Finance Forward fast-tracks fintech ventures fostering ‘financial health’ in India

Finance Forward, a coalition of PayPal, The MetLife Foundation and Village Capital has completed the India stage of its world-wide accelerator program.

The coalition is running a series of nine accelerators and boot camps in different locations around the world over two years, with the assistance of regional partners. In total it will find and support over 100 early stage ventures that are using technology to improve the financial health of low and medium income people and small companies. Its support takes the form of capacity building, grants and investment.

In India, the cohort comprises 12 promising early stage ventures from India (9), Sri Lanka (2) and Bangladesh (1). They have just completed the three in-depth accelerator workshops at PayPal’s headquarters in Chennai, from September 28 to October, followed by sin Mumbai and Bangalore from November 13 to 15 and December 9 to 11 respectively.

The cohort in India were picked with the help of Finance Forward’s advisory board which includes senior representatives in India from Grameen Capital, ICICI Bank, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Yunus Social Business, among others.

They include ventures building creative and affordable solutions to help underserved individuals, households, and small business owners access affordable financial services, manage their income and expenses, and protect themselves from financial shocks.

The cohort is being taken through a detailed learning program. A prime focus is investment readiness: Based on the past results of Village Capital accelerator programs, the coalition is aiming to drive at least $10 million in follow-on funding to program participants over the next five years.

PayPal employees and senior leaders also served as mentors and advisors during the program. At the first workshop, PayPal provided guidance on product & technology development and UI / UX design, legal and regulatory issues and partnership development with larger institutions.

At the final workshop, the cohort members  selected the most investment-worthy ventures themselves, through ‘peer selection’ a process unique to Village Capital that has been shown to reduce bias. The cohort also presented to potential investors at a pitch day.

Anuj Jindal, co-founder and CEO at cohort member SureClaim, an insurance claim advisory platform said, “SureClaim is on its way to solve a deeper customer problem in an industry which is known for complexity and lack of transparent processes. Being part of Finance Forward gives us that extra edge to serve our customers better. Receiving feedback and suggestions from eleven other founders on my business has been the most exciting part of my journey so far in the program.”

Deepak Menon, Village Capital’s senior director of emerging markets, said: “There is a paradox in India. On the one hand India’s fintech sector is booming: Indian fintech startups raised a record $2.3 billion in equity funding in 2018, whilst Government services like the Unified Payments Interface have made online transactions easier.

On the other, hundreds of millions of Indians are operating in the informal economy. For instance, nearly 40% of lending to small business is still done through informal channels, and almost half of India’s bank accounts are inactive.

There is a clear need and opportunity for services that small businesses and households find relevant and that optimise their financial health.

Fortunately, many Indian entrepreneurs have a close knowledge of the challenges faced by underserved businesses and households, plus a keen interest in opening up huge new markets.

However, they are often overlooked by mainstream investors. Also a key problem is that the entrepreneurs do not speak the same language as investors.

Finance Forward fills this gap. It combines the best of Indian and global expertise to help these entrepreneurs become investment ready and forge connections with investors, in addition to improving their product and helping them overcome legal or regulatory barriers.

I am enjoying working with our cohort of high quality financial health ventures to help them achieve their ambitions, at the same time bringing opportunity to the many they serve.”

Julie Vennewitz-Pierce, director of PayPal Gives said: “As a company driven by technology and committed to the democratisation of financial services for both people and small businesses around the world, PayPal is a proud partner of Village Capital and its Finance Forward initiative. We hope this global effort for financial health ignites action and positive change in India.”

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