[Product Roadmap] How the focus on technology has helped Namaste Credit serve over 25,000 SMEs in 6 years

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The pandemic has made it clear to SMEs and MSMEs that the way forward is one: digitization.

Financial services, payments and credit were key focus areas, and the SME segment has since seen the emergence and growth of several fintech players.

However, when Lucas Bianchi, Gaurav Anand and Krishnan Parameshwaran founded Inasmuch asNamaste creditInasmuch as in Bengaluru in 2014, it was one of the few startups to take a close interest in space.

Namaste Credit, which combines a loan marketplace with an AI-powered credit underwriting engine to help banks and NBFCs lend to SMEs, democratizes access to credit for SMEs.

LR- Lucas Bianchi, Krishnan Parmeshwaran and Gaurav Anand

What does it do?

“We strongly believe in end-to-end digitization of the process. The documentation required for SMEs, both on the liability side and the asset side, is enormous – regarding information such as the KYC of the company and its directors / partners / stakeholders, the business office and its director / partners / shareholders, banking, finance, GST and many more, ”says Gaurav.

He says the platform offers a hassle-free process by retrieving documents, scanning the scanned images using their ML-based OCR technology, analyzing and triangulating all the details, preparing reports, matching the policies to rules, verifying eligibility against different products and being format independent. .

“During the process, we verify the information with its data sources, identify fraud in submitted documents and also validate whether the information shared is accurate or not,” Gaurav said.

He added that Namaste Credit improves efficiency, reduces turnaround time by 95% for fast processing and sanctioning, and also improves coverage with 100 times more data points analyzed.

Until mid-2019, Namaste Credit has disbursed Rs 1,700 crore in loans. This figure has almost doubled in the past two years.

“We have served over 25,000 SMEs over the past six years and have facilitated lending to traditional SMEs, from local gas stations and restaurants to schools and even startups that need working capital,” adds Gaurav.

He explains that the team researched and found several reports indicating that there are 60 million SMEs in India and only 35-40% have access to any type of formal credit.

Start with democratization

The founders wanted to create a product and technology company that would democratize lending to SMEs in the country.

“Namaste Credit has always focused on SMEs. Ironically, this is one of the fastest growing industries, but it is grossly underserved globally, especially in emerging markets. This has led us to create an environment where this problem is not only solved but replaced by lasting and lasting solutions, ”said Gaurav.

The fintech startup has followed flexible workflows to achieve common digitization goals. The team focused on all the user personalities that exist in the market, including DSAs, Channels, Borrowers, Business Relations, and Credit teams.

The idea was to solve two problems: SMEs discovering credit and lenders taking out credit.

This is what has led to a platform that is a mix of a B2B loan marketplace (for SMEs) and an AI-based credit underwriting engine (for lenders).

“Recently, we developed and patented a dynamic rules engine for lender policy matching. We have developed our own OCR engine which uses AI and ML to process unstructured data without any manual intervention. Technology has helped the loan digitization process evolve, making it less time-consuming, ”says Gaurav.

Build the MVP

The introduction of loan eligibility check with the very first product, as well as access to a wide range of lenders and rapid TAT on the whole process through digitization, was what helped aid.

The first product with the workflow took the team about three months to reach a stage of viability; they had two to three dedicated developers to work on this. They used the framework and the technology that were popular at the time; the availability of resources was not a constraint.

“Being process-oriented, we started by using open source tools on the code repository, project management and build management. The agile methodology was an integral part of the team. In addition, we used cloud solutions to get our product to market quickly, where possible, ”says Gaurav.

When building the first product, the team took a few points into consideration:

  • Cloud architecture must be secure, must have all layers to protect customer data
  • Product must be usable by customers and available with tipping cover
  • The product should cover critical and important functionality
  • Architecture should be scalable with automated load balancers

The product team started by creating everything in the cloud. However, after a few months of using a hosting provider, they realized that there were dependencies and bottlenecks in their use.

“So we quickly switched to AWS and started designing the solutions by leveraging their services. It helped us build things faster. Sometimes even AWS didn’t have the range of services it has today, so we created them to be replaced by better and efficient cloud services like Athena and Lambda, ”says Gaurav.

Work on a two week frame

The initial roadmap was three months, and they started building using two-week sprints. Gaurav, who has a background in AGILE development, has some basic processes in place.

“We had a small team. We had releases from time to time, with new and better versions. The roadmap covered feedback from internal and external users, ”he says.

The platform has changed direction from a normal portal to a framework based on SAAS. The team quickly realized that banks wanted to use their platform as a white label. Since then, the SAAS product has grown into a separate product offering, where they have integrated many banks in India and help their digitization initiatives through the platform.

“Lenders have access to our proprietary Intelligent Credit Assessment (iCAM) model that assesses borrower creditworthiness, identifies and minimizes fraud, and reduces turnaround time from one to six weeks. just a few days away, ”Gaurav explains.

The technology platform, which started out as a digitization portal, had to reorient itself to a software-as-a-service platform, evolving into a micro-services architecture to meet business needs, including support for multiple product offerings.

“It meant we had some legacy issues that needed to be fixed; Fundamental changes have been made to the product as assumptions have changed from the base design. Since we had the micro-services, we could easily navigate these changes. Right now we’re on a hybrid cloud, available on both AWS and Azure cloud, ”says Gaurav.

He adds that OCR technology with ML models, scalable and customizable SAAS platform, and binary format to meet the format agnostic approach are solutions that have really helped the team to create a better platform.

“We have worked to make financial information easily accessible, even though its agreement relies on financial institutions to easily process requests. We have also focused on numerous ML and data-driven approaches to continue to grow and deliver quality results to existing and potential clients. At Namaste Credit, we will continue to embrace technology solutions to overcome challenges, ”said Gaurav.

Edited by Teja Lele Desai
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