Covid accelerated adoption of personal finance apps in India: Umesh Kumar, Head of Product – India, Branch International

Umesh Kumar, Head of Product - India, Branch International

The outbreak of covid-19 and its ongoing effect brought major changes across industries around the globe. The lending segment, in particular, saw a significant amount of modifications amid the uncertainty. During this time, the overall adoption of personal finance apps reported accelerated growth. In a bid to delve deeper and understand the role of personal finance apps as a medium to suffice the lending needs users in a simplistic manner, Rashi Aditi Ghosh of Elets News Network (ENN), spoke to Umesh Kumar, Head of Product – India, Branch International. During the interaction, Kumar spoke about the change in users’ perception, strategies to get closer to the customers and growth plans. Branch is a leading personal finance app that provides access to instant loans with no physical documentation.

Excerpts of the interaction:

1. How significant is the role of personal finance apps amid Covid pandemic? Why are your offerings unique as compared to others?

Personal finance applications serve a gamut of purposes including but not limited to gaining access to long term and short term capital, tracking one’s spends, monitor and improve one’s credit score etc. Personal Finance Apps have played a significant role in bringing financial access to a large part of the underserved market over the years. The current system favors Tier-1 salaried audiences who have sufficient credit history.

The Covid pandemic has accelerated the overall adoption of personal finance apps. The pandemic fuelled uncertainty in the market and traditional lenders became more stringent (or altogether stopped) with lending. The personal finance apps however were able to come to the rescue of these users by having simpler, faster and more effective services.

While there are multiple apps focusing on different aspects of user needs, Branch holds a unique value proposition. Branch Personal Finance App helps the underserved Indian audience to get access to funds upto Rs.50,000 from the comfort of their homes. Branch is able to efficiently underwrite a user without a credit score. We use the data on the phone and access to the other data available to create a cash flow for each user and assess their risks within minutes. This makes the process smooth, fast and paper-less. Additionally Branch also helps users who are non-salaried to access funds. With Branch, users can build their credit history with us as they go.

2. You reported over 20 million downloads lately. What measures are you taking to maintain glitch-free usage?

The app has been widely successful since its introduction in India. We have a world class Product and Engineering team across three continents ensuring zero downtime and uninterrupted user experience.

Another important aspect is to be compliant with the law of the land and to adhere to all Google policies. Branch is a registered NBFC (and regulated by RBI) which operates with its own license. We also closely work with the Google team to ensure our app and advertising are always compliant.

Also Read: Amid Covid, PayU witnessed 40% year-on-year growth trajectory: Manas Mishra, Chief Product Officer, PayU

3. How important is it to offer services in vernacular languages? Would you like to tell us about the Hindi App launched by your company?

English is the major language of correspondence for app users. However, this is a small percentage of the overall addressable audience who have access to the technology but have a language barrier. With the inherent nature of the product, we are seeing fast growth in tier 2 and 3 cities that are predominantly vernacular language users. Catering to the next million users in India would be possible only if we diversify to other languages which can remove the language hurdles.
The Hindi launch was the first in line for the localization efforts we did in India. We have seen about 25% of users from Hindi speaking markets opting for Hindi as the language of choice.

4. Data suggests that Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have shown the highest uptake in overall loan applications. How are you tapping this section?

Telangana and Andhra Pradesh regions have shown great promise. We are amping up our marketing activities in these areas to reach out to more potential users. We will also be launching some of our upcoming products in this area.

Also Read: Efficient handling of wealth, as its size keeps growing, is a complex issue: Raghvendra Nath, MD, Ladderup Wealth Management

5. What growth expectations do you have for 2021?

Branch is aiming for a 5X growth in overall Loan disbursement in India in 2021. We are also in the process of validating and launching a new Salary Loan Product specifically designed for working professionals. In addition to this, vernacular support is a key strategy for us going forward.

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