A number of Indian micro-entrepreneurs, especially in rural areas, still do not have access to formal credit. Though there’s a large addressable market, institutional lenders have shied away from capitalizing on the space.
Not that there haven’t been initiatives to address this gap, but micro-entrepreneurs are often forced to rely on informal lenders who charge exorbitant interest rates.
Rang De, a Bengaluru-based fintech firm, is making efforts to tackle this problem with a more refined version of peer-to-peer (P2P) lending. The startup helps micro-entrepreneurs, especially from the underserved spectrum, raise funds from social investors at reasonable interest rates. The objective is to help improve financial inclusion and enable micro-entrepreneurs better their credit scores.
After people sign up on the platform, they can begin directly investing in a fund or entrepreneur of their choice. Once the desired amount is fully funded through these investments, the sum is directly transferred to the entrepreneur’s bank account.
When entrepreneurs repay the amount as EMI, investors receive Rang De Credit on their dashboard. This credit can be reinvested or withdrawn to the investor’s bank account.
Rang De had originally started as a non-profit but later pivoted to P2P NBFC.
“We debated the change with board members, mentors, advisors, and our social investors, and were overwhelmed by the encouraging responses and abundance of support. Many of our lenders came forward to register themselves as equity investors,” Rang De co-founder Smita Ram told Entrackr.
She disclosed that Rang De in its non-profit avatar raised and disbursed over Rs 80 crores as social investments. Since the pivot in 2019, it has disbursed more than Rs 47 crore to entrepreneurs, farmers, artisans, and others through 15,000 loans.
“Rang De has a unique model of working with partner organizations (that are involved in livelihood development) and together we build support systems for borrowers that ensure high repayment rates of up to 95% and lowers the risk taken by lenders,” she added.
The co-founder further said that the company is looking to scale up the number of loans: disbursing over Rs 200 crores in the next two years.
While the pandemic had slowed down the company’s scaling-up process, it is now expediting the work of identifying and helping individuals from the underserved spectrum. It’s also looking to expand its geographic presence to tap into the Northeast and southern parts of the country. However, the expansion will be in line with the core focus of assisting people in rural areas.
P2P lending has long been considered a viable solution to bring financial inclusion as it helps provide credit without the need for collateral or credit history. And it’s a big market too – forecast to reach $10.5 billion by 2026. Even though there are quite a few P2P lending firms in India, Rang De stands out with its focus on the rural economy, and potential to create a social impact.