Sandeep Sonpatki, Chief Business Officer at Lendingkart, reveals the company’s strategies and technology approaches for deepening partnerships:
Ravi Lalwani: Has the pace at which the organization engages with new partners changed? Please share a couple of recent examples.
Sandeep Sonpatki: In the digital lending space, there is a rise in partner engagements. Lenders are looking at agile partners to help them in expanding their products, extending reach, or bettering customer experience – and at the same time bringing speed in going to market and efficiency in operations. New partnerships and collaborations are touching all parts of the business.
At Lendingkart Platforms business, we are extensively partnering with banks and other NBFCs to deliver easy finance to our target segment through our ‘xlr8’ distribution platform. Xlr8 helps our clients get a pan-India distribution reach across 11,000 pin codes, through our on-field agent network and 120+ online channel partners. One of the key ingredients of a successful partnership and quick go-to-market, that we have seen is the stability of underlying technology architecture. Our partners who have a mature and evolved technology platform with well-defined APIs, tend to have deeper and tighter relationships. We can deliver a better customer experience – seamless processing of data and hand-offs. On the other hand, the lack of API-based platforms results in manual workarounds, increases operating costs, and has an impact on customer TAT.
Compared to past partnerships, how are your newer partnerships different in terms of domain, length of engagement, speed of delivery, etc?
Any new partnership starts with the alignment of business objectives. Newer partnerships are more structured and there is better clarity in terms of expectations. Once that is aligned, we usually run it like a project management office with a regular cadence and involvement of stakeholders from either side – to cover business, product, legal, technology, etc. Most of our partnerships are tech-centric. The integration is faster, typically takes about 1-2 sprints (2-4 weeks), accelerating our go-to-market, and is long-term in nature.
How are you making engagement with partners grow from person to person to org to org?
We have seen that partnerships are deeper and stronger where we have multiple levels of engagement and are not just restricted to 1 or 2 persons on either side. Increasingly we are moving away from just a relationship manager (RM) model-driven engagement to a multi-stakeholder model where we have active interactions between teams from both sides across the business, product, technology, analytics, and operations teams, etc. Direct interaction and engagement help the teams build greater trust, solve problems faster, and achieve business growth through greater collaboration.
Name some areas where you want your partner engagement to be highly variable. How are the partners responding to this requirement?
Lendingkart’s ‘2gthr’ lenders marketplace brings lenders and originators on a common platform. By setting up a bridge between these organizations, we enable large lenders to evaluate the business models of smaller fintech firms and make informed decisions about whether to invest in or partner with them. This helps large lenders stay ahead of the curve and access new technologies and services that can help them better serve their customers. At the same time, our platform provides smaller fintech companies with the opportunity to access capital and gain exposure to a larger audience, helping them scale and grow their businesses.
This arrangement allows lenders to evaluate and experiment with new offerings, and new customer segments that they were previously not able to serve.
You need feedback from clients of the partner you are evaluating – how is that mechanism changing? Do you ask for references or case studies?
We obtain referrals through a variety of ways which include direct personal connections with the clients of a potential partner, inquiries, or even online case studies. The key is to get a sense of the impact the partner has been able to achieve. We also often conduct a short pilot or proof of concept of the proposed offering.
Have you looked at the mission and vision of your prospective partner? How has that affected your partnership engagement?
It’s important for organizations to carefully consider the mission and vision of their prospective partners when deciding whether to engage in a partnership. This can help ensure that the partnership is a good fit and that both organizations are committed to working towards common goals. It can also help to ensure that the partnership is sustainable and mutually beneficial in the long term. This also helps in making sure that the partnership is not individual-centric but has the support of the organization from both sides. If that is not in place, I have seen a significant impact because of change in the key position of an individual and that has an impact on the success of the overall partnership.
What kind of perspectives are you including in a partnership so that the termination happens smoothly?
a) Communication: Establishing open and regular communication is important for maintaining a healthy partnership. This can help organizations address any issues that may arise and work together to find solutions.
b) Mutual benefit: Partnerships should be based on mutual benefit, with both organizations receiving value from the relationship. This can help ensure that both parties are committed to the partnership and are less likely to end it prematurely.
c) Flexibility: Being open to change and adapting to the evolving needs of the partnership can help organizations maintain a healthy and productive relationship.
d) Exit strategy: Organizations need to plan for the eventual end of a partnership, even if they hope it will be a long-term relationship. This can include establishing an exit strategy that outlines the steps that will be taken if the partnership ends, such as transferring assets or intellectual property.