2017, as we all know, was the year of the fintech in India. While some might consider this an overstatement, especially with the cash crunch that is currently brewing in the country, one cannot completely overlook the massive strides the Indian fintech start-ups have made in the last few years. Growing at a CAGR of 22%, the industry has received a major boost thanks to the government’s relentless promotion of cashless technologies – including digital wallets, Internet banking and mobile-driven point of sale (POS) – as well as the launch of IndiaStack including Aadhaar, eKYC, UPI and BHIM.
India is currently home to more than 500 fintech startups, whose collective aim is to attain financial inclusion. According to Inc42 Funding Report 2017, fintech start-ups in the country secured a total of $3.01 Bn in funding across 111 deals, undergoing a 281% growth from 2016. Despite this, at present, over 19% of the country’s population still remains unbanked. Under the pressure of the conservative, and at times stringent, attitude of the traditional banking system, an increasing number of small businesses, especially ones that are asset-light, are struggling to procure working capital.
This is where online financial matchmaking platform like Rubique come in. Founded in 2014 by banking veteran Manav Jeet, Rubique acts as an online financial marketplace and offers end-to-end solutions for a user’s credit needs, including SMBs and individuals.
Leveraging advanced technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning, the Mumbai-headquartered fintech startup deploys its proprietary algorithm and integrates it with the lending system of banks and other financial institutions, thus ensuring real-time processing.
Having raised over $10 Mn in funding, Rubique claims to have serviced over 100K customers, disbursing to date loans worth $407 Mn (INR 2670 Cr) so far. Along the way, it has also clocked annual revenues of around $7.2 Mn (INR 47 Cr), while remaining unit economics positive at the transaction level. With a renewed focus on innovation, marketing and strategic partnerships, particularly in the B2B and B2C segments, the startup now aims to break even in 2019.
Inc42 caught up with Manav Jeet to know more about the startup’s tech positioning, focus on innovation and desire to become an end-to-end fintech solution that makes credit more accessible to both individuals and small businesses.
Rubique Products And Services: Single Point Of Truth (SPOT)
Inc42: Back when Rubique was started, the fintech scene in India was still nascent. What prompted you to start-up in what was then a relatively new sector?
Manav Jeet: As someone who has been in the banking industry for decades before starting Rubique, I have handled various types of products ranging from microfinance, retail and SME loans to unsecured business – including credit cards. Having witnessed the industry from different vantage points, I was aware of the gaps which needed to be addressed through technology interventions. And the answer was to build the foundation with a team that had both financial services and technology backgrounds.
Hence, along with the core team, we focussed on building a high-tech and scalable fintech business, while also bridging the gaps that were present in the country’s credit market. From my past experience, I firmly believe that for every borrower, there is lender willing to lend. But because of the prevailing inefficient market practices, they both are unable to discover each other and that’s how Rubique was founded in 2014.
Even back then, I knew that the most efficient way to address this gap was to use smart technologies. Rather than limiting the usage of such advanced technology, as is the case in “lead generation/self-promoting model”, Rubique is based on a “Online PLUS” model which focuses on technology interventions at every stage of loan journey right from sourcing to fulfilment enabling ecosystem to connect with each other and make the entire loan journey smoother & faster.
Inc42: How integral is technology to Rubique’s offerings? How is it leveraging technology to make credit more accessible to Indians?
Manav Jeet: The biggest differentiator for us is our “technology thinking of financial services” which has helped us to launch various technology solutions for the industry apart from creating a self-service platform empowering individual customers to take informed decision instantly on their credit requirements.
As mentioned above, we have created strategic technology solutions at every stage for each partner through our unique ONLINE PLUS MODEL
- Sourcing PLUS: Breaking silos between technology & distribution, Rubique has gone ahead to work on the efficient distribution to reach maximum customer base and facilitate the bridging of lending gap along with creating online credit marketplace for Digital savvy customers
- Discovery PLUS: Not just listing but its matchmaking: Unlike aggregator website showing product listing & confusing customer, Rubique’s platform does matchmaking between borrower requirement to financial institutions’ lending criteria
- Paperless PLUS: Beyond approvals – Rubique’s SPOT platform not only provides the paperless approvals but ensures efficient loan distribution till fulfillment (end to end) with its advanced tech platform
- SME PLUS: Going an extra step to make dream come true for SMEs by providing the platform which does need base assessment & suggest the right kind of products. The number of weeks in the discovery of SME products has become now matter of hours
- Partner PLUS: Every online player would like to hold on to every single customer who lands on to their website. Growing need to provide stickiness to their customers & ensure minimum drop off, the financing need originator websites like ecommerce, housing/ car selling portals are looking for a partner who provides the wide range of financing option to all customer profiles and Rubique is creating lending gateway offering such alliances
- Customer PLUS: Unlike any other online platform, Rubique platform offers an online experience end to end. Matchmaking – brings certainty & helps take informed decision, Instant approval – bring the efficiency by reducing the TAT, alternative data scoring (WIP) –enhancing the existing traditional scoring and also working ways to facilitate loan to new to credit customers, Machine learning and AI (WIP) – to study customer profile in advance & suggest him apt solution during his/her life cycle.
Inc42: Rubique recently launched SPOT. How is it making the process of disbursals more efficient?
Manav Jeet: Essentially, SPOT (or Single Point of Truth) is our in-house data platform which acts as a common platform all the stakeholders like customers, business associates, internal employees and even financial institutions. It covers the entire customer journey from lead generation to disbursement for all types of loans and credit cards. It provides paperless approvals and ensures efficient loan distribution till fulfillment, making the process faster and more convenient. This platform is loaded with features like lead management, data analytics, data and AI-based matchmaking algorithm, payment management, integration, cross/upsell engine, CRM and marketing, among other things.
With the world constantly innovating we have to ensure we are one step ahead. And hence the SPOT platform has been designed to reduce cost and effort without compromising on the delivery and security of data. The platform has leveraged distributed systems, cloud offerings, Multi-AZ replications and serverless architectures to make our entire solution horizontally scalable and available. The platform is also fluid that can be constantly evolved to ensure we remain the market leaders in our space.
Not only this, the SPOT platform shows real-time status tracking of the loan, provides online training, pay-out calculation, meeting scheduler and rewards platform for the business associate network.
Inc42: What are some of the key features of the SPOT platform?
Manav Jeet: Following are some of the key features of SPOT:
– Rubique Wallet: This is a new age wallet solution which enables the channel partner network to efficiently track and manage their leads and corresponding payouts. The wallet in its mature state will provide working capital support, rewards and recognition benefits along with multiple service modes like bookings, bill payments, etc.
– Provision for CIBIL Score: SPOT offers the provision to pull out the CIBIL score and report for the business associates to check the credit health of their customers. This has been developed keeping in mind SPOT’s objective of adding value for the business associate at every stage of the loan process.
– Cross Sell/Upsell Engine: This feature allows the business associate to cross sell or upsell products when applying for any other product through SPOT. Insurance can be a complementary product to other products on the platform.
– Blockchain Based Smart KYC: This feature enables instant, secure and seamless customer identification process on SPOT. Adding a layer of security to customers’ data, the central repository will not only allow easy access to Rubique’s customer KYC documents for any financial institution, banks or entity but will also ensure secure flow of data transfer, since the documents are hosted on blockchain and permissions are granted by the customers themselves.
– Efficient Reporting and Tracking: The in-house built data platform SPOT (Single Point of Truth) has capabilities like CRM, advanced analytics, lead management system & cross-sell engine. This central system provides detailed views on every single lead generated & fulfilled across different touch points.
– Credit Assessment Memo: SPOT allows the business associate to generate the CAMs for any loan product which can be submitted along with the customer’s files. This helps in reducing the turnaround time (TAT).
Inc42: Apart from SPOT, what are some of Rubique’s other offerings and features?
Manav Jeet: The Indian lending market is in need of a collaborator & keeping that in mind, we have worked on solutions for customers as well as other stakeholders. So essentially, we operate as “exchange” platform aggregating products offerings for customers & “maker” platform developing products for the industry players.
As mentioned above, we have a plethora of products across loans, credit cards & insurance for individuals as well as SMEs. Unlike any other online platform, Rubique has worked on credit policy digitization & deep integration with financial institutions systems which enables matches the customers financing need with lender’s lending criteria. With some technology progressive banks/NBFCs, we have done deep integrations to facilitate instant online approval.
India is an influencer driven market, especially for financial services. It will still take times for customers to trust the online platform completely to perform the transactions and even the regulatory challenges which calls for physical documentation, 100% process digitization in lending will still take some time.
Hence to ensure the advanced capabilities developed for consumers is taken to ground level as well as ensure the end to end fulfilment capability, we have created technology enabled distribution through the influencers like chartered accountants, insurance advisors and financial consultants to help bring risk-averse customers, especially MSMEs, onto the Rubique platform, taking them from offline to online.
We call these influencers as business associates and have developed technology tools like Rubique’s mobile app/extension of SPOT (Single Point of Truth) which offers the same capabilities of consumer website to discover right fit, paperless approval & seamless application flow. Additionally, it provides other features like analytics, cross sell/upsell etc., which makes it a powerful tool for these influencers who can manage their entire business through it and get the opportunity to increase their business potential. We have 6000+ business associates pan India.
For MSME customers who are not so comfortable with the online platform, Rubique has created a TAB (Tech Assisted Business) solution for influencers who can help their MSME customers to search for the right product as per their capital requirement. This solution has also been extended as white-label platform for financial institutions for better underwriting decisioning etc.
Finally, there is the Rubique Lending Gateway, which is designed to help ecommerce, housing, and car-selling portals (like any online source where a need for a loan originates) to facilitate financing options for their customers that ensures minimum drop-off and maximum stickiness.
This Rubique is working as financial matchmaking platform for entire ecosystem & is addressing the need of the entire ecosystem.
Online Lending: How The Back End Works
Inc42: In what ways is Rubique helping small businesses in India?
Manav Jeet: According to PwC’s Fintech Trends Report India 2017, around 37% of GDP is contributed to by MSMEs but the supply of credit lines is disproportionate. SMEs are considered suboptimal borrowers due to their small size, information asymmetries and cost of credit delivery. India has more than 50 Mn SMEs with an unmet debt demand of $198 Bn.
While individual’s borrowing needs can be satisfied with online options, the story is a tad bit different for an SME. Most of the entrepreneurs do not go online looking for loans. Awareness about the banking processes and financial products is one of the major hindrances in India today. Since lending is very subjective for SMEs, they have difficulty in finding the right loan product which suits their requirements based on a need-based assessment. The applications are often rejected due to improper paperwork, credit history evaluation and incorrect credit profile.
To help bridge these gaps, Rubique launched the Tech Assisted Business (TAB) solution which is a one-stop transaction platform that handles the lead from origination till disbursement for SMEs. Considering the subjective assessment in SME lending, this solution offers a need-based assessment tool for correct product fit recommendation.
The TAB solution not only offers a wide product portfolio, but it also covers low to high-risk capital requirements. The platform offers solutions across five broad level product categories of two secured products: Loan Against Property, MEL (medical equipment leasing), Micro Business Loan, Unsecured Business Loan and Commercial Vehicle Finance.
Additionally, the TAB solution includes advanced technology features like IRIS scan for Aadhar authentication, and generation of credit assessment memo (CAM), along with deviations enabling the credit underwriter to take quick decisions and reduce the processing time further.
The advanced technologies used by Rubique analyses multiple data points to assess the creditworthiness of the customers and provide them the offers they are eligible for, thereby removing the manual efforts in the loan processing system. Currently, over 65% of our overall business comes from SMEs.
Inc42: Can you tell us exactly how the back-end works during each loan processing cycle?
Manav Jeet: All credit policies are fed into matchmaking algorithm which does the base level underwriting checks on the platform before passing them to FI’s system. With 165+ digitised policies on the platform, the approval ratio of the applications passed through the platform is increasing.
Customer details can be entered on the Rubique platform either through website/mobile application. Based on the inputs provided, customer’s digital profiling is done, and it is fed into the matchmaking algorithm built on credit policies of the respective financial institutions we have partnered with. This matchmaking algorithm does the matching between borrower’s profile and the bank’s lending criteria and as output, provides the best match along with other eligible offers.
Once a customer chooses the best offer he/she is eligible for, additional information as per the bank’s application form are asked. To enhance the convenience of customers, the platform has integrated other paperless-focused features that are integrated like e-KYC, bank statement analysis, credit bureau check, credit memo generation and MCA integration, etc. These features further help the consumer in making real-time decisions.
The advanced technology solution not only reduces the processing time significantly but the data analytics done on multiple data points help bring predictability and assess creditworthiness, thereby offering the best deals to the customers.
In case of deep integration, the in-principle approval is given online instantly. Post successful submission, the same is assigned to geographically mapped nearest business associate for collection of documents and their submission with the respective bank. Because of direct integration, the application movement can also be tracked in real time.
Harnessing AI, ML And Blockchain To Automate The Lending Process
Inc42: Traditional financial institutions have increased their fintech investments as consumers are increasingly open and demanding with respect to new banking innovations. What is Rubique’ position on the same? How are you contributing to this change?
Manav Jeet: There is definitely an increase in consumer expectations in terms of faster deliveries, informed decision, increasing demand for convenience and growing aspiration mindset. Gone are those days when loan was seen as more of a liability, today it’s a means to achieve your dreams. Hence the customer’s involvement is much more in the process of deciding the loan.
Therefore today ‘Convenience’ & ‘Personalized product/experience’ has become a major selling point in developed as well as developing markets and this is where competition is stiff especially to leverage data to make consumer journeys as fast and seamless as possible.
Keeping this in mind, we ensure to ensure all such technologies are embedded in our solutions – right from providing paperless approvals, perfect match of the product, transparent process to take an informed decision, instant application process, we have digitized every touch points possible in the loan journey.
Inc42: Advancements in big data and data analytics are impacting fintech in a positive way. How is Rubique paving the way for innovation?
Manav Jeet: In today’s online era, a large digital footprint that we as consumers create has brought an unprecedented opportunity for new age/fintech companies to tap into and disrupt the fintech space and reduce human fallibility. Big data analytics & AI has already found itself multiple use cases be it in consumer wealth management, payment fraud, small ticket and consumer durable loans, creditworthiness and other allied spaces.
Rubique leverages its rich customer data and bank credit policies to build a proprietary AI based Matchmaking and ranking algorithm that provides a customized list to each consumer based on his/her needs and profile. This offers manifold advantages in terms of higher approval rates, better customer satisfaction and improved sourcing to our financial partners. This coupled with real-time status tracking takes away the lack of transparency in the overall process and keeps the customer informed about the progress of his/her application.
Thus, they in combination offer a win-win ecosystem by solving for customer experience on the demand side and issue of quality on the supply side. As Rubique continues to expand its customer base and financial partnerships, the self-learning algorithm continues to improve and drive higher values.
Inc42: In this regard, what kind of potential do you think AI, ML and blockchain have in disrupting India’s fintech sector?
Manav Jeet: AI, coupled with data and statistical and machine learning models, has opened up a whole new world of application and opportunity, it has to continue to evolve to be more relevant and accurate.
Coming to blockchain, it is a transformative technology for businesses. A huge distributed database leveraging state-of-the-art cryptography, blockchain aims to facilitate collaboration and tracking of all kind of transactions and interactions. By being the technology backbone of the world’s cryptocurrency network, blockchain technology has unprecedented power to revolutionize world economy. Thus, it is beyond any doubt that blockchain as a technology is here to stay.
The whole idea of a massive distributed database where trust is established through collaboration and clever code, rather than a centralised authority, is what makes blockchain so secure and fascinating especially in India’s banking industry. Needless to say, the technology is not alien in nature to banks and if implemented can prevent innumerable banking frauds and transaction issues in India.
How Rubique Clocked 100K Customers, $407 Mn Worth Disbursals
Inc42: What is the traction that Rubique has attained so far? How has its growth been over the last few years?
Manav Jeet: Since its inception, Rubique has serviced over 100K customers. Till date, we have disbursed loans worth $407 Mn (INR 2670 Cr), set up 82,000+ credit cards and generated revenue of around $7.2 Mn (INR 47 Cr).
On a month-on-month basis, we have already reached $22.8 Mn (INR 150 Cr) disbursement and last month achieved the highest milestone of 7,000 cards setup per month. At present, Rubique clocks around ~ $500 K (more than INR 3 Cr) in monthly revenue. And while growing consistently, Rubique has been unit economics positive at the transactional level and will be aiming for $75 Mn disbursement per month and around 25000 card setups by September 2018.
The journey has been great, driven largely by an organic growth over the last few years. We continue to grow in double digits and that is evident in our year-on-year (YoY) growth number of more than 400%. With a lean team and performance-based growth, we have seen consistent revenue growth. Our core strength continues to lie in technology with maximum employee strength diverted to that direction.
Currently, we have team size around 100 with almost one-third comprising of technology talent. The team is supported by 6000+ business associates to serve the existing customer base across India.
Inc42: Which are your biggest markets in India? Do you see a lot of traction coming in from tier II and III cities?
Manav Jeet: Rubique currently has a presence in seven hubs across 32 cities in India. Although our business comes from across markets, we are currently focused on cities where we have our offices in which include Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Pune, Hyderabad, Chennai and Jaipur. But going forward with more product offerings adding to our product portfolio, we will be expanding to tier II and tier III cities.
Apart from this, our assignments with government entities to provide technology-based financial solutions will also enable us to extend our reach in tier II and III cities across India. We are planning to expand our reach to 50 cities based on a hub-and-spoke model in the first quarter of the new financial year and aim to take it to 100 cities by end of FY19.
However, we should mention that our products and services have also received international recognition in recent times. For example, the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) chose Rubique to be a part of the first batch of its FinTech Regulatory Laboratory (RegLab) programme.
Rubique has also been featured in IDC’s FinTech 101 list for Asia/Pacific. These international recognitions prove that Rubique’s business model has been validated and has the potential to be replicated in territories other than India as well.
Evolving Beyond Challenges To Forge A Stronger Future
Inc42: What were some of the challenges and pain points Rubique faced initially?
Manav Jeet: The first and foremost challenge was to get a team together that believed in the idea and stood strong through thick-and-thin. Manav started Rubique with a team of six which has grown to 100-member team today.
The second roadblock was convincing the financial institutions to come on the platform. Fintech is still taking baby steps in India. Therefore, back in 2014, it was quite difficult to convince banks and other financial institutions about the idea of sharing credit policies and working with deep integration with existing banking infrastructure to facilitate the instant approval.
In the initial days, the team struggled to get even the first buy-in. But with a supportive environment from regulator as well as an increased adoption of digital initiatives, Rubique has made its way through and has, as of today, 89+ financial institution tie-ups, hosting around 267+ policies across 11 product categories.
Inc42: What is your blueprint for the future? Where do you see Rubique five years from now?
Manav Jeet: We want to be the financial matchmaker for all financial requirements (loans, credit cards, insurance) for all our customers during their life cycles, including e-commerce websites, used car/home selling platforms and government entities. Rubique also realises that there is a strong gap in SME credit assessment and hence plans to invest further in technology and data to build technology and data solutions to make the process more transparent and seamless.
We have not been aggressive on marketing front but going forward, we will focus on strategic marketing spends to establish our direct connect with customers and market our DIY transaction platform for loans, credit cards and insurance to empower the customer to make an informed decision.
From the technology perspective, we will definitely take the plunge in creating innovative and customised solutions as per our stakeholders’ needs like white label transactional platform, new scoring models like Rubique MAGIC Score etc.
Nowadays data is a like a gold mine and with extensive data about customers in its arsenal, Rubique is working on an alternating scoring engine with SPOT, which will use various data sources like SMS parsing, Call Logs Data, Contact List, device attributes, psychometric analytics and facial recognition to enable new to credit customers. Nowadays data is a like a gold mine, we would like to invest in data science & hire data scientists to work on the existing data so far and generate valuable insights.
From expansion perspective, we would explore and bring more SME-focused products on the platform and expand our portfolio. As part of our ecosystem focus, we will keep exploring opportunities to work with the government on special projects. We have already incorporated India stack which offers paperless layer in the transaction and have tied up with government entities like NSIC (National small-scale National Small Industries Corporation) to cater to their SMEs customer base.
Additionally, we have entered into an agreement with the Government of Andhra Pradesh to a customised fintech solution. The market is very huge, and with increasing financial inclusion, we see a lot of scope for growth. FY19 will see us going aggressive in the B2C market in terms of visibility and reach. With respect to our B2B focus, we will continue to develop a variety of technology products for ecosystem players. In fact, we aim to break even in 2019 & revenue of INR 100 crores ($15 Mn) per month by 2021.
Inc42: What have been some of the USPs that distinguishes Rubique from competitors in the industry?
Manav Jeet: In the current market scenario, there are multiple products available for customers but due to unavailability of a common platform for assessment, they are unable to make informed decisions regarding their finances. And the hurdles in right discoveries are leading to 60% -70% rejection ratios. With technology at its core, Rubique has converted each individual lender’s criterion into algorithms. This enables us to provide an integrated back-end and real-time processing solution when the borrower fills the application details at the front end.
With technology at its core, Rubique has converted each individual lender’s criteria into algorithms. This enables us to provide an integrated back-end and real-time processing solution when the borrower fills the application details at the front end. Rubique offers real-time processing and instant approvals from the FIs on the documents. Hence, the borrower has the value propositions of convenience; a good product fit, good rate options thrown out of a plethora of choices and get his/her loans approved a lot faster as compared to traditional banking channels.
Rubique is unique in terms of:
- A neutral platform where lender & borrowers can discover each other bringing transparency in the process
- Matchmaking algorithm and Fulfilment engine which offers faster access to credit along with the certainty
- A wide range of products for individuals as well as small business owners which is not offered by any online model
- Technology enabled distribution tapping every consumer segment be it digital savvy or traditional customers and offering end to end fulfillment
Rubique was formed with a vision to create an online financial matchmaking marketplace/credit marketplace in India that fulfills the financial aspirations during the customer’s lifecycle in the simplest, shortest and speediest way possible. Like Uber, Airbnb, and Amazon, Rubique has leveraged its technology to provide fintech solutions in an asset-light way.