At LokSuvidha Finance, we are at the edge of a fintech revolution. Never has there been such excitement around a boring product such as finance. BFSI, usually, is last sector that embraces bleeding edge technologies, since they are well, bleeding. Additionally, when you deal with other person’s money, it brings with it a sense of responsibility and accountability and “moving fast and breaking things” is not really a guiding principle that we can work with. And yet, we as a tech-first company, cannot accept this, for complacency is the death of innovation. To bridge together, this culture of agility in tech and yet serve our customers, with a consistent experience is a narrow road few would dare to ride on.
We are a small company, compared to yesteryear’s giants of banking institutions. This has helped us, in part for being thin and agile and most importantly, swift. Swift in reacting to market changes, swift in fixing problems, swift in identifying opportunities and even letting go of decisions that might have not been fruitful. We have been learning a lot along the way as we scaled and technology has been the protagonist in this play. Led by the vision of driving innovation, we are a small engineering team of 6 engineers who believe in breaking the traditional process models. We do not believe in buzzwords and trends, or the classic trap of hitting every nail if you have a hammer. We believe in choosing the right tool for the job and being practical about it. We also believe in Free and Open Source Software, each and every one of our employee, even the non-IT staff uses linux. This was easier to do since we do not use any desktop specific software, everything runs on the browser. Our complete tech stack is built upon the massive learnings of the open-source community and their contributions. This helps us keep our costs low and removes any biases or blind spots that come with buying a proprietary product. We have experienced that proprietary products come with their own problems and dependencies. Keeping things simple and predictable, has helped us diagnosing issues faster and providing immediate fixes.
Process has been our guiding tool for our system designs. Right from the UI, to the intricate logic that helps us collaborate with our partners, it hasn’t been a road without friction. Having a system with the flexibility of introducing ad-hoc subsystems on-demand has been one of the key reasons for our agility. This cannot happen without a strong process driven system in place. Having a process, can also sometimes introduce bureaucracy, other times, it is a result of working with legacy systems. One such example is NACH, which has improved exponentially, especially with the government push for digitization. We moved from physically sending the NACH form, to the bank, to sending an image and now with the advent of E-NACH, there is no use of physical image anymore. Each one of these, requires radically different approaches to designing the process, one takes days while the other happens in an instant.
We believe in automating mundane mechanical work away. Humans should be in charge of taking decisions and nothing more. We believe in making quality of life improvements for our operations team. We have faced several practical challenges in this journey, especially when it comes to rural context. Customers having unclear documents and data inconsistencies makes it difficult to do away with complete automation, and hence a hybrid approach becomes necessary. Eventually, our team only checks document parameters which couldn’t be verified by the system. Examples of documents that fall into these categories are handwritten receipts, signatures etc.
Another aspect where automation has helped us is to interface our systems with our lending partners. How do you ask a giant like ICICI bank to technically onboard us? Why should a large NBFC like L&T Finance build a software layer, for a single partner? Just the integration would take months or even years and priorities are always debatable. Time taken is business loss. We took what we had from our partner, their mobile app, their web portal and built a bot to punch in data of customers to their system, completely transparent to teams on both sides. This needed a hacktivist approach, disassembling the workings of a software that was alien to us, then assembling the puzzle into our processes while ensuring this did not break the flow with our other partners. The bots work in tandem with our teams, syncing data and moving documents like an assembly line. This has helped us reduce our redundant workload tremendously.
Data sciences, the choice of letting the data drive decisions, has been vital to our tech acceleration. Right from building a custom scorecard, keeping in line with the rural context to closing in on frauds without hampering the experience of a legitimate customer, is entirely data driven. This has helped us in reducing turnaround time, ultimately improving customer experience. Another consequence has been the removal of biases, decisions taken are objective and uniform across the board. Firebolt, our reports and dashboarding system, helps our teams keep a close watch on the pulse of the organization. Be it sales, collections or operations, every team member is given real-time KPIs to monitor, this has helped us to identify bottlenecks and optimize key hotspots. Data is a lamp-post, it should be used for illumination rather than support for one’s own biases. Having this dearth of data, shared across a multidisciplinary team ensures that when subjectivity creeps into decisioning, all perspectives are catered to.
Technology brings in scale, the virtual world is much more malleable, elastic and hyperconverging when it comes to bringing people together. It is easier to align views and drive actions faster when variables are reduced and clarity permeates through the organization. This can only be achieved by building a technology stack that leads decisions, even in times of uncertainty. We have been extremely fortunate to stand at the crossroads where a lot has changed in a relatively small amount of time. As we move forward, we strongly believe agility, more than anything will be conquering disruption every day and we intend to adapt and disrupt.