This column is authored by Prateek Mehta, CEO, Upwardly
Financial advisory startup Upwardly.in (Triskaidekaphillia Solutions Pvt. Ltd) has raised an undisclosed amount in seed funding from a clutch of senior finance industry executives to drive growth and traction.
Upwardly’s bouquet of investors include Sreeram Iyer, chief operating officer at ANZ Bank for 20 countries, Suvo Sarkar, senior executive vice-president and group head, retail banking and wealth management at Emirates NBD, and Anita Gupta, head of equity strategy at Emirates NBD, Likemind Ventures, Namit Sureka (Partner Inductis), Gaurav Bhalotia (Ex VP, Flipkart).
Who are we ?
Upwardly.in is a ‘pay now, buy later’ platform designed to assist the financially uninitiated to discover structured wealth creation and help them bridge the gap between their savings and aspirations. We want to offer good financial planning and investment advice, which is available only to the top 0.5% of the population, at scale using technology.
The founding team comprises of leaders from investment banking, wealth management, capital markets, consumer business and e-commerce with a combined experience of 60+ years. We are an alumni of Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Citibank, Coca-Cola, Dell, Myntra & UrbanLadder.
The Team behind Upwardly.in
Prateek Mehta (Co-Founder & CEO) has built and managed 1000 cr+ businesses and has diverse experience across industries. Has played Leadership roles in Indian E-commerce at Myntra (SVP), Zovi (President) & Operational roles in Fortune 50 companies like Dell & Citibank. Has a strong experience in scaling Businesses & operations. Leads a dual life as a Part time runner & father. Believes that the absence of right consumer experience is the reason why Indians do not invest. He is an alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad (MBA) and IIT Bombay (B Tech).
Vivek Agarwal (Co-founder) is a seasoned financial industry professional and battle hardened veteran of last three cycles in the capital markets. He has spent 15+ years in Financial services Citibank, Indiabulls, JP Morgan. Set up and scaled Stock broking operations, New product initiatives for Indiabulls. Has a strong experience in building winning portfolio strategies, operations and processes. He is an alumnus of FMS, Delhi (MBA) and IIT BHU (B Tech).
Prithvi Raj Tejavath (Co-Founder) is a serial entrepreneur with a deep understanding of consumer needs and psyche. He was Founder & CEO BuynBrag.com, acquired by UrbanLadder in 2014. He was part of the Leadership team at UrbanLadder.com (VP, Category & Growth; Sourcing). Has played senior roles in Sales, Marketing & BD in MNCs like Coca Cola and Diageo. He is an alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad (MBA) and IIT Roorkee (B Tech).
Shashank Agrawal (Co-Founder) is a Veteran FinTech professional with 15+ yrs experience in building enterprise-scale technology solutions for large investment banks – ANZ, Barclays Capital, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley. He comes with strong expertise in Product Management and Engineering. He is an alumnus of IIT Delhi (B Tech).
What are we upto?
Indians save about 30% of their earnings and they park their savings in FDs, gold and Insurance linked products. Most of the country is under-served and under-serviced when it comes to financial advice. The current estimation on this is about $50 Bn USD in savings corpus and 15-20 Million households (1 Household = 5 persons on an average).
As investors, we have felt that the financial products with their caveats are difficult to understand. Then there are more that 12000 products to choose from. More importantly, as our personal context changed with events like marriage, job changes, kids, promotions, entrepreneurship, our financial needs also changed and the ability of a financial advisor to help us (in case we had one) was also weak. For a layman, it becomes difficult to navigate all of this and they choose not to invest at all.
We are creating a platform that helps a user understand financial products and compare it to fixed deposits on returns, risks, tax etc parameters. From the current feedback that we have received, our users like our mutual fund research engine more than Moneycontrol.com and Value Research. Users can search in English, Hindi, Gujarati and Telugu on our platform.
Our platform help people create portfolios that beat FDs and save taxes under the 80C provision as of now. Users can also buy Mutual funds directly post looking up specific or a set of funds.
Upwardly not only solves the problem of entry for investment but also solves the problem of ongoing portfolio management and profit booking.
At the core of what we do is to help people meet their aspirations whether they are short term or long term. Our consumers spend a significant amout of time creating and setting up their goals on the platform.
Where are we?
We are seeing good consumer traction with thousands of consumers coming to the Upwardly.in platform on a daily basis. We get 50-60K unique users on a monthly basis
Our flagship product is the ‘Dreams Engine’ where consumers will be able to set-up their individual goals/ aspirations on our platform. Our platform is currently one of the most convenient platforms to transact on. We start at as low as 500 INR. You can set-up an account and start investing in 5 minutes on Upwardly. Our users have created thousands of goals on our platform till date.
Who would benefit from the product?
All individuals and small companies that are under-serviced or non-serviced will benefit from this product. The big push is towards the segment that deploys most of their savings in FDs, Gold and Insurance. We are targeting the uninitiated and the e-Commerce savvy generation of today. We are focussed at 25-40 age group that saves yet has a profound gap between their savings and aspirations.
Where are we available?
While, the product can be used across the country, we are focussing on some of the large and youthful professional hubs/ cities to start off. We will extend the focus to the next 40 cities, as this industry is besotted with massive distribution inefficiencies. To illustrate, the top 8 cities contributed to 82% of the Mutual fund industry last yr. This is in sharp contrast to the e-Commerce industry, that get 55-60% of the demand from the non-metros. We believe that the distribution is not in line with the growth of affluence and need of quality financial products in the country and we want to address the same.
We currently have customers from Imphal to Jaiselmer, Kashmir to Dindigul! We have had some foreign nationals wanting to invest in India as well coming on to the platform
Why do we exist?
As individuals and investors, we have given a lot of thought to the problems in this industry.
- I do not have the time to think and research financial products, can I do it without getting overwhelmed by the choice and information?
- I do not trust the banker/ CA/ Advisor trying to sell these products to be today. Is there someone who is transparent and can be taken at face value?
- I know my life / financial goals but I do not understand financial products to start investing.
- I do not know where to start outside the triumvirate of FDs, Insurance and gold. Who can help?
- Real estate, as an investment does not seem to work any more’. It is too expensive to buy a home/ flat. Need an alternate!
- My life, financial status and goals keep changing as I get married, get kids or when I/ my spouse takes a break from the job. How should I plan for these?
- My savings are never enough to get me what I really want (Luxury, travel, car etc.). Can I do better at my current income levels with getting into the EMI trap?
- What is the right set of financial products to invest in? Why do I need to do all this paperwork?
- When should one invest in Mutual funds and when should one divest/ book profits?
These are some of the questions every individual thinks of at some point in time. Given the changes that most 25-40 year olds go through because of live events, professional changes or changes in personal preferences, if there is an intelligent tool, that could help them navigate these realities, it would be a great enabler.
We believe technology can be that great enabler to manage this complexity, and make it a lot easier to manage their aspirations and financial goals.
How are we approaching this?
We have broken the problem into two aspects of Financial Product and consumer demand. We deeply understand the discipline, best practices of investing and the consumer psyche and its nuances by needs, goals, stage-of-life, market conditions and macro-economic environment.
We have developed proprietary machine learning and AI (artificial intelligence) models that analyse a high number of underlying variables and help pick the winning portfolio strategies for our customers. We use the eponymous MPT (Published by the Nobel Prize winning Harry Markowitz) and Goal-based asset allocation to suggest the right Debt-Equity mix for the context, needs and wants of the consumers.
We will also use deep AI linking to understand the context, background and impact of life events on the financial needs and life aspirations of the consumers and suggest the products that make sense for our consumers.
Indians love to save. We have a 31% savings rate with the average household savings rate at 24%. As a matter of fact we have about 50 Lakh Crores INR being wasted in savings and fixed deposit accounts. The size (AUM) of the insurance investment industry is close to 26 Lakh crores.
Additionally, India continues to remain a young country with 65% of the population below the age of 35 years. We are expecting another 10-15 Lakh crores to be generated by our target group as investible surplus over the next 5 years.
Given the coverage of financial products, we are in a state where most of the consumers are not even approached by a banker/ advisor. There are hardly any bankers, relationship managers/ advisors who understand the complex financial products they are selling.