluru. Launched in October 2016 with an intention to leverage technology which can help in delivering greater efficiencies to the Real Estate sector, 340 plus start-ups were evaluated for Cohort 2 and after two rounds of intense jury selection, 8 start-ups were inducted into the program.

These start-ups went through a rigorous four month mentorship and training program before being handed over to the real estate Industry for consumption of their products and services.

At the Handover Day of the 2nd cohort, these 8 start-ups presented their business to the audience which included eminent developers from the Real Estate Industry, Investors, HNI’s, other start-up founders and top management of global corporates. The representatives of the real estate industry participating in the program also spoke about technologies impacting real estate which indicated the improving intervention of technology into the Real Estate sector.

Speaking on this occasion, Ms. Nirupa Shankar, Director, Brigade REAP said

The first cohort of REAP saw success, with 3 of the 4 graduating start ups getting funded. The 4th start up  is currently in the process of closing their funding as well. Brigade  invested in QwikSpec as a lead investor along with other prominent investors. Snaptrude, which is also part of  Cohort 2, is another company Brigade will be investing in, alongside other developers. We feel the Real Estate industry is opening up to Tech adoption as potential for tech to improve operational efficiency is undeniable. Our role at REAP is to ensure that the start ups  curated during the program  are ready to tackle pressing issues of the industry.

The 8 start-ups that presented at the Handover Day are:

Aap Ka Painter – A house painting Solutions Company that delivers a hassle free experience by simplifying the path from inspiration to transformation of a dream home by leveraging art, science and technology. More information here

CRE Matrix – A data analytics platform that provides  information on accurate and trusted Lease & Sale transactions, Rental & Absorption projections, Asset level reports, micro-market analysis and Asset Valuation for commercial real estate. More information here

DesignSense – A Cloud based collaboration platform that helps Real Estate companies get RERA ready by connecting Project Management, Location and Engineering data with various stake holders and customers, enabling seamless flow of information between them. More information here

Natura – An Urban Plantscaping company that helps create easy to maintain green spaces resulting in breathing environments with reduced energy & Construction costs. More information here

Props {AMC} – A Real Estate Insights & Asset Monitoring Platform with a single, integrated, tech platform backed by robust data & information enables, seamless, transparent and complied transactions to monitor both Real Estate properties and securities. More information here

Snaptrude – An intelligence enabled 3D Rapid Modelling for Real Estate that solves the design problem by automating digital designing that transforms a hand drawn sketch to a 3D BIM model. More information here – A one stop B2B procurement marketplace for food & beverage businesses that helps HORECA (Hotel, Restaurant, Catering) industry in sourcing & procurement by listing products with negotiated B2B prices on their platform. More information here

ZeeSense – A Unified, Safety and Security Solution for gated community that solves the problem with an approach to Connect, Automate and Analyze. More information here

The REAP accelerator is now accepting applications for the third cohort and has received an overwhelming response so far. For more information, please visit Brigade REAP

About Brigade REAP

Brigade REAP is an accelerator program focused on technology start-ups whose end product/ service is applicable to Real Estate. Be it Residential, Commercial or Hospitality they have their hands on all the streams.The program is headed by John Kuruvilla, Chief Mentor for the program and Apul Nahata, Mentor-in-Residence. REAP has partnered with CISCO, Intel and Microsoft Accelerator as technology partners to make technology intervention better and also partnered with JLL, a professional investment management firm.

Hundred of the most innovative Karnataka start-ups have got a license to dream as Karnataka government opened floor to the two-day grand finale of India’s first comprehensive entrepreneurship platform, ELEVATE 100 at the Lalit Ashok, Bengaluru on 29th August, 2017.

Image Source – Startup Karnataka

A brainchild of the Government of Karnataka, ELEVATE 100 programme is a combined initiative of the Start-up Cell, Karnataka Biotechnology and Information Technology Services [KBITS] Government of Karnataka. ELEVATE 100 roadshow traversed the length and breadth of the state in a rigorous hunt to pick the 100 most innovative start-ups and help them turn their ideas into successful businesses. This initiative will give them access to the Government’s INR 400 crore start-up fund as well as offer mentoring from industry experts, idea validation, advisory and legal support.

IT, BT & Tourism Minister Priyank Kharge said

The efforts of Karnataka government doesn’t stop at elevating the chosen 100. We see ELEVATE 100 as a continuing process where the best ideas from the state gets the support and guidance it deserves.

Karnataka is home to the world’s fastest growing startup ecosystem. The government is trying to nurture this ecosystem with strong policies like the IT Policy, Start-up Policy, BT Millennium Policy, ESDM Policy and the KAVGC Policy, giving the ecosystem a strong foundation to help entrepreneurs and established industries to flourish.

Delivering the welcome note, Mr. Gaurav Gupta, IAS, Principal Secretary Department IT, BT & ST, recounted the year-long journey of ‘ELEVATE 100’ roadshow, through the length & breadth of the state in search of the next big idea.

Mr. Gaurav Gupta, IAS, Principal Secretary Department IT, BT & ST added

This is just one of the many initiatives aimed at creating the largest pool of talented entrepreneurs in Karnataka. Sub segments such as AI & Robotics are already being nurtured through various Centres of Excellence. A harbinger of great things to come, the target is to create 20,000 successful start-ups by celebrating and supporting them through continuous engagement.

This was followed by a chat with Bhavish Aggarwal, CEO – Ola Cabs, hosted by KK Natarajan, Chairman, Mindtree. Attending entrepreneurs got a first-hand take of the nuts and bolts of starting up.

Bhavish Aggarwal said

The Karnataka ecosystem fosters entrepreneurship and celebrates failures. Startups here need to move forward, learnings from failures and balance passion with rationality. They need to engage with the community at large. Valuation and value creation are two different things. Capital isn’t the end, it is just the beginning of the journey.

Shruti Mishra of CNBCs Young Turks fame anchored ‘Stories of Success’ segment, where successful entrepreneurs Vikas Malpani, Co-Founder, CommonFloor and Pavithra Y. S, CMD, Vindhya Infotech, shared their experiences from the road not taken. Pavithra stressed on the need for inclusion in organisations.

Pavithra Y. S, CMD, Vindhya Infotech said

Beyond valuations, there is a larger social role that startups play. Startups expand the space for those with dreams to become job creators and ultimately contribute to the empowerment of society at large.

Manish Sharma, Co-Founder, Printo, spoke about customer validation of an idea in the early stages of product development, in a segment titled ‘Listening to the customers’. Don’t react to price early in the game; the proposition will evolve, he told the  entrepreneurs in attendance.

Ram Narayan, Member Advisory Board, Zinnov, detailed the art and science of making a product the market actually needs in the session ‘Achieving Product Market Fit’.

[L-R] Salma Fahim, MD, KBITS, Gaurav Gupta, PrSec, IT/BT Department, GOK, Bhavish Aggarwal, Co Founder, OLA Cabs, Krishnakumar Natarajan,, Chairman, Mindtree, Honble Minister Priyank Kharge

Another big draw was Peter Yorke, CEO – Yorke Communications who enthralled the audience on the art of molding traditional marketing techniques and channels to the digital age in ‘GTM Masterclass’.

While startups are all the rage and many have scalable business models with the potential to soar, not everyone gets the chance to live out their potential. This valuable lesson was a part of the session by Anjana Vivek, Founder-Director, VentureBean Consulting, who detailed the science of startup valuation, with nuggets on best practices, models and real-world examples of good and bad valuations. Jawahar Bekay of Captive Aide took a ‘Masterclass on Sales for Start-ups’ which was a lesson for startups on what sells and what doesn’t.

[L-R] Bhavish Aggarwal, Co Founder, OLA Cabs, Krishnakumar Natarajan, Chairman, Mindtree

TiE Board Member Sanjay Anandaram moderated a session on big corporates working with startups where industry captains like Nipun Mehrotra, Chief Digital Officer – IBM India & South Asia, Madhurima Agarwal – NetApp, Alok Kumar – Swiss Re, Amey Mashelkar – Gennext Fund and John Kuruvilla – Brigade Reap spoke about the rules of engagement for startups working with the big boys.

The Pitching Sessions were held in Mysuru, Kalaburagi, Mangaluru, Hubballi and Bengaluru, where 1,700 startups pitched to elevate their ideas to successful ventures. ELEVATE 100 is the largest pool of funds that has been offered by any State Government in India for startups. It also highlights the startup climate in Karnataka, which also has the distinction of being first in the country to launch a dedicated startup policy for budding entrepreneurs and a Startup Cell that provides extensive services like legal and accounting advice, mentoring, incubator options, subsidized tariffs, and seed funding, among others.

Day 2 of Elevate 100 will hold The Women Entrepreneur Summit, aimed at supporting women entrepreneurs with access to mentoring and funds earmarked for women entrepreneurs. More than 300 women entrepreneurs, mostly from Bengaluru, Mysuru, Mangaluru, Hubballi and Kalaburagi areas of Karnataka, are expected to participate in the event.

Conquest [earlier coverage here], India’s biggest student-run startup challenge has been centred over the years to provide a perfect platform for startups to prosper. With DCB Bank as the title sponsor, Conquest has become a paradise for startups, providing them with a chance to voice their ideas, network with industry leaders, and obtain incubation and funding opportunities.

Raising the standards set by previous editions, Conquest 2017, in association with Zoho, Accel, WNS and PayU, witnessed a participation of more than 1000 startups from across the nation. Startups from various sectors ranging from education, manufacturing, engineering to even virtual reality competed for a spot in the top 50. These applications were scrutinised based on 36 extensive parameters to shortlist the top 50 startups for personalised mentoring sessions.

Conquest provided these startups with an insightful experience and a networking opportunity by organising mentorship sessions in the 3 major cities of the country – Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru.

File Photo : Conquest

Mentors from various sectors provided their insights on various aspects of entrepreneurship: Fundraising, Product Management, Customer Acquisition, Tech, and Operations. Meera Iyer, CMO – Big Basket, Ashish Goel, Head of Product – Zomato and Suvonil Chatterjee, former CDO, Housing and Flipkart are some of the many esteemed mentors that provided guidance to participants on a one on one basis. The jury then selected the top 10 startups for the Grand Finale.

Here is a look at the top 10 startups that made the cut.

  • Incredible Devices Pvt. Ltd – Incredible Devices provides affordable treatment techniques for CVD, a disease with a fatality rate of 80%.
  • Recopro – Recopro’s recyclable paper pallets are cheaper, stronger and greener than the traditional wood counterparts.
  • Drone Nation – Drone Nation is an aerial data solutions company providing end to end solutions using custom-built drone hardware and software technologies.
  • Dcoder – Dcoder lets you code anywhere, anytime through its mobile coding platform.
  • JuiceWorx – JuiceWorx is working on an IoT led beverage dispensing technology that gives enhanced experience and greater health benefits to users.
  • Adloid – Adloid is a trail AR platform where you can try a product before buying- just by using your phone.
  • Trell – Trell has built a 170K strong community for millennials to discover and share local explorations.
  • Be-Hold – Be-Hold is a glove designed to function as a phone for the visually impaired.
  • Clodura – Clodura uses technology to help you find high value leads which are more likely to close!
  • Aquivio – Aquvio has revolutionised Reverse Osmosis based water purifiers by minimising the
    waste-water generated.

The top 10 will take the stage in the Grand Finale, to be held on 3rd September at Hyatt Regency, New Delhi. The finalists will pitch their ideas in front of of the panel of investors and VCs, as they try to captivate the imagination of potential investors.

The Finale is going to a ensemble of the some the the biggest names in the startup industry, along with some future greats to watch out for. The Grand Finale of Conquest has the reputation of being a star studded networking event, with attendance from numerous industry stalwarts.

Previous editions have witnessed attendance from the likes of R. Chandrashekhar, President – NASSCOM, Padmaja Ruparel, President – Indian Angel Network, Sanjay Nath, Managing Partner – Blume Ventures and Nilesh Kothari, Managing Partner – Trifecta Capital Registrations for attending the Grand Finale are now open. Register on Conquest for a chance to network with the best names in the industry.

Heathtech startup InformDS Technologies Pvt. Ltd which runs Doxper, has raised seed round of investment of 750K USD led by Vidal Healthcare and GrowX Ventures. Other investors are Capier Investments, Globevestor and angels including a leading onco-surgeon in the country.

Girish Rao, MD of Vidal Healthcare and Siddharth Dhondiyal representing growX ventures have joined the board of directors of Doxper, a company founded by three IIT alumni – Randeep Singh, Shailesh Prithani and Pawan Jain in January 2016

Doxper aims to introduce the most natural way of integrating technology in the national healthcare ecosystem. A big missing piece in healthcare digitization today is doctors’ notes, which do not get captured and recorded digitally anywhere. Present EMR/EHRs are intrusive and clinicians are uncomfortable fiddling with computers or tablets. Moreover, these hamper the natural doctor-patient interaction.

Doxper’s solution combines unique digital pen and coded paper system along with various technology elements powered by data science algorithms to digitize health records on the fly. The solution fits seamlessly into the existing clinical workflow without altering any step of the doctor-patient interaction that leads to its instant acceptance with doctors.

In a span of little over a year, Doxper has gained a lot of traction from some of the best doctors in the country. Over 400 leading physicians and specialists have become users including AIIMS Breast Cancer Clinic, Prashanti Cancer Care Mission, Biocon Foundation, Jain Fertility & Mother Care Hospital, Healthskool, Drishti Eye Center, Southend Fertility & IVF, and others. They are also piloting with many big hospitals today.

Doxper is also one of the elite Solvers at this year’s Solve cohort at MIT, USA. It won SOLVE challenge hosted by MIT. SOLVE is MIT’s initiative for ‘Solving the world’s most pressing challenges through open innovation and partnership’. Doxper’s proposal was shortlisted from an application pool of over 150 globally to pitch at UN HQ in New York in March this year. Doxper not only won the challenge, it received tremendous appreciation at the world stage for its simplistic approach and solution to a bigger problem globally [Source].

Shailesh Prithani, Co-founder and CEO of Doxper said

Capital raised will be deployed to scale up operations and to further enhance technology platform by improving or adding more layers on top of the current stack including machine learning, handwriting recognition and AI for better care outcomes. The vision is to make Doxper the de-facto choice for healthcare digitization in India and other emerging markets.

In a joint statement, Girish Rao and Siddharth Dhondiyal said

Doxper is trying to solve a problem that is inherent and specific to developing countries like India and not blatantly copying what’s applicable in the west and replicating here. Problem of not recording healthcare data in digital format is an expensive one and when solved has benefits of exponential proportions. The simplicity of the solution is the biggest USP of Doxper.

While almost all the computer or tablet based EMRs/EHRs have failed to get any significant traction with doctors, specialists & super specialists, Doxper is receiving momentous attraction from all the doctors and even KOLs as pen and paper resonates with them way more than computers or tablets. What thrilled us was the initial traction Doxper got with institutions like AIIMS and Prashanti Cancer Care. With the help of Biocon Foundation, Doxper reached to the remotest of the corners of the country, in limited resource settings, and captured data without hassles.

Doxper is actively servicing doctors in Delhi/NCR, Jaipur, Pune, Bangalore and Mumbai today. It also remotely supports a few doctors in other cities who are early adopters with keen interest in technology and Doxper’s solution.

About GrowX Ventures

GrowX Ventures is an early-stage investment firm based out of Delhi that works closely with investee firms at both strategic and operational levels to drive scale and success. It has invested in 24 companies since its inception including Mad Street Den, Quandl, Ziploan, Shephertz and Locus. For more information, please visit GrowX Ventures

Techstars announced the launch of Techstars India as a joint venture company in partnership with ANSR. Headquartered in Bengaluru, ANSR builds and operates GICs and captive centres for some of the leading global companies from the retail, fintech, healthcare and media domains.

Image Source – Techstars

The ANSR partnership will provide Techstars with a very strong foundation to launch its Indian operations. Having partnered with 27 leading global enterprises, ANSR is the world’s largest company for establishing and operating captive center service delivery capabilities for global enterprises in support of their growth, transformation and innovation agenda. ANSR, through its innovation arm, Kyron, also operates startup led innovation programs for its corporate partners including Target, L-Brands, Lowes and Swiss Re.

With this launch, Techstars is adding India to its international roster, bolstering India’s position as a leading global startup ecosystem. India, known for its dominant role in the IT industry and home to captive centers for over 1,000 global enterprises, is rapidly gaining traction as an entrepreneurial hub. Techstars operates worldwide and across the US, including Adelaide, Austin, Berlin, Boston, Boulder, Cape Town, Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis, New York City, London, Los Angeles, Paris, Seattle, Tel Aviv, and Toronto, and has accepted over 1000 companies globally into its programs. Collectively, these companies have raised over USD 3.8B USD and have a market cap of over USD 9.9B. The launch of Techstars India will provide Techstars access to India’s rapidly growing startup and entrepreneur network as well as global enterprises that have established captive centers and startup led corporate innovation programs with ANSR and its innovation arm, Kyron Global.

[L-R] David Cohen Co-CEO – Techstars, Lalit Ahuja, CEO – ANSR, David Brown, Co-CEO – Techstars

David Brown, Co-CEO of Techstars, said

We have been watching India’s growth very closely and its emergence as the third largest global startup ecosystem in less than a decade. There’s so much great activity here and the potential for growth is huge, as one of the fastest growing economies in the world. I think in addition to that, India’s prime minister underlining the importance of entrepreneurship and innovation in giving productive outlets to the country’s talent is very positive. It’s heartening to see tech evangelists work closely with the government to lay out a digital infrastructure for the country which startups then can leverage. India is on a tech, digital and startup mission of sorts.

This has been a big year for Techstars. We’re 10 years old and have now seen over 1,000 companies in Techstars’ mentorship-driven accelerator programs worldwide. We are excited to announce the addition of Techstars India to the Techstars Worldwide Network.

Lalit Ahuja, CEO, ANSR said

ANSR is very excited to partner with Techstars to launch Techstars India. We believe that this is an event of national importance and a huge validation of India’s position as a leading global hub for entrepreneurial activity. The launch of Techstars India will provide an impetus to the rapidly growing startup ecosystem and the emergence of India as a dominant entrepreneurial network. This launch brings to fruition ANSR and Kyron’s pioneering efforts to successfully create a startup corporate engagement corridor towards the emergence of India’s largest startup led corporate innovation platform.

Speaking at the event, Priyank Kharge, Minister of IT, BT & Tourism said

The Government of Karnataka is focused on building a bolder and structured ecosystem and the collaboration with Techstars is exactly what the Government requires and is the right step forward. Karnataka is India’s second largest technology hub and this is validated by the fact that we have all the Fortune 500 companies. Propelled by government policies in the last 3 months, more than 3200 startups have registered with the government. We are also coming up with numerous Centres of Excellence and by the end of August we will have India’s first Centre of Excellence for Artificial Intelligence. Karnataka today has reached its maturity as a services industry and now moving forward to R&D and innovation.

About Techstars

Techstars helps entrepreneurs succeed. Through the Techstars Worldwide Entrepreneur Network, founders and their teams connect with other entrepreneurs, experts, mentors, alumni, investors, community leaders, and corporate partners who will help their companies grow. Techstars operates four divisions: Techstars Startup Programs, Techstars Mentorship-Driven Accelerator Programs, Techstars Corporate Innovation Partnerships, and the Techstars Venture Capital Fund. Techstars Mentorship-Driven Accelerator Program supercharges success and Techstars Startup Programs inspire, educate and connect entrepreneurs. For more information, please visit Techstars

About ANSR

Backed by Accel Partners and Infosys and headquartered in Dallas, TX, ANSR is a global leader in establishing, operating and optimizing Global In-House Centers ‘GICs’ and provides end-to-end solutions to enterprises across the GIC life-cycle. Through Kyron, its innovation arm, ANSR also operates Innovation/Corporate Accelerator Programs. For more information, please visit ANSR

Fintech is having a huge impact on the financial services in India. It has been largely dominated by the lending and payments companies in India. Initiatives like the India Stack [UPI, e-KYC, Aadhar] by National Payments Corporation Of India [NPCI] have been instrumental in leading the Fintech revolution.

Image Source – Investments

Many of the fintech companies are leveraging Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Social Data Intelligence, Blockchain, etc. in order to solve critical business problems. For example, with the help of AI, contextual data and transaction data, your wealth managers can come up with a ‘more relevant’ financial plan that suits your requirements.

When we talk about Money, the immediate thought that comes to our minds is ‘How to I multiply wealth via good investments‘. There are significant number of investment options available in the market but the option that you choose depends on factors like your age, dependencies, exisiting investment portfolio, risk apetite, etc. One good investment option is ‘Mutual Funds‘ but as per a report, India’s Assets under management  (AUM) to GDP ratio is only 9 percent which is significantly lower as compared to other developed/developing contries. The bright side about this report is that there are rising number of people interested to invest in Mutual Funds given that they get proper hand-holding and guidance.

This is the problem that founders of WealthApp, a Fintech startup aim to solve by amalgamating their vast knowledge in personal finance with technologies like AI, Machine Learning, etc. Today we have a chat with Gaurav Dhawan, Co-founder & Director of WealthApp about WealthApp, Fintech, Personal Finance, etc.

Image Source – WealthApp

How did you come up with the idea of WealthApp ?

We are ex-bankers from Citi who have decades of experience in personal financial management of individuals across net-worth segments. We understand that while people with higher net-worth have access to good quality financial advice, the middle-income groups in India experience an acute shortage of the same. There are various estimates to suggest that about 30 crore people in India have an ability to invest, a majority of which form the entire middle-income group of the pyramid. Given this huge need gap, we wanted to put in place a solution to reach sound financial advice to the market at large. The next question on our minds was to figure a solution to bridge this gap ? One thing that we realised very soon was that we needed to use technology to reach out to a larger audience.

However, using technology is one thing – but to marry that with quality advice is a totally different ball game. We then studied the entire advisor-client interaction cycle, right from the time of first interaction to the evolution of the relationship over a long term, and broke it down into steps that we could automate. We realised that most of this engagement can be automated using algorithms. Then we started picking elements of this interaction cycle to build algorithms to automate the process – that’s how WealthApp was born. We formally launched the platform in October 2016 for public at large.

Can you please give a background about the team behind WealthApp ?

The founders consist of myself, Subba Rao Telidevara, Sanjay HB and Mitesh Shah. We have a cumulative experience of 50+ years across various forms of money management. This makes us aware that the long winding process, paper work and lack of proper guidance in investment methods puts off people as prospective investors. The team is hard at work to ensure that our platform at WealthApp overcomes all of these barriers and adds value across the personal financial life of our customers.

As per a report, there is very small percentage of investors/would be investors who plan to invest in the Equity market [or MF], how does WealthApp plan to change this ‘resistant’ behaviour from investors ?

India’s AUM to GDP ratio stands at about 9 percent. In comparison, US markets boast of an AUM to GDP ratio of  70 percent. Even if we consider the global averages, 37% is the AUM to GDP ratio. While this clearly indicates the huge potential that our country has to channelize a significantly higher proportion of an individual’s savings into efficient financial products, India has been catching up very quickly.

This is due to a variety of reasons such as increase in financial awareness of the customers, efficient evolution of the regulatory framework and technology percolation across the country. WealthApp plans to use these broader trends to reach out to people and help them join the investment bandwagon. To keep the entry barriers low for our customers, we offer investment plans with as low as Rs. 100 investment minimums. We will also add more investment products in the future that we believe our customers will be able to benefit from.

Can you please talk about the funding of WealthApp ?

WealthApp raised about USD 440,000 in seed funding in December 2016. The startup’s investors include some very marque names such as NuVentures managing partner Venk Krishnan, Daksh eServices co-founder MJ Aravind, Vikram Kotak, Managing Partner at Crest Capital and Investment, Jayant Davar, Co-chairman & MD at Sandhar Group, Ramkumar Nishtala, MD & CEO at Vistaar Finance, and Arjun Sharma, chairman of the Select Group.

Can you share some insights into the customer demographics of WealthApp ?

An extremely large part of the unexposed population resides in the tier II and III towns where people have no access to professional financial advisory. WealthApp came up with the concept of Online Robo Financial Advisor for all kinds of investors ranging from youngsters or first time investors to a family man and seasoned investor. Moreover, WealthApp’s internal survey of a few remote towns in Karnataka revealed that about 80 percent of the population there spend at least 20 percent of their income on smartphones and data usage. Rest is reserved for household expenses and cash savings.

People there are actually very tech savvy, largely on mobile phones. And contrary to our belief they have a decent appetite for investment. But most invest in chit funds and other inefficient instruments since they have no one to guide them.

Once user has created an account on WealthApp [and all his investments from various AMCs are under one window], what other services does your team provide to the investors so that they can get more returns from their investments ?

WealthApp analyses an individual’s risk appetite, need to take risk and tolerance for risk based on factors such as income, assets, savings and financial goals that one may have. After an investment is made, the app tracks and monitors the complete cycle, alerting and suggesting investors on due payment, or any change in rules. The app also updates users over the need for liquid cash and provides options to obtain it. The platform is being enhanced further to accommodate more such situations that a customer may face over an investment lifecycle.

Image Credit – YourStory

Can you give a small glimpse about the tech behind WealthApp ?

WealthApp has developed sophisticated iOS and android mobile apps to help the middle-income groups and retail investors in India simplify their financial planning and wealth management process. Sophisticated algorithms automate the entire advisory process thus ensuring top notch and timely advise for the investor. That the smaller cities and towns face data connectivity issues doesn’t deter WealthApp.

The app is built to use data efficiently. It is a light app that works on 2G bandwidth also. Currently, WealthApp’s user interface is English. There are plans to go vernacular, primarily to target the smaller towns and cities in future.

Are there any competitors of WealthApp, if so what are some of the USP’s of WealthApp vis-a-vis the competitors ?

The segment is growing as more people start looking for financial investment products to broaden their portfolio beyond traditional products such as gold and real estate. Some of the USP’s of WealthApp vis-a-vis the competitors are below:

  • Prospective Clients made investment ready via KYC in a thoroughly paperless manner with a very simple and streamlined on-boarding process
  • Sophisticated algorithms automate the entire advisory process thus ensuring top notch and timely advice for the investor
  • Knowledge and experience of the founding team work to provide customized portfolio most suited for investors and their goals based on thorough research and strategy
  • Ongoing monitoring 24/7/365
  • Supported with convenience of doorstep service offered via web and mobile apps
  • Equipped with a team of seasoned professionals for those that require the age old personal human touch

WealthApp is currently limited to MF’s, are there any plans/timeline on whether it would be expanded to cover other financial instruments ?

WealthApp Financial Advisors is an automated investment service, conceived over a year back. It makes use of its user friendly online platform to offer best in class investment portfolio to its clients. This is based on their financial goals and ability to take risk, and mutual funds offer various advantages to build customized investment portfolios. Having said that, the company plans to add more investment options in the near future.

What are some of the methodologies that your team plans in order to keep the investors hooked on to the platform [primary reason being investments are mostly planned by investors and most cases, they would not invest more unless required, unlike shopping which is more adhoc and also more repetitive and hence more stickiness.] ?

It’s our endeavour to engage our customers meaningfully while adding value to them. A slick and customized dashboard makes it convenient for them to see their investment status on the go and they keep coming back to it often to review their portfolios. They like the fact that we don’t use jargon and provide them all the information that they need in an easy to understand manner.

We also write articles and blogs frequently on topics that are of high relevance to our customers. Again, simplicity of conveying the messafge is the key so they keep coming back to read up and make themselves more knowledgeable on areas of personal finance. Our customers also appreciate the value in our periodic automated reports that reach their mailboxes.

There are various investor initiatives like #MFDayon7th by Reliance MF and CNBC TV18, does WealthApp have plans of starting an investor education initiative [or something else] in order to widen the horizon of passive investors [that could be an integral part of the investors eco-system, but dont know where to get started] ?

WealthApp has been at the forefront of customer education right from the start. We have conducted more than 50 roadshows [in metro cities and beyond] till date to spread awareness and provide simple solutions to people’s money problems.

Our platform is coded with complex algorithms by our engineering team and they have kept it up to date with the ongoing developments in the policies and reforms in our economy. The idea is to reduce the human intervention while we interact with our customers and be fully transparent.

With growing investor and entrepreneur interest in Fintech, many wallet companies like Paytm, FreeCharge, MobiKwik, etc. are plannig to have a boutique of finance products on their platform, does this growing competition have an impact on a startup like WealthApp and how it could result in expansion of the fintech ecosystem ?

Since the evolution of technology and start-up boom, Indian economy has been a huge market place for various types of businesses. Every entrant in the start-up space has been looking at diversifications based on their growth and funding options available around them. Also with the growing economy and huge population, fintech ecosystem has so much potential yet to be unlocked.

At WealthApp, the team comes with a tremendous domain knowledge and experience in the financial sector. We are glued on to the ongoing actions and want to be the best in the market with providing right products and offerings with a remarkable customer service. The market looks extremely responsive for WealthApp at the moment and we would like to be focused on our current service offerings instead of diversifying into many portfolios at this point of time. Currently, WealthApp deals only with mutual fund portfolios because MFs are very well regulated, are very difficult to understand, and the seed money requirement is very less.

You mentioned earlier that there is a growing demand of products like WealthApp in tier-2, tier-3 cities [and beyond], what are some of the marketing initiatives that your team has taken in order to penetrate into that particular market ?

The tier 2 towns and beyond is where the potential lies untapped. The revolution in technology and touch of power has reduced the distance between both the worlds. It has digitally enabled the end customer to gain access to the knowledge and information today. This has opened up new dimensions for them to look into new avenues of investment options.

It has created inroads for WealthApp to proceed further and we are equipped with sound knowledge on the subject. We have created a team of experts who reach out to the end customers in these markets, helping them in communicating the knowledge on investments, building portfolios and managing them. We have been working with the target audience in various parts of the country.

Along with the integrated AMC approach, building investor porfolio as per his requirements, etc. your team also provides advisory services to your customers. Are these services charged and how has been the customer response to these services [since none of the finance platform provides such tailor-made services] ?

At WealthApp, the platform is equipped to build a persona of the customer on its platform and provide advisory recommendations for investments. The automated investment service has been kept free of cost while some specific value added serives are being developed that may be on a chargeable basis. Market response to our platform has been terrific so far and we are extremely encouraged to serve our customers in the best possible manner.

What is the revenue model of WealthApp and does it follow the Freemium model ?

WealthApp does not charge its customers for the automated investment service platform. It charges the fund houses a small fee. There are a number of tools and products in various stages of development and testing that may be used by the customer for a fee.

Are there are any RBI guidelines regulating the app based businesses [P2P, Line Of Credit, etc] in India or to put it the other way round, is there a requirement to regulate them ?

The app is a channel to reach out to people conveniently. The entire advisory on our platform are fully regulated by SEBI while the payments are governed with the rules laid out by the RBI.

2016 was a tough year for startups [especially from funding point of view], how according to you should entrepreneurs deal with such adverse situations ?

Having recognized a real need gap in the market and put in place a solution that adds real value to the customer, what remains critical for an entrepreneur to tide over such times is an ability to evolve as they learn alongside persevering.

After demonetization, there has been a huge demand for payment apps [including UPI], wallet providers providing investment options like Digital Gold, etc. do you see that trend working in favour of apps like WealthApp [that makes an investor’s life smoother] ?

Absolutely. As more and more people become aware of digital platforms and become comfortable using them, it helps us explain the delivery mechanism of our service to our customers in a more contextual fashion.

As per your entrepreneurial experience, when should an entrepreneur look out for external funding ?

A couple of common circumstances when one should seek external funding could include situations when you either need funds to build/improvise your product/service or when your own revenues are not sufficient to sustain growth.

Some books that you highly recommend for entrepreneurs

Some of my recent reads that I recommend  for entrepreneurs are Shoe dog by Phil Knight, Predictably irrational by Dan Ariely and The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly.

Some closing thoughts for our readers!

Effective financial management is key to meeting various life goals. This could include various aspects of our lives such as savings, expenses, investments, budgeting et al. To do any or all of this, one should seek the help of qualified financial experts to guide them through the process.

Choosing the right financial advisor is key and you must ask all questions that you need answered to make a well-informed decision. Keep in mind that the amount of wealth that we build is less a function of our income and more a function of our savings rate. And while they say money can’t buy happiness, I beg you to reconsider.

We thank Gaurav Dhawan for sharing his insights with our readers. If you are planning to put your money to work via smart investments, then you should download WealthApp. If you have any questions for Gaurav or the WealthApp Team, please email them here or share them via a comment to this article.