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BW Businessworld

Powering Biz One Loan At A Time

Abhishek Kothari’s penchant for “getting the work done” and his stress on building customer trust has stood him in good stead

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A SERIAL ENTREPRENEUR who believes in dis­ruption through technology based social inclu­sion, Abhishek Kothari has a career spanning over 15 years. Having discovered his penchant for ‘getting the job done’ in his college days, he launched FlexiLoans in 2016 targeting small and medium enterprises (SME) and enabling their access to finances via the formal sector. 

FlexiLoans is a fintech company focused on 100 per cent digital lending for the micro-SMEs in India through a fully automated proprietary platform. His consumer-centric approach and go-getter spirit has paid dividends during the lockdown period, where he saw finances pouring in at a time when companies, particu­larly startups, were taking a hit. 

Talking about his pandemic experience, he tells BW Businessworld, “Raising money is always difficult in uncertain times. That is the case with everyone. We were one of the lucky companies who raised $20 million during Covid.” 

The investors pledging such an amount is indicative of their growth potential and trust they exercise in the market. One of the key reasons behind their expanding market space is the constant need for innova­tion. 

Kothari acknowledges that innovation is not a choice for them, they must innovate in order to survive in a competitive market. “In the past six months, when we were not doing so many loans in the lockdown period, our entire focus was on innovation. Things we wanted to do in the next 24 months, we delivered in those six months,” informs Kothari. 

Employee welfare

The growth mind-set has found expression in employee welfare as well. FlexiLoans is one of the few companies that did not have any layoffs during the lockdown. Talking about the employee welfare mindset, Kothari says, “You will see a lot of entrepreneurs join us because we build businesses inside a business.” 

In fact, their agenda now is to reward people who stuck with them during the trying times. Furthermore, the com­pany is looking at expanding its team considering the fact that there are six crore SMEs in the country and about 80 per cent of them have never applied for a business loan from a financial institution. 

This also implies that com­petition is not a matter of con­cern to them as the market is so large. Every fintech player has a key role to build customer trust. In view of that fact, Kothari states that if one lender does badly it will reflect on the sector as a whole, decreasing cus­tomer trust. 

Despite these achievements, there are some milestones they are yet to achieve, “The challenge today is how do we tap into larger talent pools.” he says. 

Attracting Top Talent

Their future agenda includes bringing in top leadership from Silicon Valley in addition to the existing strength of 200 employ­ees operating from Mumbai. Considering their expansion plans, by 2024, FlexiLoans will be a multi-product lending platform with more than Rs 5,000 crore of assets under management and preparing for an Initial Public Offering or getting a banking license. 

Given his international experi­ence, Kothari will be looking to expand the footprint of FlexiLoans in Indonesia and Vietnam. In addition, they will also look at mergers and acquisitions, where they will acquire a few companies that are aligned to their vision.

SMEs employ approximately 40 per cent of India’s workforce, deliver about 60 per cent of indus­trial output and contribute nearly 20 per cent to the country’s GDP. The social impact of helping SMEs grow is tremendous and has a long-lasting effect on the country’s economy.