Interview with Naveen Kukreja

In an exclusive interview with Ashutosh Asthana, Assistant Editor, Thinking Aloud, Naveen Kukreja, Ceo & Co-founder – Paisabazaar.com, speaks about his challenges as a founder, changing industry trends, how he has managed to change the consumer mindset and his mantra for success.

TA: How did you start Paisabazaar?

NK: I worked in financial services for over 18 years. A couple of years that has been in the UK. So I have seen the UK as a market which is one of the most mature markets for the internet and finance. When I came back to India, I was one of the partners and as part of my role in Policybazaar, I spoke to the founder of Policybazaar and we agreed that there was an equally interesting opportunity in lending and banking products space. I have seen from the UK, what the scale of that could be from a business perspective. At the same time, there was another perspective which was the consumer perspective. Till about 4 years back, if you have to take a loan, whether it is a home loan, credit card or a personal loan, you have to either go to your bank and then hope that it is the best offer you got or if you really have to ascertain that, then you have to go to each of the banks but the banks’ website won’t give you any clarity. So it was very troublesome to understand the products and then compare the products to know that you have got the right deal. These are the two driving forces that helped me to setup Paisabazaar.

TA: What were the challenges that you faced while setting up Paisabazaar? How do you see those challenges now?

NK: The primary challenge that we faced was that the market was offline. That means the consumers were applying offline, the banks and NBFCs were set to offline. The digital industry was just spreading its wings. The big challenge was to work together with the bank and the NBFCs and make consumers aware of the ease and convenience of a digital platform.
The second major challenge was that we were not the first to start in this field and we were quite small as compared to some of our competitors. For that we looked at the overall market potential, eventually what the market will become when the industry moves towards digitization rather than getting walked down or getting worried about the competitors too much, looked at the fundamental areas where we wanted to add value a marketplace and an aggregator and how would we provide a better experience to customers and then got down to executing it fairly intensely. We have covered a lot of ground but there is still a lot of ways left to cover that journey.

TA: How do you analyze the online loan market today?

NK: The market has moved fairly well over the last 4 years. When I talk to the banks now and when I was talking to the bank partners 3 years back, the conversations were very different. The banks were focused on digital platforms and a lot of credit goes to internet penetration, dropping of internet access rates, the expansion of mobile phones and smartphones. Now every bank and service providers are focusing on digital platforms. So what I see is that certain parts of lending products where there is an income validation and a customer validation, it will move fully digital. They have come a long way where a percentage of the market has moved but over the next two to three years, the pace will increase. There will be a time when most of the acquisitions will happen digitally in these products. There would be other products like home loans, auto loans, which will depend on other factors, like digitization of land records so they might take a long time but there also the moment has started to happen. I am very optimistic about the future of digital in the acquisition strategy for loans.

TA: How did you manage to change the mindset of the consumers?

NK: I think converting consumers’ mindset was easy because it is very clear, simple and clean and better proposition for the consumers. The only challenge was how do you make the consumers aware about this and that takes some capital, cost, and money. When we had access to that capital, we made more and more consumers. It’s a digital platform so it is easier to reach out to the consumers. The only challenge now regarding the consumers is how to increase awareness among them.

TA: What is your definition of success?

NK: One of the ambitions that we have is that we want to become 10 percent of the overall lending market of the country. We are currently at about 1.8 percent. We have come here from 0 in about 4 years. At 10 percent we would be a meaningful force and a meaningful destination for consumers. So the other way that we look at it is that we want consumers to think about any banking product whether its loan or investment and he thinks about Paisabazaar.com. That would be success to us.

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