Charlie Lee, Founder and Global CEO of True Balance
With around 10 million users across the country and a few more lakh gained during the Covid-19 lockdown, the True Balance digital payment app says it aims to solve the problem of access to credit that many Indians are facing. are faced.
Launched in 2014, the app is operated by Balancehero India Pvt Ltd, based in Gurugram. It mainly focuses on rural consumers and migrant workers. Edited excerpts from an interview with the founder and CEO of the Softbank-funded company:
Q. How has True Balance evolved since 2014?
We started as a balance checking service because we believe that Balance Top Up is a fintech’s gateway to starting financial services in India. As you very well know, most fintech services started from the top-up of the balance, as nearly one billion users top up their data plans three to four times a month, which is almost 3 to 4 billion. transactions in a month.
From there, we expanded our services to utility payments, then e-commerce, insurance, digi-gold and now loans. Today, we are a full-service provider of financial services to the 1 billion underbanked, uncredited, uneducated, and uneducated Indians (in the financial space).
We continue to focus deeply on our lending services because at this time we have to solve the problem of access to credit that so many Indians face. But we continue to provide other services, because we are not only a credit player. We want to make sure that no Indian is excluded from the financial system. In fact, this is one of the reasons why I firmly believe that in India the small loan industry has a very bright future.
Q. During the pandemic, who were the recipients of True Balance loans?
So, our loan recipients mostly belong to what we call the four ‘no’s’ – underbanked, uncredited, without access, and without education (in the financial space). We focus on the “next billion Indians,” as we call them, who suffer most from the lack of last mile funding.
The majority of loan recipients for us are migrant workers, young people who reside in rural areas or who have moved to urban centers for work. They are mostly in the 20-35 age bracket, and for us, loan recipients are split by gender in a ratio of 20 percent women to 80 percent men.
For example, among our beneficiaries we have Ashish Kumar, 31, an IT operator and teacher from Sitamarhi, Bihar, who was taking loans from another NBFC before the lockdown. During the lockdown, this NBFC closed its lending business. He then downloaded the True Balance app and has since taken out four loans from us. As recently as last month, he took out a loan of around Rs 9,000 to meet his monthly expenses. We were thus able to help the gentleman and his family to maintain their home.
There are several million beneficiaries across India that True Balance has been able to support in the same way. The first states from which we receive loan applications in India are Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka.
Q. Can you tell us about your “Gold Member” program?
We have upgraded the Gold Membership Program to the “Sponsor and Earn” program. Because we hold a PPI license with the NBFC license, if members complete their KYC, we are allowed to offer them cash back. We do this for every transaction made by our KYC members. Likewise, for our ecommerce offering, we have something called ‘sell and win’ where again cash back comes into play.
These cash back rewards might seem very small for the average urban Indian, but for the majority of the country, if in a village you are able to provide recharge services to all of your neighbors, the amount you can earn in cash rebates is in cash is substantial and could help you manage your household. We have 10 lakh of these full KYC members nationwide.
Q. How do you tap into the rural markets of India?
A majority of India resides in rural areas. Our referral program in rural areas has been very successful. People wanted to be included financially and in terms of credit, they just didn’t know how. They wanted to earn cashback because it helped them manage their spending, but they didn’t know how.
We intend to stay focused on rural India. However, a large part of our audience is also migrant labor and a certain smaller percentage of salaried Indians.
Q. How many True Balance users are there? How many new users have you gained since the Covid-19 crisis?
True Balance has around 10 million users across the country. If we included the number of people who benefit from our app, through our KYC users, that number would run into tens of millions of Indians. Over the past few months, which are specific to the Covid period, we have gained a few users of lakh loan facilities.
The impact of Covid-19 is that after the moratorium, just like other fintech companies, we experienced a higher default rate. After June, we therefore improved our underwriting and beneficiary selection process. For now, our focus is on gradually expanding our services to new loan users, and then increasing the size and number of our loan tickets. In fact, Covid-19 has reinforced our sincere belief that the true potential of the lending industry has yet to be realized in India, especially in the small lending industry. As our numbers have increased during Covid, we see these increase further in the future. This is also strongly reinforced by the fact that the moratorium should not be extended further.
Q. What is the way forward for True Balance in India?
From the day of our launch, our target was the next billion Indian users. These people will continue to be at the heart of every decision-making process, every change, every pivot, every new service or product line that we introduce in India. We will continue to focus on non-online payment users, credit score users, people who deserve our help but need a way to access it.