Year 2000. Place : India. DotCom Boom…but hardly any online banking/finance portals. I could remember only Apna Loan which was launched during that phase, and was instantly popular among the early dot com users.
Year 2008. Place : India
At least 20 online finance portals. All with similar strategy and content. ApnaLoan survives the bust but the scene is cluttered with me-too portals with little or no differentiation.
Let’s see how many do I remember, paisawaisa, rupeetalk, ecompare, loanmela, loanwala, deal4loans….and the list goes on!
Why so many online finance portals?
Easy! 40 million people on the net. At least 70% are between the age group of 25-40. This age group is the single largest spending, earning and borrowing group in India. And these 28m people are online, looking for deals and looking for quick and convenient financial assistance!
What have the online finance portals missed?
The 28 million people we are talking about, have the following needs:
1. Un-biased Choice
2. Un-intrusive Service
3. Flexibility and convenience of application
4. Advisory and hand holding
5. Transparency and being in loop (update on status and clarity on product)
Now, I am sure most of us had the (mis) fortune of logging onto one of the above financial portals….and we ended up filling a small form, appreciating the portal’s brains of not bothering us with a 3 page form instead.
But what happens later? The small form that we filled up, actually turns out to be a lead generation form, and the brainy portal sells the lead to 5-6 DSAs (Direct Sales Agents of Banks)
None of the above mentioned portals, seem to have a direct tie-up with any bank in India, most of them actually sell our information to DSAs of various banks and then the end consumer starts receiving incessant calls from various DSAs.
So, who suffers: the consumers (you and me) and also the banks (they just get unqualified leads, which they need to qualify and service). So both the parties are at the bottom of value chain.
And look at the audacity, I received an email from a portal claiming to be running a live chat with various banks directly on the portal, and I eventually found that it was not the banks I was chatting with, but with employees of Direct Sales Agents!
So, not are these portals making a fool of everyone, but also pulling the industry down the value chain. Where is our innovation? Where is our thought process?
There is merit in creating a portal which:
1. Can provide a wide choice of banks
2. Allows to fill application online
3. Allows the convenience of doorstep documents collection
4. Acts as a self-help mechanism
5. Acts as an unbiased advisor
6. Connects directly with Banks and not DSAs.
7. Rates and verifies the consumer- to give him the best deal and provide the bank with a consumer and not just a lead.
This mechanism respects the consumers’ right to choose, right of not to be disturbed, right to be advised when needed, doorstep convenience and avoid multi layering. I started working with these thoughts on http://www.onimoney.com/, and the task is not finished yet! I am working on creating a very exciting web 2.0 application which can compare profile of people in real time and suggest them the RoI and other advantages that people with similar profiles have secured. Hence empowering the end user to receive a better deal from the banks.
In 2008, when we proudly talk about our engineering infrastructure and product development teams, we seemed to have forgotten about the fact that if consumers’ interests are not kept intact, the expensive infrastructure and tall claims may not be able to rescue a falling empire.