Meet the women at the heart of India’s booming fintech landscape


India is at the forefront of a global fintech revolution. Today, India’s booming fintech ecosystem is the third largest in the world, after the United States and China.

Last year, 11 fintech companies transformed into unicorns, with 15 more is expected to join the club in 2022. Of these, at least 3 unicorns are led by women, with more expectation behind the scenes.

The Indian fintech sector is not slowing down and women are gradually making their way into the field. Their new-age ventures are reshaping India’s financial landscape, connecting the vast majority of underbanked and underserved Indians to financial services through technology.

In our AWS Women in Technology Series – Fintech, we bring you the stories of three inspiring female industry leaders who not only charted their unique paths, but also proved that gender stereotypes only exist in the mind – never in action.

While NIRA makes it easy for blue-collar workers to get loans, Kaleidofin provides financial solutions to underserved sectors in India. Streak AI not only empowers India’s retail community but also leverages technology to help investors make smarter decisions.

Sucharita Mukherjee, Kaleidofin

After graduating from IIM Ahmedabad, Sucharita worked as an investment banker in large corporations. But her time at IFMR Group, now Northern Arc Capital, changed her path as she noticed the need for financial inclusion. She saw the glaring divide between the formal and informal banking sectors and how broken the space was. But at the same time, there was the mobile technology revolution with India’s Aadhaar push, which made it see the way to reach 800 million Indians.

All of these factors led Sucharita to launch Kaleidofin in 2017, a neobank that offers financial solutions tailored to the life goals of underserved customers. “I felt like if I didn’t start Kaleidofin, I would regret it forever,” she recalls.

At Kaleidofin, the team has created a digital financial services platform that leverages technology, data, design and networks to deliver financial solutions to 600 million financially excluded customers in India.

Sucharita says their products cover digital savings, digital payments, credit scoring and bespoke credit solutions. Most recently, the team launched KiScore, India’s first proprietary credit health underwriting product, for its early institutions during the pandemic.

“We’ve been working hard and even recently celebrated one million magic customers here,” she says.

Sucharita has always aspired to work towards building a more equal society where women truly have equal opportunities. She reveals that she experienced conscious and unconscious gender bias while working on almost all-male shifts in investment banking, so it’s an issue she’s wanted to address for some time.

She says: “At Kaleidofin, we have always been aware of the gender discrimination that exists in society and even more among low-income groups. To counter this, we have designed our solutions and policies to support and encourage more women to use formal financial services. Realizing that our female customers demand privacy in savings transactions, we designed KaleidoGoals with Sewa Bank, which offers this as an essential feature, along with the benefits of regular savings, goal protection and a line credit,” she explains.

Nupur Gupta, NIRA

Born and raised in Jaipur, Nupur became the first female tech entrepreneur in her family after launching NIRA, a consumer finance company that offers small loans to Indian middle-lower income workers. The data-driven nature of the lending business in India and the potential it held for societal impact attracted Nupur to the idea.

It was during his time as a quantitative analyst at CitiGroup that his curiosity grew to leverage scientific methods in the world of finance. His interest in the confluence of data, statistics and finance has grown steadily since then. So when he was offered the opportunity by his co-founder to start the NIRA journey together, the decision was easy for Nupur.

A turning point in NIRA’s journey came with COVID. Nupur recalls that lending fintechs were not favorably positioned during the pandemic as borrower repayment capacity and lender books were hit hard during the period.

“Using the weight of experience from past economic downturns and maintaining empathy for the situation of customers, we quickly identified and offered appropriate solutions to our vulnerable customer segments, while adopting a rapid recovery approach with the rest of the customers. The pandemic has become the litmus test for us to demonstrate our strong risk management capabilities far better than our peers in one of the toughest economic stress tests of this century,” she says.

Customer empathy and customer proximity remain Nupur’s most distinctive strengths. Not a single day goes by that she doesn’t chat with her clients.

Today, the NIRA loan disbursement rate is 15 times higher than it was at the start of COVID. As NIRA continues to grow 25% month over month, the opportunities to improve the financial lives of its customers have also grown exponentially.

Jayalakshmi Manohar, Streak AI Technologies

Jayalakshmi always knew she wanted to do something innovative and meaningful in her life. Witnessing the dissatisfaction of people working in the companies strengthened his resolve.

“My entrepreneurial adventure started very early when I was finishing my engineering degree,” she recalls. She and her co-founders noticed that little or nothing had been done to empower the retail community.

Streak was born in 2017 as a platform for retail traders and investors to trade strategically without the need to code.

“At Streak, we have democratized trading technology for the masses, to give them the unique advantage they lack when trading the stock markets, and so far more than 1.2 million traders and investors assets have used the platform. We want everyone to say goodbye to people’s trading tricks and bad advice due to which they lose big in the markets and start relying on their own intelligence to trade. Our technology allows you to do just that,” says Jayalakshmi.

She contemplates her decision to launch Streak and raise seed money for the business, a partnership with India’s largest stockbroker Zerodha, acquiring their first 100,000 users, hitting the 750 million mark in number of technical visits and becoming a profitable business. like some of its biggest milestones along the way.

Jayalakshmi attributes his and Streak’s growth to the startup ecosystem.

“Compared to the scenario ten years ago, we have made giant strides in empowering women in terms of workplaces, mindset of colleagues, etc. Working from home, a new culture that the startup ecosystem has welcomed, solves another big problem for women who may have to move for family reasons, they can now continue their work without any problem, and this should be a culture that we should continue to encourage,” she said.

Breaking the glass ceiling

Sucharita advises women not to get bogged down in any obstacles or resistances they might face when entering unfamiliar realms. Confidence and passion can definitely break the glass ceiling and help women become successful entrepreneurs. Societal expectations often get in the way of women, but workplaces can play a key role by being supportive and empowering.

“Workspace policies should be fair. More women at all levels, and especially at the top, also create a culture that more appreciates the challenges that particularly affect women,” she says. “And as you get down the right path, pay for it and help other women start their journey.”

Nupur believes that traditional finance has many inspiring female leaders – one of whom has been critical to NIRA’s growth.

“The leadership of Shalini Warrier, COO, Federal Bank, was instrumental in securing our first major banking partnership. We have developed this extremely well since then and now have partners such as Muthoot Finance, IIFL and many more in the pipeline funding loans to our borrowers,” she reveals.

The world needs to make more room in workplaces for women, and the easiest way to do that is through women leaders.

“It’s worth taking more bets on women, and further taking those bets on potential and not just historical performance. The downside is that there will be opportunities for course correction; but the The benefit is huge,” says Nupur.

Jayalakshmi believes that a woman is largely shaped by the values ​​instilled in her by her parents and society. Therefore, initiatives should be taken at the school level for girls and boys to mold them to the best of their personality without prejudice. She advises women to let their work do the talking and never hide their talents.

“Your mindset also has a lot to do with how people are going to perceive you. If you create a sense of doubt about your abilities in your own mind, it will reflect in your mannerism and confidence,” she says. She considers persistence, optimistic pessimism and a strong support system as her main qualities.

The impact of AWS

Sucharita reveals that at Kaleidofin they leverage AWS technology in their business intelligence dashboards, risk management and data storage. This has allowed them to efficiently scale their products from a few thousand to over a million active customers.

Coming to NIRA, Nupur explains that their vision is very clear – to disburse over $1 billion in loans to six million customers in India’s smallest cities by 2025. She says this is only possible through scalable technology and data-driven decisions.

“We view the AWS cloud platform, and the software and data services it offers, as a key part of this journey,” Nupur said.

Jayalakshmi explains that for Streak, time is a crucial factor. “Our backend includes several complex systems working in unison and we use AWS machines for all of our cloud computing,” she adds.


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