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NIMF: Deep analytics embedded in all digital assets

Nippon India Mutual Fund is adding close to 30,000 new users on its apps and website every month:

NIMF: Deep analytics embedded in all digital assets

Nippon India Mutual Fund (NIMF) is one of India’s leading mutual funds, with presence in 270 locations across the country. Arpanarghya Saha is Chief Digital Officer at the company; he provides the insightful updates in the digital strategy and progress of the company.

Mehul Dani: What were the changes made in the digital strategy for customers of your company in FY 2022-23? What are the key benefits?

Arpanarghya Saha: We at NIMF believe that our digital strategy is the north star that needs to be followed loyally and consistently to build a high growth and sustainable business. Our strategy, which revolves around creating a future ready, digital centric business, has 3 core pillars:

1) User growth which focuses on building strong online presence to acquire and engage investors across the digital geography of this country, developing sharper customer understanding, and creating comprehensive campaign frameworks to drive engagement and business outcomes.

2) Virtual distribution which is about developing and nurturing strong relationships by being the partner of choice in the distribution and fintech ecosystem, exploring green-field opportunities with first-mover execution, and building digital acumen amongst conventional salesforces.

3) Digital products & platforms which strives to create differentiated and impactful digital experiences and journeys that are geared up to onboard and serve multitudes of investors in line with their digital acumen & preferences.

While our core strategy remains cast in stone, we do keep altering our tactics and tweak our executional levers in the relevant pillar or pillars in response to market dynamics, external challenges & factors, and internal needs. Such tweaks and changes form a part of our business plans that we create, review, and recalibrate on a periodic basis.

In the FY 2022-23, digital continued its streak of steady growth for NIMF amongst uncertainty across global markets as well as across the domestic front. While digital contribution to overall NIMF purchase transactions stood at 65%, our digital average assets under management (AAUM) grew by a healthy 22% over the FY2021-22. However, since this strategy is our north star and we pursue it with a long-term view, here is a testimony to our persistence: In the last 4-5 years, we have grown our AAUM by a staggering 126% and grown our purchase & SIP transactions by 3X.

Please describe underlying technologies of your company. How are your data models created?

Our organization relies primarily on 2 technologies for all our assets – Angular for websites and ReactJS for our apps. All such assets have deep analytics tracking embedded in them through which the investor journeys are tracked and measured, and top and bottom of the funnel reviewed and analyzed constantly to course correct and optimize assets and campaigns. Extensive data models are created based on segments, user behavior and customer preferences. Our buying patterns, propensity models, use cases and cross-sell / up-sell models are built, delivered via campaign frameworks and real-time on-asset interventions and nudges. Our chatbots use ML technologies to understand intents and appropriately respond to requests accurately.

Apart from these, we have built a robust ecosystem that has a myriad of technology enablers as crucial support pillars like eKYC powered new customer onboarding module, identification and authentication capabilities, digital business enablers (for platform analytics, media buying, placements, campaign management, on-asset experience delivery, and real-time connected data intelligence) and an extensive & reliable payments framework supported by leading payment gateway service providers.

What are the usage patterns of your apps and digital platforms?

We have best-in-class apps and websites which are highly rated and loved by the investors and distributors who use them. Our all-new investor app has a consistent rating of 4.6 on Google Playstore, while the distributor facing Business Easy 2.0 is rated at 4.5, which we believe is outstanding for a B2B app. On an average, we have around a million aggregate visitors on our own assets every month currently and this number is bound to grow as we are adding close to 25-30K new users on our apps and website every month.

How much business approximately was garnered online by your company in 2022-23?

Digital Business as a separate vertical was constituted about 5 years back at NIMF and over time has grown to be a profitable SBU. As we speak, more than 57% of the purchase and new SIP registrations of NIMF are done by the Digital Business vertical.

In terms of acquisition, digital currently contributes for over 50% of the new investors added to the organisation in the MF business with a significant number coming from tier 2, tier 3 and beyond cities, capitalizing on the expansive reach provided by digital platforms. Going by locations, metros and semi metros like Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, etc, continue to be the largest cities in absolute numbers. However, much more participation actually comes tier 2 & 3 cities, where the percentage of transactions happening digitally is far higher than in terms of the tier 1 cities.

How have you brought distributors, agents, into fold of your digital strategy?

Our digital strategy places a dedicated and sharp focus towards digitizing our distribution channels. From empowering the conventional distributors to creating deep integrations with new age fintechs, we have in place a complete stack of technology-based solutions that help us advent into the market with digitally empowered distribution force.

Our industry-first Business Easy 2.0 suite is a full-spectrum, business-enabling digital solutions suite for our traditional/conventional MF distributors (MFDs) and serves as a full business enablement & customer relationship management tool for them. It functions as a digital branch which distributors can use to run their mutual fund business virtually right from onboarding, to sales, and subsequently service. The suite consists of a mobile app and a website and is now widely acknowledged for assisting distributors in providing complete client servicing access by digitally empowering this distribution work force and converting the erstwhile FOS (Feet on Street) to the more contemporary FOS (Fingers on Screen).

For our partners in the new-age distribution / fintech platforms space, we have a comprehensive tech stack with an all-encompassing API deck which gives us a plug-and-play integration capability. This, along with strong tech and service support facilitates end-to-end digital procedures in line with all stages of the investor lifecycle, from onboarding through transactions and subsequent servicing and repeat purchase.

How have digital-online initiatives contributed to increasing business and profit?

Today, our Digital Business is a fully profitable unit which has shown a 5X growth in profits in the last 5 years! Last FY itself the profit from Digital Business grew by 40%. This exponential growth story has been all encompassing with all business parameters scaling unprecedented charts, be it number of transactions which has grown 3x over the last 5 years or an increase of 126% in AAUM or 68% growth in new business transactions, all in a period of 5 years only. Also, we have witnessed 2X+ AAUM growth over the last 5 years.

Who are your top 3 tech vendors and what are their services? What is the capex and opex for digital initiatives of your company for the last FY?

Technology team is the most important pillar for the digital team. The technology strategy for a year or period is decided with digital as the core. Our biggest 3 technology vendors are: IBM, which is our Application Partner, Kyndryl, which is our infrastructure partner and K-Fintech, which is our digital operations backbone. The opex across the organization remains in line with last FY. The capex is about 25% additional and has seen a growth of around 5% y/y over the last 3 years.

Brief us about your data centre, IT team and training provided to upgrade the skill set of team members?

The datacenter is a tier 4, third party managed co-location upon which we have built a highly virtualized private cloud. We also have deployments on public cloud that hosts its analytics engine and certain support software.

The technology team is made of 8 core members owning and managing various verticals of the IT organization across application, infrastructure, and services. The team is supported by 40 to 50 consultants primarily from the big 3 partners, who help areas of support, enhancement, and innovation.

The core team are in a continuous learning mode by way of on-the-job training, soft skills and technology formal coaching supported by HR, participating in various seminars and technology meetings and conventions to upgrade skills and also on the lookout for innovation and technology game changers that will provide the organization with the necessary edge over the market.

How have you gained by deploying analytics to increase business? How is technology put to use for CRM? What are you doing to enhance CX?

Being one of the oldest AMCs in the country and with a folio count upwards of 20 million, we are probably the only AMC which has access to such a large trove of data. Our data sciences and analytics practice enable us to comprehend user behavior, customer preferences and buying patterns. It helps us drive deeper interactions and forge more meaningful relationships with our customers. With propensity models, sharp segmentations, and cross-sell & up-sell frameworks, we leverage such enablers to fuel exponential growth.

Our endeavour is to leverage this data goldmine and drive meaningful insights and interpretations to help our investors take more informed and better decisions, help us as an organisation in personalising customer experience, developing products that stem from real and astute needs, and drive more meaningful engagement with customers so as to forge stronger relationships, drive loyalty and earn repeat business.

What are your targets and plans for IT and digital initiatives to increase business and customer base? To what extent technology will be an enabler in the foreseeable future for your company?

We firmly believe in the ‘Customer First’ ethos and from there flow our actions and plans. Our belief is that if we provide great experience to our investors by building trust and being responsible for them, then our business will grow certainly. This year, and for the next few, our focus will be to leverage the potential of digital technology to the optimum to create authentic moments of engagement with our customers, provide timely and helpful guidance in decision making and strive to give them the right product fit backed by robust data analytics while maintaining the highest levels of privacy and security. Apart from these, we will always strive to use technology for driving innovation across the spectrum and to bring in efficiencies wherever possible.

Technology is and will continue to be the cornerstone of our future business model and plans, from our advent into real Bharat riding on the ever-growing vernacular technology stack, to smarter and sharper data analytics and insights, to hyper-personalization and precise recommendations.

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