LV Insights

Fintech Trends in 2018 and Outlook for 2019

After two consecutive years of reckoning, the industry of financial services finally produced an amalgamation of the various finance sectors- Fintech. Over the last few years, India has witnessed dramatic growth and adoption of technology across financial services.
Our startup team has analysed the fintech ecosystem in terms of the following elements:

  1. Fintech Growth – What has led the way?
  2. Funding Analysis of Fintech Firms: 10-year snapshot
  3. How is Fintech expected to perform in the next lustrum

Fintech Growth – What has led the way?

Integration of technology with Finance 

Fin-tech, essentially, is the amalgamation and application of technology in the financial services industry. India has witnessed a dramatic surge of its technological growth and adoption in recent years. The traditional financial services industry is inherently offline, time-consuming, manual, inaccessible and cost heavy. This is primarily because of the dependency on human capital for every process in the funnel. However, the integration of technology to each step of the process has brought in the change from manual to machine-driven decision making.

Technology reduced operational cost 

The major driver for Fintech growth has been the low-cost measures in delivering the financial services to masses. Primarily driven by the boom of digital adoption and technology, the popularity of Fintech companies is evident by  world-class payments initiative UPI. UPI services have been adopted by companies addressing mass markets like WhatsApp, Google, Flipkart and Amazon. The migration from only paper to no paper processes has reduced the lead time, efforts and costs. It has also increased the accessibility of services to consumers even in remote areas. 

Regulations turned business-friendly 

Innovations in the fintech space, traditionally, were held back by regulatory uncertainties and a conservative approach by government. Due to which, financial institutions had also demonstrated a preference for slow and steady improvements as opposed to disruptive innovations. However, over the last few years, we have seen a paradigm shift in these perspectives. As technologies develop further, they enable significantly more transparency to exist in financial systems. Subsequently, regulatory authorities can strongly benefit from such developments.

Traditional firms joined hands with New Age firms 

Both traditional financial institutions and new age fin-tech companies have struggled with efficiently working together, and effectively scaling innovation in the same ecosystem.
Overview of new age fin-tech firms: The competitive advantages are agility to launch and pivot, laser focus on customer experience, and freedom from the burden of legacy systems while the challenges in scaling the business include lack of trust, known brand, established distribution infrastructure, capital, and regulatory compliance expertise
However, the relationship between new age fin-tech companies and traditional financial institutions has now morphed from competition to collaboration. It has been seen that the symbiosis between both categories of players is directed towards creating a unified landscape where each player is benefitting from the strengths of the other, and the benefit of the which is ultimately passed on to the consumer.

Strong governmental push for a digital shift 

It has been analyzed that user adoption was a challenge which typically slowed down innovation. Governmental efforts towards promoting digitization of financial systems and reducing cash transactions in the economy have been quite effective in shifting consumer focus towards digital alternatives for financial transactions and services.

Exhibit 1 – Initiatives by the government towards the digital economy

Exhibit 1 highlights the strong, proactive policy level support from the government to increase financial services inclusion even to consumers in the remote areas. Initiatives such as Jan Dhan Yojana enabling bank accounts for everyone in rural areas will provide them the access to financial services which was earlier not available. Aadhaar and the emergence of UPI provides a good foundation for fin-tech companies to permeate ‘last mile’ touchpoints and boost financial inclusion across the country.
The scale only matters when serviced with the right infrastructure. Rising levels of internet penetration are growing the addressable market for fin-tech. A progressive regulatory backdrop augmented by government initiatives like India Stack, Startup India Program and National Payments Council of India (NPCI) is encouraging innovation. And due to its sheer size, India is expected to see a massive pool of entrepreneurial interest driven towards fin-tech.

Different categories of Fin-tech firms:  Fintech firms in India can be broadly categorized into the following segments:

  • Financial Lending – P2P lending, Marketplace for loans, Own book lenders
  • Investment Platforms – Trading and mutual fund platforms, Crowdfunding, Wealth and Asset management platforms, Online Financial Advisors
  • Payments – Mobile wallets, Merchant payments, PoS and Payment gateway services
  • Enterprise Software – Credit scoring and underwriting, Expense Management, Financial Planning, Lead generation, and customer onboarding, Process automation
  • Alternative Currency/Blockchain – Cryptocurrency trading, Blockchain driven services
  • The financial lending, especially in the consumer space, also has a lot of room and potential to innovate.

Exhibit 2 – Distribution of Fin-tech firms between FY 2009-2018

The major highlight is that all of these categories of firms are penetrating into a larger market and addressing the needs of the market which were earlier not serviced by traditional financial institutions. They are able to cater to this challenge by innovating the product and service offerings at different income levels and customize them even at scale.

Funding Analysis of Fin-tech Firms: 10-year snapshot

Exhibit 3 – Distribution of no. of deals across different fintech categories and funding phases
  • Exhibit 2 depicts that 70% of the fin-tech ecosystem is dominated by financial lending firms and it can be inferred from Exhibit 3 that investors across all phases have also remained attracted to this category.
  • Early VC and Angel/Seed investments share the maximum proportion of deals across all categories. Years 2015, 2016 and 2017 have seen the maximum number of deals in the financial lending over the past decade.
  • 2018 witnessed disruption of the mainstream ideology of investment participation as all three categories of investors as Angel, Early VC and Growth converged on the same number of investments in financial lending.
  • This is primarily driven by a decline in the no. of deals at Angel/Seed stage and increased Growth VC investments, signaling matured companies raising subsequent funding rounds
  • Surprisingly, investment platforms didn’t witness any investment from Growth VCs until the end of 2018.
  • There may be two inferences, one that most of the continuing startups have become self- sufficient in terms of positive free cash flow and are not dependent on external capital (Ex: Zerodha) and the other that the Growth stage funds could find enough opportunities which met their criteria of expected returns.
  • B2B offering is seen to be growing in the past few years across all categories.
  • Alternative Currency/Blockchain category received only Angel/Seed investments so far.

Exhibit 4 – Distribution of no. deals across funding phases and total amount funding raised
  • Exhibit 4 demonstrates the correlation among different categories of investors and the total amount of funding over the last past decade with 2014 being the inflection point.
  • The number of investments by Growth VCs in Payments had tripled in 2015 and has remained constant for the next three years.
  • 2016 has recorded the highest number of investments so far and the number of Angel/Seed investments were 2.2 and 3.2 times than the Early VC and Growth VC investments respectively.
  • The decline in deals in the subsequent years as reflected above denotes a higher amount of growth VC investments as the companies mature.
  • Payments have been the most funded segment within the Indian fin-tech landscape, riding on the demonetization wave.
  • The spike in 2017 is primarily driven by USD 1.4 billion funding by Soft Bank Group in Paytm which is by far the highest amount of funding received by any fin-tech firm in India. The company reportedly raised an additional USD 300 million from Warren Buffet’s firm Berkshire Hathway subsequently instills belief on the growth of fin-tech industry in India.

“62% of the Fin-tech companies who raised Angel/Seed funding were able to raise funding from Early VCs and 30% of these companies raised funding from Growth VCs in the later rounds”

  • The amount of Growth VC investments in Financial lending over the past decade is almost 4.5 and 25 times of the amount of Angel/Seed and Early VC investments respectively, and total funding in financial lending witnessed 36% CAGR over past five years.

“60% of the Angel/Seed investors have successfully exited, partially or completely, in companies that were able to raise funds from Early VCs or Growth VCs in later rounds”

  • The number of companies raising subsequent rounds of funding remained high in the fin-tech industry.
  • This is a very positive sign for the Angel/Seed investors. they have a higher probability of maximising their returns either by the increased valuation of companies or getting high liquidity pool by means of exits in subsequent rounds.

Exhibit 5 depicts the average size of funding across different categories of investors over the past decade.
  • Average ticket size of Angel/Seed investments has seen an all-time high in 2018. The same saw a dip in 2017, the year which witnessed the all-time high deal size in Early and Growth VC investments.
  • This denotes the maturing stage of many fin-tech firms in 2017 receiving attention and funding in the growth rounds.
  • 2016 was the year recording lowest ticket size in Early VCs investments over the past 7 years.
  • The variance in the average size of deals highlights the high supply of fin-tech firms raising funds which is a mix of equity and debt rounds.
  • The increase in average deal size in Angel/Seed investments validates the increased participation of micro and early-stage VCs in the seed round investments.
  • While the individual angel investors’ cheque size may remain the same or increase marginally, the seed stage VC investments explain the skew.
  • This is a very positive sign for the early stage startups which can now have the backing of a VC firm along with having various individual and strategic investors on board even in the early rounds of fundraising.

A Few Innovative Fintech startups

Startup Name Founding Year City Business Model
Niveshi 2017 Delhi An AI-based trading fund that utilizes Reinforcement Learning (RL) to automate the development of intra-day trading strategies for various asset classes.
LetsMD 2015 Delhi Tech-driven patient financing platform which allows patients to pay for their elective surgeries in 0% interest EMIs
MishiPay 2015 London Theft-proof, scan and payment solution that brings benefits of online shopping to physical stores without any need to go to a counter or waiting in any queue.
Cashkumar 2012 Bangalore Tech-driven P2P Lending Marketplace where borrowers can get short term loans and lenders lend to verified borrowers and earn good returns. 2016 Noida A mass market mutual funds investment platform that makes mutual funds accessible to everyone through an intelligent automated process.
Credright 2016 Hyderabad Digital platform providing flexible & suitable loan products to Micro & Small Businesses leveraging Chit Funds.
Kyte 2018 Mumbai AI Powered SMS Inbox with a spam filter that enriches your SMS experience. It also parses all banking and financial transactions, giving the user complete visibility over their financial spends.
Amigobulls 2015 Delaware A patented digital platform that allows users to create their own stock analysis videos using readymade stock charts.

How is Fin-tech expected to perform in the next lustrum?

AI, ML, Blockchain, AR and IoT have served significant use cases for Fintech growth globally: Blockchain driven banking solutions are successful in the US, UK, Singapore etc and can see penetration in India. Biometric driven payments due to India Stack can be expected.  AI-driven and ML-driven data points to generate credit and risk profile of customers also have tremendous potential to boom.

Wealth Maximising and Management solutions will surge across different spheres: The amount of wealth is compounding at 12-14% in India creating a greater need for people to manage it. Current penetration of institutional players managing wealth is very low at less than 25%. AI chatbot driven wealth maximization and management tools will be seen to emerge. Traditional wealth management techniques may be revamped offer personalized solutions to customers.

AI-driven Robo advisors in the financial services are sprouting across the retail investing space globally: Many global web-platforms powered by deep algorithms, viz. Robo Advisors, offer financial and investment advice on submitting personal finance details. As India reaches parity with developed economies, a greater number of startups using these technologies will emerge.

New Age Insurance solutions will provide security across various touchpoints: Global Insurance firms are offering customized solutions by leveraging data like tailormade health policies based on customer’s orientation towards remaining fit. Few startups also exploring the integration of AR to smoothen the consumer experience towards automobiles claims. Few firms also operate on differentiated business models where the total policy amount is pooled centrally and used to pay off claims and the remaining balance determines the next premium amount for all policyholders.

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