Micro-lending startup for Emerging India SmartCoin raises over $7 million Series A
App based consumer lending startup SmartCoin has raised over $7 million in Series A funding from LGT Lightstone Aspada and existing investors Unicorn India Ventures and Accion Venture Lab. Funds will be primarily used for scaling up the loan book, accelerating innovations in AI/ML-based underwriting, and expanding across technology and business verticals. SmartCoin’s ML-based underwriting engine empowers mid & lower income groups enabling access to credit and providing approvals within minutes.
SmartCoin lends to a large under served market hitherto not served by banks, NBFCs, or micro finance institutions. The company’s product offering includes small ticket personal loans to micro merchants, self-employed and salaried individuals, who mainly borrow to fund their economic advancement. Use cases include working capital for micro-merchants, fuel and vehicle repair funding for delivery executives; vocational training for micro-entrepreneurs and emergency medical needs of blue/grey collar workers.
Rohit Garg, Co-founder CEO, SmartCoin, said, “Our goal has been to provide access to credit to those under served by the formal banking system. Our proprietary AI/ML powered risk-assessment engine enables loan-approval within minutes and provides credit through a hassle-free, completely automated process. Deeper insights into the customer’s financial and behavioral data, combined with a gamified ladder, enables unlocking better products over time. Our choice to build for the credit-starved mass market and strong portfolio performance has helped SmartCoin stand out in a crowded fin-tech market. We are delighted to have LGT Lightstone Aspada come on-board alongside our other investors given their experience in financial services and focus on impact.”
SmartCoin began operations in 2017 and has since then, scaled rapidly serving customers across all the states and over 95% districts of India. The company has offered loans amounting to over 400 crores to half a million customers, with a pan-India user base of over five million. They have also received an NBFC license in October 2019.
With a differentiated and scalable business model built on a suite of AI/ML engines that are trained over terabytes of data, SmartCoin has been recognized internationally among the Top-50 startups driving financial inclusion around the globe by the likes of Visa, IFC and Metlife. The company was also the only fintech startup in 2019 to successfully graduate from both Google’s Launchpad Accelerator program and its App Excellence program for its advanced data- driven, mobile- first approach.
Kartik Srivatsa, Managing Partner, LGT Lightstone Aspada, commented, “We are excited to back, in SmartCoin, one of the strongest teams in machine learning and AI in financial services. The company has already built the foundations of what could be one of the important fintech platforms in India that delivers personalized financing products at an affordable cost to underserved households towards their goal to building positive financial net worth. SmartCoin’s business model has the ability to provide data-driven insights in a customer segment that is otherwise opaque and can unlock means of formal credit and financial services. We believe that their AI/ML engine can over a period of time also deliver personalized digital services in areas such as education and healthcare for this segment.”
SmartCoin plans to use the current round of funding to primarily grow their loan book. SmartCoin also plans to expand its data science team, advancing their AI/ML-based underwriting platform, launching new products and growing its user base to 10M.
Bhaskar Majumdar, Managing Partner, Unicorn India Ventures, says, “We identified Smartcoin quite early in their journey and decided to invest in the company. We were quite impressed with the market segment that Smartcoin wanted to address as most other fintechs at the time were chasing white collars that still have credit history in terms of digital spending. But Rohit and his team decided to penetrate perhaps the most difficult customer segment. Their thesis that people are willing to payback if given hassle free loans and their ability to keep their NPAs lowest in their industry has prompted us to continue to invest in the Company.”
Vikas Raj, Managing Director, Accion Venture Lab, added, “SmartCoin’s data-driven and responsible approach to digital lending enables them to effectively reach underserved populations that lack access to credit. We’ve had great confidence in their team and strategy since making our initial investment and look forward to continuing our partnership.”
Unitus Capital acted as an exclusive financial advisor to the transaction.
SmartCoin is an app based consumer lending startup focused on providing small-loans to the vast underserved lower- and middle-income segments comprising 45% of population (~500M individuals)- micro merchants, micro entrepreneurs, and blue/grey workers. Banks and NBFCs find it difficult to serve them due to lack of credit histories and expensive operating models resulting from their offline manual processes and legacy technology systems. Our data driven mobile-first approach with proprietary AI/ML underwriting algorithms are capable of assessing the risk profile of a prospective borrower in real time and delivering the loan through a completely digital manner. We have re-engineered the complete loan cycle to make it entirely automated, fast, convenient and personalized for the customer. SmartCoin’s advanced AI/ML has been recognized by Google and is the only fintech startup in 2019 to have been part of both its Launchpad Accelerator program and the App Excellence program.
About LGT Lightstone Aspada
Formed in partnership with Aspada and LGT in August 2019, LGT Lightstone Aspada is the India focused impact investment platform of LGT Lightstone. LGT Lightstone is LGT Group's impact investing initiative to build a global multi-billion dollar direct investing platform focused on scalable businesses that provide access to improved livelihoods, information and services for under served consumers around the world and/or promote sustainable resource utilization.
Accion Venture Lab
Accion’s seed-stage investment initiative Accion Venture Lab provides capital and extensive support to innovative fintech startups that improve the reach, quality, and affordability of financial services for the under served and have the potential to scale. Backed by commercial and impact investors since the launch of its third-party fund in 2019, Venture Lab has invested in more than 40 early-stage startups that operate in 30 countries worldwide. Venture Lab is a part of Accion, a global nonprofit committed to creating a financially inclusive world, with a pioneering legacy in microfinance and fintech impact investing. Accion catalyzes financial service providers to deliver high-quality, affordable solutions at scale for the three billion people who are left out of – or poorly served by – the financial sector. For more than 50 years, Accion has helped tens of millions of people through our work with more than 110 partners in 50 countries.
Unicorn India Ventures
Unicorn India Ventures is a Mumbai-based fund house started in 2015 by Anil Joshi and Bhaskar Majumdar. The Fund House has also launched a UK India cross border fund for funding UK startups looking to enter India and have invested in 6 UK startups so far. From its first fund, UIV has invested in 18 companies like VLCC VanityCube, Inc42, Sequretek, Pharmarack, GrabonRent, Inntot, Genrobotic, SectorQube, Perfit, Neuro Equilibrium, SmartCoin, Open Bank, Boxx.ai, Clootrack and Openapp.