Pushkar Mukewar is the Co-Founder and CEO of Drip Capital. At Drip, he is responsible for defining the strategic direction and managing the product, business development, and operations of the company. In his 13-years-long career, he has worked across various geographies and has an in-depth understanding of the global financial services industry. Pushkar realized the huge potential of addressing the working capital gap for small businesses in emerging economies and this became his inspiration behind starting Drip Capital in 2016. Drip offers a unique trade financing product targeted towards small businesses engaged in cross-border trade by making the underwriting and financing of international B2B transactions seamless.
The pandemic did not impede India from achieving its merchandise exports target of US$ 400 billion; a goal crossed days ahead of its schedule in the financial year 2021-22. The growth story, however, does not end here, nor is this a prelude to the gradual rise of cross-border trade in the country.
Transformation is not just a keyword to be used to ramp up interest and views, but in reality, we are in a time where technology is rapidly boosting trade. MSMEs, are an integral component of the supply chain and contribute about 40% of the overall exports, covering high-growth sectors like textiles, food processing, chemicals, and electrical or equipment industries. By using technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), which assist MSMEs in automating operations and competing in the market, small companies are changing the ways of conducting businesses.
Fintech: Laying the path for MSMEs
Financing MSMEs has always been a significant challenge, and covid has seemed to put the brakes on this segment for the last couple of years. However, this disruption unearthed a new reality where technology and digital opportunities seemed to abound.
Analysts and governments have identified a finance gap of $1.5 trillion across Asian MSMEs, with India holding a significant chunk of that number. And industry experts are relying on the fintech space to bridge this gap.
MSMEs are drawn toward fintech because they have the technology to conduct their due diligence and identify the creditworthiness of the businesses. The process is less time-consuming and far more accurate than traditional paper-driven practice. Hence, fintech companies are less hesitant to extend collateral-free capital and can offer cross-border solutions at a lower cost.
In fact, the MSME Digital Readiness Survey 2022 indicated that after two years since the pandemic stormed our country, 52% (more than half) of small businesses saw a positive impact on their business as economies reopened post-pandemic. Adding to that, 29% of MSMEs observed that the environment now favored online sales, and for 31%, the cross-border opportunity looked optimistic.
The bottom line
Despite improvements in trade owing to technological advancement, scaling up industry 4.0 technologies remain a challenge. The chances to lessen these difficulties are being presented by financing and leadership. Digital solutions such as cloud and SaaS-based solutions outsource non-core activities and reduce upfront and fixed costs. The cost of quality inspection and rework/defects can be decreased with AI-based computer vision. Also, even big data analytics can help lessen risk impact.
The use of blockchain technology in trade financing is proving to be very effective in that settlements are made possible by a framework for Letters of Credit (LoCs). Blockchain has been utilized to verify double financing in TReDS, causing the lowering of the cost of borrowing. Fintech plays a significant role in this situation when it comes to offering goods and services with transparency, security, and real-time merchant tracking.
The RBI has also been proactive in pushing the growth of MSME and fintech companies with the announcement of a separate fintech department aimed to respond to innovations and roadblocks that these businesses might face. Initially offering only payments, fintech firms are now turning up the game by bringing in elements of BFSI like loans, where NBFCs and fintech companies give a significant percentage compared to banks.
Fintech is ushering in a time that no economic landscape has witnessed. With data and technology taking the helm in fintech firms, Indian MSMEs are at the cusp of conquering new horizons.