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This start-up offers niche fintech products for middle-income households

Topics Fintech sector | Startups

From left: Jodo founders Raghav Nagarajan, Atulya Bhat and Koustav Dey
The trinity of smartphone, internet and data has given a massive push to fintech innovation in the country. Consumers are not only paying bills online but booking investments, securing loans, and creating transactional businesses over the internet.

However, the canvas is so large – only half of India’s 1.3 billion population is on the internet – that start-ups are looking at offerings more attuned to people’s needs.

That is where Jodo comes in. Jodo is an early-stage fintech start-up set up by former Matrix Partners VCs and is built on the idea that that financial products – whether saving or lending - must be inherently tied to the end goal.

For salaried borrowers, it is easy to secure a loan as there are multiple sources like banks and non-banking financial institutes. But wouldn’t it add value if the loan service actually helps in some way achieve the goal it was intended for, asks Jodo co-founder Atulya Bhat.

“Currently, most financial products offered by formal financial institutions are disconnected from the end use-case of that financial product. Most products are one-size-fits-all offered to everyone with diverse needs, hence fail to fully meet the said need,” says Jodo co-founder Atulya Bhat.

Take the example of Bajaj Finance. The NBFC solved a massive problem- it enabled big-ticket EMI purchases by buyers who did not have a credit card. It did this by directly tying up with electronic chains like Tata Croma. This made the discovery of Bajaj Finance EMI service easier and also helped drive more buying for stores like Croma—A win win.

Jodo’s approach is on similar lines. Its first product is a school-fee payment plan for middle-income households. Children’s school fee is a major expense and often paid quarterly, or at regular intervals set by the school. Jodo gives the flexibility to pay school fees monthly, or in instalments as seen fit, and also offers the flexibility to delay payments occasionally. On its part, Jodo will ensure that it pays the school at the right time.

This makes Jodo a lending play but there is a kicker here. The start-up is offering the service at zero percent interest charged to the consumer.

“If you tie a lending product with the end use-case, you are able to offer incredible benefit to consumers—benefits that they actually want,” says Bhat. Jodo is essential earning a small fee from the schools, which are paying the start-up in return for revenue visibility and getting the cash upfront. “If schools get fees up front, it’s a big advantage as they are able to manage the year’s expenses, like renovation or upgradations, better,” he says.

The insight was derived from tireless interviews with consumers. Bhat and his team conducted an eight=month-long research, interviewing over 1,000 salaried families, before building the school product. The groundwork is advising Jodo launch more products. It is planning a savings product for healthcare expenses that are not covered by traditional insurance.

It helps that the team comes with a sound grounding in finance and fintech. Before Jodo, Bhat and his two co-founders – Raghav Natrajan and Koustav Dey – were at Matrix Partners, a venture capital firm, where Bhat and Dey focused on fintech deals. Bhat has earlier worked with Nomura and Goldman Sachs, and Natarajan and Dey have stints across Edelweiss and Morgan Stanley respectively.

For now, Jodo is a use-case based lender, working on both lending and saving products in areas like education and health. The aim is to re-imagine products from scratch keeping people’s lives in focus, says Bhat. The startup is currently bootstrapped.

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