Tala to develop mass-market crypto products for emerging markets, says founder Shivani Siroya

KV Kurmanath Hyderabad | Updated on October 15, 2021

Shivani Siroya, Founder, Tala

The platform has registered more than half-a-million sign up since its launch in India

Shivani Siroya founded Tala to offer loans to the underbanked, including small businesses in countries like Kenya, the Phillipines, Mexico and India.

The US-based fintech firm has raised $145 million in Series-E, taking the total funds raised so far to $350 million. In an email interview, Tala Founder-CEO Shivani speaks on the seven-year-old firm’s activities and expansion plans.

1) Where did you get the idea to launch the products for a market segment which is considered to be risky and difficult to tackle with?

While working for the United Nations Population Fund, I interviewed thousands of people in developing countries to understand their financial habits and needs. I learned that most of them had reliable financial capacity, but no way to prove it to formal institutions, which prevented them from accessing the capital they needed to grow their businesses or better support their families.

Also read: Fintech firm Tala raises $145 m in Series-E round

It was a massive problem – some 300 crore people globally are considered financially underserved, and the unmet need for credit in developing countries is upwards of $2.1 trillion. I started brainstorming ways to capture the data generated by people’s daily lives to prove their potential, better assess their needs, and design a scalable, customised liquidity solution. And Tala started from there.

2) How big is Tala’s presence in India, portfolio of products, number of customers serving?

We officially entered India in March 2020, amidst the pandemic. What helped us was that we had previously been piloting a version of our app in the market and felt confident in our offering, so we pushed forward with our launch despite the impending economic downturn.

India is a key part of our global strategy. There’s a large unmet need for credit and hundreds of millions of financially underserved consumers that can benefit from Tala’s unique offering.

Since we launched, we’ve already had more than half a million users sign up for the platform. We are in the process of rolling out new types of credit that can be better customised to meet the working capital needs of business owners as well as a richer account experience.

3) When did you launch the platform?

We launched the consumer lending app in Kenya in 2014, becoming the first to offer unsecured loans via smartphone. We are currently operating across Kenya, the Philippines, India and Mexico.

Since launch in 2014, Tala has disbursed over $2.7 billion in credit to more than 60 lakh customers who use Tala loans to start and expand small businesses, pay school fees and bills, and build more stable financial lives. We are proud to be the largest non-bank lender in Kenya and the top digital lending app across our current markets.

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What started as a micro-lending app has evolved into a highly sophisticated end-to-end financial services platform that processes over $100 million in transactions monthly and bridges digital and cash ecosystems across multiple geographies.

4) How big is the opportunity in India, how is it growing?

India presents a massive market, 1.3 billion people and 800 million adults, with a widely unmet need for credit in a growing economy. The financial inclusion initiatives such as the Jan Dhan Yojana, the establishment of the Aadhaar national identity programme, the India Stack bolstering a growing digital financial infrastructure, and growing smartphone usage, India has a ripe environment for Tala’s mission and work.

5) What are going to do with the proceeds from the fresh round?

Tala will use the $145 million series-E funding to continue to roll out new digital account services and crypto solutions for the globally underbanked. Specifically, after successfully piloting a new, expanded financial account product, Tala is introducing more financial tools to help customers plan, save and grow. Tala will also work to develop one of the first mass-market crypto products for emerging markets to help make crypto solutions more affordable and equitable for those who need them most.

6) Any plans for an IPO?

Our immediate focus is to serve our customers and grow and further strengthen our brand in the markets we are present in.

7) What kind of product innovation Tala brought to the table?

Tala is unique as no other fintech company has the geographic breadth of Tala and no other fintech company is specifically serving this underbanked segment. Tala is leveraging its proprietary technology and customer trust, perfected over 7 years, to build a market-leading financial account experience.

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In 2014, Tala became the first in the world to offer unsecured loans via smartphone, instantly underwriting customers and disbursing credit entirely through an Android app. As the industry pioneer, we had to rebuild the value chain from the ground up – technologies that we can now leverage to offer a full suite of essential financial services.

Tala offers radically accessible financial tools such as personalised credit, savings, and payments to help customers manage their day-to-day needs, build financial resilience, and pursue both personal and financial goals with confidence.

Published on October 15, 2021

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