Although BankBazaar.com does not come under cloud of Startups, the company is none the less very young. While the push for digitisation has received a greater boost in the last two or three years, BankBazaar and its founders have been working towards this transition since its inception back in 2008.
In 2008, Adhil, a Columbia University graduate, was working with a consulting firm, residing in New York City. While contemplating the plunge into entrepreneurship Adhil discussed it with his family – the startup community and Digital India campaign had not yet begun – and they asked him, “Are you sure?” However, he says that, “Once we took the plunge, our families were super supportive. Anything that we wanted, anything that we needed we got.”
Traditionally, availing for financial products from banks and other institutions, require a lot of paperwork. Applying for a loan, for example, requires one to furnish several documents like bank statements for the past 6 months, income tax records along with other documents of identification. How is BankBazaar.com looking to change this? They are trying to bring a world where one can avail of all these services from around 75 financial institutions, “using electronic mobile-based technology – without paper,” says Adhil Shetty, cofounder.
Obviously, rolling services out like these in India cannot be an easy task and BankBazaar certainly didn’t think so too. They had a clear vision and despite the hurdles they pushed forward. While others might sit back and wallow in the problems, Adhil says he sat with Arjun and Rati and thought, “Okay, there is a problem today – how can we start the process in order to solve this problem?”
Along with a long-term vision and a contrasting view to popular sentiment, Adhil believes that India can actually ‘leapfrog’ what may have been slow technology developments in the west. The logic behind this thought is quite simple, being that India is still a nation with gaps at fundamental levels, it is easier for us to apply an already tried and tested system from foreign countries and adapt it to the Indian market. Along with this, the government is certainly steering the whole economy in that direction, hence financial regulators are also pondering the idea of enabling paperless transactions on the mobile phone and another catalyst is the Startup India campaign.
“We today have the opportunity wherein we can go from where we are to a paperless mobile technology much faster than many other countries have done,” adds Adhil.
The idea of facilitating paperless financial services came about when one of the co-founders, Arjun Shetty – who was working at Amazon, in the US at the time – faced issues while applying for a home loan in India. After which, he came up with the idea of building an electronic platform that takes care of all the documentation work digitally and slowly shift towards paperless transactions. Thus they thought of founding a platform for financial transactions, whether banking, investments, mutual-funds or even insurance, wherein financial institutions could collaborate with them to offer a paperless experience.
What helped BankBazaar inch closer to their vision was when digitisation caught the government’s attention and announcements on eKYC, evidence act, e-sign and the like found mention and made its way to the mainstream market.
Within a year of launching, in 2008, BankBazaar managed to get their angel investors and at every stage they found the right investor. These investors had helped them scale and two years later, they did a series A investment which went all the way to the last round wherein they raised $59M from Amazon, Fidelity, Sequoia Capital and others.
“As a young entrepreneur, one of the main questions you need to ask is ‘How are you going to fund your journey in the years in which you need to invest,” Adhil says, adding, “The returns are going to come in the future.” It took Adhil about eight years for his vision to take fruition and since it takes a long time he advises aspiring entrepreneurs to have a clear vision backed by belief. In addition to the customers, he goes on to say that “Once you know all stakeholders will be benefitted, just be relentless. Don’t take no for an answer and if you truly believe in your vision, just be relentless in making it a reality.”