Online financial marketplace Bankbazaar.com is expanding internationally with specific focus on Singapore. The company has engaged Aman Narain, a digital banking veteran to lead the expansion as CEO, BankBazaar International. Narain outlines the initiatives he intends to make:
- Mohan: BankBazaar.com has announced an ambitious expansion plan, especially targeting
customers outside India. Can you share details of this plan? Which are the countries that you propose to include in this plan and why?
Aman Narain: BankBazaar.com recently opened an office in Singapore as the headquarters for our international expansion plans. My team and I are focussed on launching our first international market in Singapore as well as expanding across South East Asia, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines, in the next two years. We are also looking at launching services in the Middle East – the UAE.
How is BankBazaar.com equipped to operate in these countries as these countries have different regulatory norms, marketing practices and risk profiles?
We have built deep experience in India having integrated with 85 financial institutions and insurance companies, many of them international firms operating in India. We adhere to regulatory and compliance standards of all these partner organizations as well as the regulatory bodies. With the experience of solving complex distribution challenges in India, we believe we are uniquely positioned to create value as a financial services marketplace in other markets across Asia. We have a highly qualified and experienced team of industry experts to ensure that we not just meet the varying needs for regulatory and marketing practices regionally but also help in setting the standard for them in time as member of the financial services community, as we have done in India.
What sort of products do you intend to offer in these counties? BankBazaar.com has four main verticals – loans, cards, insurance and investments. Will this remain for the foreign markets too? Which would be the predominant business and why?
All our products and services in the India marketplace are built on a standardized model with the intention of scaling internationally. In time, we intend to offer a full suite of retail banking products from an exhaustive range of banks and non-banking financial institutions (NBFIs) like we do today in India. However, given the fact that we need to phase our growth and get the model right before driving expansion, we will be focused on the unsecured lending space (credit cards and personal loans) and then expand to other asset and liabilities products. We are very keen to offer insurance and wealth management capabilities like we do in India, and are studying the regulatory requirements for us to be able to do this in an efficient way that creates transparency and access for customers visiting our marketplace and efficiency for the financial institutions we serve.
What are the plans for offering products relating to the insurance sector?
We believe we are well placed to create significant value for both customers who need help finding the right product for them and insurance providers looking to expand their digital distribution and access points. Like India, many of the markets we operate in have very clear guidelines on how we can operate.We are currently studying these to understand how we can provide this service to customers from an end-to-end marketplace perspective.
Will the target audience be majorly people of Indian origin?
No. BankBazaar.com as company is proudly Indian but also fiercely international in the way we operate. We have always been speaking about enabling and simplifying choices when it comes to personal finance, and that is not constrained by nationality or ethnic origin. We intend to become a part of the fabric of the communities we operate in.
How will technology help in this endeavor?
As a fintech company, technology is at the coreof everything we do. Our technology has enabled us to develop systems and processes that provide high levels of security and data confidentiality. We have developed an adaptable modular platform that can scale up quickly, making integration with partner platforms simple, quick, and hassle-free. This ensures a smooth transition between our platform and that of the partner institution, making the process seamless for our end customers. This ease of shopping for financial products online just like any other consumer product, coupled with excellent security, is what makes the difference.
How do you view competition in these target markets?
In many of our planned markets, there are a lot of small and few regional comparison shopping sites offering customers basic capabilities. We welcome these sites as they create awareness about accessing financial services products online. However, we intend to build an end-to-end financial services marketplace with an online platform that integrates more deeply with the financial companies’ platform to go a few steps further and provide customers a picture of their eligibility for products as well as help them complete the purchase of these products on our marketplace. This is no doubt a harder path to take but we think it is the right one as it creates long-term value, as we have seen in India, for both customers and financial services companies that partner with us. And in doing so we intend to be Asia’s first and largest financial services marketplace.
While you foray into foreign markets, how do you consider the domestic market? Is it anywhere near saturation?
The Indian market is nowhere near saturation. The Indian market, especially in tier2 and tier3 cities and the rural areas are still very much underserved. However, the proliferation of the mobile and the internet has the potential to rewrite this situation. Currently, the number of internet users in India is estimated at 400 million. This number is growing at a rate of 31% per year with the number of mobile internet users growing at more than 50% yoy. Right now, we see 50 lakh visitors to our site every month on an average. This has grown from 30 lakhs at the beginning of the year. Essentially, we have tapped only a very small percentage of the market and there is so much more to do in India. So there is a lot of space for not just growth but double-digit growth.
Finally, will you be recommending products? If so how do you decide on the products for recommendation? What is the role of technology in this?
BankBazaar.com’s biggest USP is that it is a neutral financial marketplace. The offers presented to the customers are based on only the customers’ profiles and repayment capabilities. Also the financial products are the purview of the individual financial institutions. BankBazaar.com facilitates and automates the processes and hand-holds the customers throughout the lifecycle of the purchase.