With all the technological progress that has been made over the past few decades in the field of finance, investing still remains an arduous task for most retail investors. Gaining access to reliable information remains a challenge, and potential investors find it difficult to trust advice coming from institutional channels due to the conflicts of interest involved.
Expowealth, our FinTech Mumbai startup of the week, is on a mission to help retail investors easily invest in mutual funds by offering commission free investment advisory and fulfilment. The founders, Kushal Kothari and Arjun Bharadwaj, MBA’s batchmates from IIM – Ahmedabad (2014), feel that there is a distinct lack of transparency in the investment advisory market, with many consumers not fully understanding the terminologies employed by Asset Management Companies to describe their products. We spoke with them to find out more about this exciting venture:
1. Investment advisory and sales is a tricky market. What motivated you guys to enter this space?
Kushal: After graduating from IIM-A, both of us were in cushy jobs. I was at the Aditya Birla Group and Arjun was working with Bank of America – Merrill Lynch. However, even within these environments where the average person was well versed with financial concepts, we found that there was a hesitation to put money into the market and most people preferred to park their funds in simple savings accounts. They preferred to not make a bet at all rather than rely on information they did not fully trust. We immediately sensed a big opportunity. A few months later, we quit our jobs and started Expowealth.
Through Expowealth, we want to be on the side of the investor. A lot of the channels that financial institutions have created to push their products are only focussed on getting clients to make some investments, irrespective of whether they are actually suitable for the customer’s risk profile. They don’t really have the best interest of the investor in mind, and people can sense that. We are driven by a vision to provide potential investors with reliable, easy to understand information that tangibly helps them make profitable investment decisions.
2. So do you see banks as competitors or partners?
Arjun: For Expowealth, banks tend to be competitors rather than partners. A large percentage of their non-interest income comes from sales of insurance and investment products, and their investment advisory efforts have not matured very well. In fact, our main target audience is people who are using the digital portals of these banks to make investments. We believe the interfaces offered by the banks are not really up to the mark and there is a lot of room for improvement in the way information is communicated to users.
However, there are a few banks who are not offering their own investment solutions and we are evaluating partnerships to help provide their customers with a high quality investment experience.
3. How is life as an entrepreneur? What are some challenging aspects of day to day life?
Kushal: Work doesn’t feel like work, when we have everything to gain and everything to lose. We are way more driven to make it, to give that 1% more which could make or break our company. It is quite an emotional ride everyday really, where we are trying to manage time, expenses, team, product, customers, partners, vendors and many many other stakeholders. Oh yeah, and the family too. Some days they all align to give you that high of success, on some other days, they give you the fright of survival. That’s early stage entrepreneurship I guess.
4. Both of you have graduated from one of India’s best business and management institutes, and also have a lot of work experience. What got you interested in applying for the SBC program?
Arjun: We were nearing the stage of launch when SBC invited for applications. Even with all the work experience and education, we knew that customer education and acquisition is going to be a challenge in this highly competitive space. There were really two factors that made us want to join this program –
A. To draw support from the SBC ecosystem, especially with regards to customer development
B. SBC’s Fintech programme is pretty well know globally. We knew we could definitely draw support from the partner and mentor pool of the programme
That’s it for this week! In case you have any questions regarding the team or the venture, please feel free to reach out to us at fintechmumbai [at] startupbootcamp.org.
Stay tuned to this space for more!!