Rural-fintech startup Navadhan has raised USD 1.5 million in Seed round led by Varanium NexGen, a fintech focussed fund. Existing investor Anicut Capital co-led the round where Gemba Capital also participated.
Last year, the startup had raised pre-Seed funding from Anicut, BOPA, Flowstate and other angels like Prasanna Rao (Arya.ag), Sarah Djari (Impact Fintech PE). With the current round, Navadhan has raised a total funding of USD 16mn in equity and debt lines with NBFC partners. Navadhan will use the funds to further build its AceN Tech platform. The platform connects rural small businesses (MSMEs) with NBFCs and Banks. It has enrolled over 2 lac customers and disbursed over Rs.100cr in partnership with 15 lenders like Ugro, Vivriti, Northern Arc, Caspian, Unitus and TruCap.
The platform offers a seamless digital onboarding experience, simplifying the customer journey and eliminates paperwork. With the power of data-sciences, Navadhan’s proprietary alternative-underwriting model assesses the digital footprint and cashflow surrogates. This solves for lack of income proofs and documents which has kept the Banks away from such markets. This innovative approach addresses the challenges of the predominantly cash-based economy and limited banking track record in rural markets. Navadhan was co-founded by Nitin Agrawal along with 3 teammates Vijay Haswani, Anirudh Ramakuru and Amit Biswal.
Nitin saw the recent surge of digitisation as an opportunity to build a tech-led finance platform. This comes from his 2 decades of experience with stint at ICICI Bank leading Product-Tech for micro-banking and agri-channel finance. He was also involved in setting up rural finance business for Fullerton India. In recent past, he also served as CEO of Spandana Sphoorty, a listed NBFC-MFI. Speaking about the development, Nitin Agrawal, Founder CEO of Navadhan, mentioned, “We are a tech-led and revenue-first fintech. Our mission is to help create new-wealth for the rural small-entrepreneurs by solving for their challenges. We are leveraging Tech using alternative-credit, predictive analytics backed by data sciences. With both Tech and People on-ground, we are making it work for the NBFCs and Banks to generate priority sector assets. The new fund raise will add tailwinds to our growth plans. As the Smart-phone and UPI penetration improves, we have an early mover advantage in the rural markets.”
Smart phone and internet penetration is projected to increase by 44% by 2030, with significant growth expected in rural areas. As the number of UPI transactions inches towards the $4 trillion mark, most of the future growth will come from rural markets. Navadhan is well-positioned to leverage the surge in mobile usage, data connectivity, and UPI transactions. Speaking about the development, Aparajit Bhandarkar of Varanium NexGen mentioned, “India is growing and Rural markets are not far behind. While most of the fintech space is focussed at Tier-1,2,3, we saw Navadhan’s focus on the informal market as a potential high-growth area. Navadhan’s founders are seasoned professionals with credible experience in financial services. With the right TAM, Team, Tech, and Traction, they are building an early mover’s advantage in rural-markets.
Tech-led approach gives non-linear scalability to their model. We see Navadhan as a potential market leader in making.” Looking to the future, Navadhan plans to introduce new solutions and offerings. This includes credit limits for small businesses and tech tools for digitizing un-organized value chains. Another identified area of high social impact is to propagate Climate Smart Agri practices among its rural-customer base.