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Modi’s speech opens doors for collaboration: Indian fintech firms at SFF2018

"I say this to all the fintech companies and startups – India is your best destination,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said today in a speech at the Singapore Fintech Festival 2018.

He was also the first head of government to deliver the keynote address at Fintech Festival that is running into its third edition this year. Held at Singapore Expo, SFF2018 is the largest fintech festival in the world.

PM Narendra Modi delivering keynote address at Singapore Fintech Festival 2018. Photo courtesy: Ministry of External Affairs, India
PM Narendra Modi delivering keynote address at Singapore Fintech Festival 2018. Photo courtesy: Ministry of External Affairs, India

“India’s vast market can enable fintech products to achieve scale, reduce risks and costs, and go global," PM Modi added.

His remark opens the doors of the Indian market to fintech firms around the world, adding more excitement to the already vibrant fintech ecosystem. And at the same time, it also creates opportunities for collaboration between foreign and Indian fintech companies.

Connected to India caught up with some of the Indian fintech firms at the SFF2018, to talk to them about their experience of the festival, as well as their thoughts on PM Modi’s aspirations for the fintech ecosystem.

Ample opportunities for those who are willing to venture

“Over the last decade, tremendous progress has been made in India in terms of technological advancements – from a national identity to banking, insurances, as well as micro-banks, micro-ATMS… you name it,” said Ms Parul Seth Khanna, Director, pinBox Solutions.

Photo: Connected to India
Indian fintech firms at Singapore Fintech Festival 2018. Photo: Connected to India

“We have created a digital environment that allows foreign fintech companies to easily assimilate in the country,” she added. pinBox operates in the field of pension inclusion, helping developing countries to set up micro-pension programmes for themselves.

The sheer size and population of India is a definite advantage for foreign firms looking to globalise their products. “India is a huge country with 1.3 billion people – so there are lots of opportunities, all kinds of income groups, habits and consumers,” Khanna said.

Mr Vijay Khubchandani, founder and CEO of payment wearables company Seven, concurred. “The scale that you can achieve in India is exceptional, not just because of the size, but also the adaptiveness of the consumers. The rapid adoption of new financial technologies in India in the last couple of years is convincing proof that the other companies in the ASEAN region put India on the radar.”

Collaborations will help overcome the challenges

But the richness of the diversity that India has to offer, is a double-edged sword.

“I believe that PM Modi’s vision and aspiration, while it is grand and obviously would be nice if we can achieve it, is not an easy task,” said Mr Ashwin Shankar, Assistant General Manager, Integra Micro Systems.

Photo courtesy: Ministry of External Affairs, India
Photo courtesy: Ministry of External Affairs, India

He explained that while India presents great opportunities for fintech companies, but the nature of the market itself poses a huge challenge. “India has many small towns and villages – each of them have their own ways of life, and even different languages. Foreign companies may not have the cultural understanding and expertise to deal with the demographic and geographical nuances that arise.”

And this is precisely where the Indian fintech firms can, through partnerships and collaborations, work with the foreign companies and startups and bring new ideas into the market.

SFF2018 a sign of close working relationship between Singapore and India

So far, it seems like optimism prevails, in Mr Khubchandani’s opinion. “For example, this particular event, SFF2018, invited Indian Prime Minister Modi. This is a signal that India and Singapore want to work together,” he explained.

Lastly, he had some suggestions on what more can be done on the part of governments to assist fintech firms.

“I think a lot of companies would be able to benefit from exchange programmes in which fintech firms in Singapore can spend some time in India, and get to learn the atmosphere there, and vice versa. Perhaps both the governments could also award some grants to promising fintech startups help them venture out and do pilots in another country for a short period of time,” Mr Khubchandani said.

Kareyst Lin
Kareyst Lin – Senior Correspondent

Kareyst has experience in writing about B2B technology for Computerworld Singapore, MIS Asia and CIO Asia; and on government technology for GCIO Asia. Her pet areas are artificial intelligence, Internet of Things and smart cities - these are fueled by her obsession with sci-fi movies and philosophy of mind. An active Yoga practitioner and cat lover, with a background in Indian philosophy, subaltern and diaspora studies.