Report from VC Finch Capital suggests that the crisis could ultimately end up benefiting the fintech industry by accelerating the rush to digitization. COVID-19 pandemic is expected to change how society behaves and make digital-only the new norm for financial services. While funding and investment will experience a dip given the global economic slowdown, fintech companies could see more demand from businesses as they switch to more digital solutions.
To discuss the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Fintech sector and the challenges and opportunities, we got on a call with Avinash Godkhindi, CEO and MD, Zaggle, a fintech company digitizing spends to unlock value and drive business growth.
Avinash talks about the sudden rise in demand for digital financial solutions and discusses if the trend is here to stay.
How is COVID-19 shaking up the Fintech Industry? What are some challenges and what are some opportunities to have emerged from this global crisis?
For any company, ‘people’ is the most critical aspect. The reality is that with the COVID-19 outbreak and the lockdown active in the entire country, teams are working from home and there is a certain amount of disruption is the way we work definitely. As a leader you wish your people to work closely, engage with each other, share ideas and collaborate but those things become a little tougher when you are doing it from a physically separated place. While the new work from home setup is a challenge it is a new normal now and we are getting used to the new ways.
Through virtual calls and messages we ensure that we stay connected like before. In fact businesses have now realized that working remotely can also be effective. I feel even when things start to get better people would be working from home maybe two day a week, 3 days a week. People at work are finally understanding how to be predictive without going to the office every day.
There are some who are comfortable with this set up. But then there are others for them it’s more challenging. Others like me thrive from the energy of the team so I love the fact that I can actually meet people in person. So personally I feel that is something that is missing.
The second challenge is the global economic slowdown and the joblessness the pandemic has led to. If the situation continues the impact could be adverse. As we can see the economic powers are struggling and this could further percolate down to other countries and businesses might be at more risk.
How the current crisis has impacted business on the ground is that it is changing the way people work and urging them to shift their mindset and change their behaviors. Interactions are moving online. Digital services providers are experiencing a surge in demand, creating more opportunities.
Businesses need to invest in more digital solutions is good news for us. Our focus has always been on digitization.
Do you predict a rise in demand of Fintech companies? Do you think this trend is here to stay?
Businesses are figuring out how to engage with their customers, employees, channel partners, and vendors, digitally. They are now looking for robust tech platforms to take care of their financial management needs and this where we can come in and help them.
For instance, we have experienced a 300 percent hike in demand for virtual cards. This card is essentially only usable for online transactions. And we have seen a dramatic increase in demand for them. While we have been wanting to promote this and figure out ways in which we can show companies how it can benefit them to enhance employees’ experience, the current crisis accelerated this promotion itself.
As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. Businesses are now looking for different digital solutions because meeting people physically is now restricted. Business and HR leaders are looking for digital solutions across employees lifecycle, whether it's for hiring, learning or rewards and recognition. While the need for digital solutions and the digital transformation journey for many companies had started already, this COVID-19 crisis has further accelerated it.
Once people realize that so much can be done digitally, they will get habituated and continue to avail these services. So the trend is probably here to stay and this is the opportunity for fintech companies like us to bank on these opportunities and help companies to sail through the tough times and entire digitization process.
How does the current COVID-19 crisis and the shift in demand for fintech solutions change your business priorities?
As of now we have been focusing on both offline and online financial solutions. But as we sense and predict demand for more digital solutions in the future, our focus will be on enhancing our pool of digital financial solutions. Businesses are looking for innovative and easy ways to engage with their various stakeholders and we will help them solve these challenges with a variety of solutions through our platform.
Currently we use deep tech and AI to provide platform solutions to businesses for expense management and employee reimbursements as well as for rewards & recognition. We will continue this endeavour and focus more on digital solutions.
Are the HR teams ready for this change? How can they prepare?
Traditionally there have been two types of companies, one forward thinking who have been ahead of the curve and adopted the new ways of working already and are already on the path of digitization. But there are other businesses which are still comfortable with their old ways of working and have not moved away from their traditional models yet. But now businesses across sectors have been arm-twisted to look for innovative solutions and adopt newer ways of working.
The change was always coming. The inflexion point has been this lockdown. Digital adoption, however, has to be driven by behavior change. HR typically in our experience in any type of organization has been trying to find a balance. They are happy to move onto a digital platform if it's easy to use for the employee. The behavioral change that this lockdown will lead to among India Inc will now only empower the HR and they will have a greater voice to push these digital solutions to the leadership.
It was bound to come. Digital is the way. Digital is the future. It is the present. But the lockdown has only accelerated that.
From a talent perspective, how are you coping with the current crisis?
Like everyone else, we as an organization are also coping through this phase of crisis. To empower our workforce amidst these tough times we did something very innovative, and a good model for companies to possibly replicate. We gave something called a COVID Bonus, a bonus worth INR 10,000 to all our employees. This was given to help them cope with this disruption and enable them to have all resources in place to start working from home.