Jumia – Africa’s Alibaba and its IPO roller coaster

Feels like a long time since I posted an article on Africa. Every time I research to write about the African Fintech segment, I invariably stumble upon a story that leaves me with one emotion – hope. The youngest continent of the world is all about hope.

AFRICAEcommerce

Africa is a “mobile-first” market, where consumers access the internet from their mobile first. Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest per-capita mobile money accounts in the world. Financial Inclusion has been achieved at scale, that the number of mobile money accounts have gone past bank accounts. Most of the numbers are humble when compared to the China Juggernaut. But the opportunity to scale is immense with over 1 Billion consumers gradually moving to cities by 2050.

One African firm that has captured headlines in recent times is Jumia. In short, Jumia is said to be Africa’s Amazon and is the first African firm to list on the NYSE. They listed on NYSE on the 12th April this year, and saw their share price close 75% higher at close of business. The shares rose from $14.50 at listing to $46.99 in early May and was one of the top 10 performers of IPO’d shares of 2019. So why is an e-commerce player relevant to Fintech?

That seems to be the trend in emerging markets, as firms use e-commerce and lifestyle business models for growth, and throw in Fintech services as value add. Fintech also helps the stickiness and improves margins.

Jumia have launched their marketplace for 14 African markets. As per their SEC filing, Jumia they talk about their payments platform JumiaPay.

“We have also developed our own payment service, JumiaPay, in order to offer our consumers a safe, fast and easy payment solution, whether they shop using a desktop computer or a mobile device. JumiaPay is currently available in four markets”

For this very reason, I am not sure if they should be instead tagged “Africa’s Alibaba”. They also are catering to customers who prefer cash with on-delivery transactions. They had 81 thousand active sellers as of December 31, 2018 and over 29.5 million product listings on the marketplace.

Considering ~450 Million internet users in the continent, there is a huge market to conquer. Jumia claim they are currently the largest marketplace platform in the continent.

They have a competitor in DHL, who have launched an e-commerce platform. DHL’s logistics business has served as a catalyst of growth. They have launched in 20 African countries and are seen as formidable competition to Jumia. Alibaba are also dipping their toes into the African market, but haven’t yet taken a plunge like DHL.

The Jumia IPO day wasn’t just a big day for the firm, but should be viewed as a breakthrough for the continent’s business community, as they join main stream markets.

However, the IPO was shortly followed by a claim by Citron Research that alleged that “the firm was Fraudulent”, and their “shares were worthless”.

Jumia’s shares hit $24 in early May following these allegations. Citron research have a reputation for reports claiming such frauds in the past. Their strategy was to short the stocks and make quick bucks from the price action post the report. This has got them (Citron) into trouble in the past too.

An analyst in Citi came to Jumia’s defence with a detailed analysis of Citron’s claims. The gist of the defence was that Citron’s claims were baseless, and Jumia just had to respond to a couple of several claims with a bit more detailed disclosure.

  • Citi highlighted that it was not uncommon for firms to update their usage statistics before a key financing round
  • Citi suggested that Jumia should highlight the details of their churn, with plans to address it.
  • Several allegations of Fraud by Citron were pushed back by Citi, citing that Jumia had disclosed fraudulent employee activities in its SEC filing. Citron chose to interpret these disclosed incidents as fraud that the entire company and its management were involved in.
  • Several other points on Citron’s report on the growth of the firm were not just baseless, but contradicting to data that showed healthy growth of the firm.

We are going through a period where several emerging markets businesses are growing in stature and an IPO grabbing the headlines every week. These firms need to understand the importance of market transparency and disclosures. As financial services firms advise them with their IPO, they should also provide enough advise on the right framework for disclosure.

I am hopeful that Jumia has sailed through the initial blips post IPO, and I genuinely hope they become Africa’s Alibaba. Good times ahead for Africa.


Arunkumar Krishnakumar is a Venture Capital investor at Green Shores Capital focusing on Inclusion and a podcast host.

I have no positions or commercial relationships with the companies or people mentioned. I am not receiving compensation for this post.

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$41 Trillion in Mobile payments – China tech target digital banking

Image Source

$41 Trillion was the size of China’s mobile payments market in 2018. It is perhaps counter-intuitive when the payments market is more than three times the size of China’s GDP ($12 Trillion). That’s because GDP is based on value creation, not on transaction volumes.

Let me explain it with a crude example. A couple of weeks back, two of my friends and I went into a sports shop in Chislehurst, and bought a cricket bat for £240 for the summer. We knew we were going to share the costs at £80 each. I paid the shopkeeper £240, and then my friends paid me £80 each.

While the value created/exchanged in this case was for £240, payments happened for £240+£80+£80 = £400. GDP is calculated based on the £240, and payment volumes would account for £400.

In the initial days of my discussions about China Fintech, I would often praise China’s Fintech businesses as perhaps the largest in the world. China is doing Trillions in mobile payments, and the US is still groping its way towards $200 Billion. Purely from a size perspective China is light years ahead, but the business models there are different.

Fintech is used as a business model by lifestyle firms in China and broadly Asia. Fintech is not their core value proposition, at least it is not until they onboard a few million customers. Their core lifestyle business is then augmented by Fintech services for their customers, and that makes their life style business stickier.

I have touched upon this in detail in one of my previous posts on how lifestyle businesses have evolved into Fintech heavy hitters in Asia. And payments is the lowest common factor between ecommerce/lifestyle businesses and financial services. Therefor, firms like Alibaba, Tencent, Grab and Bykea have integrated payments to their core service offering.

However, the Chinese tech giants have identified that it was time to upgrade from payments into banking. Earlier this month Alibaba, Tencent, ZhongAn and Xioami were granted a virtual banking license in Hong Kong.

Alibaba applied for a banking license for its Ant SME services, which is a subsidiary of Ant Financial. Tencent and Xiaomi did a Joint venture to go for the banking license. Xiaomi is the fourth largest mobile phone manufacturer in the world with over 120 Million smart phones in 2018.

When Amazon began offering lending to its SME base, there were headlines that they would soon go for their banking license. However, the trend these days is that the East would lead and the West and the rest would follow. Now that China tech giants have upped the ante with a banking license, would the US peers respond? Watch this space.

Arunkumar Krishnakumar is a Venture Capital investor at Green Shores Capital focusing on Inclusion and a podcast host.

I have no positions or commercial relationships with the companies or people mentioned. I am not receiving compensation for this post.

Subscribe by email to join the 25,000 other Fintech leaders who read our research daily to stay ahead of the curve. Check out our advisory services (how we pay for this free original research).

US Health Care: The $2.8 trillion opportunity

US health

 

Reposted from April 2018, as it is Chinese New Year for Zarc Gin, our regular Insurtech Expert based in China.

A couple of weeks ago, there were rumors of Walmart purchasing U.S. Health Insurer Humana.

I’ve written about the U.S. healthcare market a few times and thought this news was rather interesting.

As I started researching this topic,  I decided to take a look at the U.S. healthcare market a bit more broadly.  

During my research on Walmart and Humana, I uncovered some interesting facts and figures which help to further shape my opinion on the opportunities I see in the future of the U.S. healthcare industry.  

While the initial sections are numbers focused (be prepared for a lot of numerical data!), I do touch on technology as well later on.  

As such, I have structured this week as follows:

  • Getting a bigger slice of the $3,300,000,000,000 pie
  • What do all these (potential) mergers mean?
  • How Technology can help
  • Amazon vs. Walmart – which ‘category killer’ will it be?

Getting a bigger slice of the $3,300,000,000,000 pie

There have been a number of large potential mergers in the U.S. Health Insurance & healthcare space, including:

Albertsons and Rite Aid also happened this year which, according to this article, included 2,569 pharmacies (the other 1,932 of which were transferred to Walgreens as part of another deal.)

As I read more and more about these various deals, both qualitatively and quantitatively, it became more clear what was going on.  

And then, I read in this article, the following quote from Walgreens Chief Medical Officer Dr. Patrick Carroll:

Why not use those locations as a strategy for healthcare?

Then it all made sense.  Allow me to share.

According to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) National Health Expenditure Data (NHE), NHE grew 4.3% to $3.3 trillion in 2016, or $10,348 per person, and accounted for 17.9% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Healthcare expenses are $3.3 trillion in the U.S. alone.  That’s $3,300,000,000,000, folks.

I was curious as to what that $3.3 trillion broke down into, so I started digging deeper.  

Included in the CMS link above are tables that have a number of ways to analyze this expenditure data (24 different ways to be exact).  

If you are interested, please look for this link on the page:

Screen Shot 2018-04-16 at 4.17.39 PM

Table 4 in the Zip file had some really interesting data:

2016 NHE

Zooming in on that data, I found some even more interesting numbers:

Screen Shot 2018-04-16 at 4.55.00 PM

Of the $3.3 trillion being spent on Health related expenses, $2.8 trillion was being spent on Personal Health Care ($2,800,000,000,000).

That’s a lot of money.  

And of that $2.8 trillion, $2.2 trillion is being funded through Health Insurance.  

That doesn’t tell the whole picture though.

What do all these (potential) mergers mean?

In addition to the research I found above, I found some more stats which painted a much broader idea about the conclusions that I was beginning to draw.

US Health Insurer market share

According to Health Payer Intelligence, in 2016, the top 5 health insurers payers in the U.S. are:

  1. United Health Group – with $184.8bn in revenue and 70 million subscribers
  2. Anthem – $89.1bn in revenue and 39.9 million subscribers
  3. Aetna – $63.1bn in revenue and 23.1 million subscribers
  4. Humana – $54.3bn in revenue and 14.3 million subscribers
  5. Cigna – $39.7 bn in revenue and 15 million subscribers

With a population of 326m people in the US, these 5 companies have coverage for 162 million people (or 49.7% of the population).

Pharmacy market share

In terms of prescription revenues, the pharmacies in the US are split as follows:

Largest_US_Pharmacies_by_Total_Prescription_Revenues-2017

And in terms of number of pharmacies, the top 10 can be found here (according to SK&A Pharmacy Data):

Screen Shot 2018-04-16 at 6.50.01 PM

Pharmacy Benefit Manager market share

Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs), according to Wikipedia, are third party administrators that ‘are primarily responsible for developing and maintaining the formulary, contracting with pharmacies, negotiating discounts and rebates with drug manufacturers, and processing and paying prescription drug claims’ and ‘As of 2016, PBMs manage pharmacy benefits for 266 million Americans.’ (that’s managing the prescriptions for 81% of the population…)

According to Statista, in 2016, the market share is as follows:

Screen Shot 2018-04-16 at 6.57.03 PM

Pulling it all together

Looking back at the potential mergers mentioned in the first section, we have a high possibility of:

  • Walmart (#4 in terms of number of pharmacy locations and #5 in terms of total prescription revenue), partnering with Humana (#4 Health Insurer in terms of revenue and # of subscribers, and which also happens to be the 4th largest PBM).  
  • Aetna (#3 Health Insurer in terms of revenue and # of subscribers) partnering with CVS (#1 in terms of number of pharmacy locations, prescription revenue and the largest PBM)
  • Cigna (#5 Health Insurer in terms of revenue and # of subscribers) partnering with Express Scripts (#3 in terms of prescription revenue and the largest PBM, tied with CVS).

Not to mention the fact that United Health Group (#1 Health Insurer in terms of revenue and subscribers) owns Optum Rx (third largest PBM).  They have upped their health care presence in the past few years by buying MedExpress Urgent Care, which has 203 locations.

One may think that Anthem (#2 Health Insurer in terms of revenue and # of subscribers) is missing out, but maybe they have some benefits to sitting on the sidelines and it’s no wonder there is some chatter relating to potential antitrust violations within these deals.

If I look at all of these facts and figures, it looks like these companies are aiming to build mini ecosystems for their customers, in an effort to start getting a bigger piece of the $3.3 trillion mentioned before…most specifically, the $2.8 trillion being spent on personal health care.

After all, if these companies can offer it all ‘in-house’; meaning prescriptions, simple doctor visits through their in-store clinics and a mechanism to have it paid for through Insurance benefits, then consumers may only need to go to hospitals for specialist visits and more serious ailments.  This should ultimately lower the cost of health care, while also shifting some of that $2.8 trillion to some different hands.

How Technology can help

Technology will play a key role in enabling this to happen.

Ecosystems

In an article a few months ago, I wrote about what I thought CVS and Aetna could learn from Ping An, which I consider to be offering the ‘gold standard’ in terms of healthcare Ecosystems.

From that article, I analyzed the Online to Offline (O2O) capabilities within their Ecosystem:

Online through use of the Good Doctor app, a policyholder can:

  • Search for, and book doctors.  This can be either online consultations or in-person (i.e. offline)
  • Have an online consultation with a doctor
  • Purchase medicine
  • Get access to information about various health topics – either general or specific to me
  • Monitor their own health plan

Offline, Ping An has developed a network of hospitals, physicians, pharmacies and more, which will allow the policyholder access to services they can’t get through the online platform

All of these players are aligning the essential businesses in order to build these ecosystems. The Insurers already have relationships with the hospitals as well, which should help in bringing it all together.

IoT

Florian Graillot, Insurtech influencer and partner at astorya.vc recently wrote a great article in Coverager on Digital Health.  A few points he mentions:

  • Wearables – ‘Technology started to enter in our lives with several players developing wearables focused on fitness, sport and wellbeing.’
  • Data – ‘By trying to collect more customers’ data, they (insurers) hope to better understand their needs and increase the level of engagement they have with them by adding numerous touch points.’
  • Teleconsultation – ‘To increase number of touchpoints and offer additional services, teleconsultation is now a must-have for most of insurers and mutuals’
  • Data Privacy and sharing – ‘To better predict and prevent diseases, technology requires a huge amount of data to be relevant, and we see many startups monitoring behaviors on a real-time basis. This raises the first challenge for both insurers and startups: make people agree to share their personal data.’

Having more information on customers and being able to ‘track’ their health, will help to fuel the ecosystem.  This will enable all the participants in the value chain (doctors, pharmacies and Insurers) to know more about their customers on a real time basis, hopefully helping with more preventative measures and ultimately bring costs down.  As Florian states, ‘Insurers need to develop an ecosystem of technologies and startups around them to address their current challenges: increase number of touchpoints with customers ; understand behaviors to better prevent risks ; and reduce costs of healthcare.

I highly suggest reading the full article.  

Blockchain

Health Insurance probably has the most amount of data being transferred than other lines.  This is due to the numerous amounts of players involved in the process as well as the amount of information on a customer that can be available.

Further, Health Insurance data is the most personal of personal data.  

As such, something like blockchain, to help with the transfer and security of data seems like a solution that can help.

A Blockchain Health Alliance including Humana, Quest Diagnostics, Multiplan, and UnitedHealth Group’s Optum and UnitedHeathcare units has formed recently in an effort to ‘improve data quality and reduce administrative costs associated with changes to health care provider demographic data’.

Further, CB Insights has done a study on ‘5 Blockchain Startups Working To Transform Healthcare’.

Which ‘category killer’ will reign supreme (if at all)?

When it comes to ‘category killers’, two of the biggest and most famous are Walmart and Amazon.

We have been focused on Amazon coming into Insurance so much.  I wrote about this earlier this year, when Amazon, JP Morgan & Chase and Berkshire Hathaway teamed up to announce that they would be partnering on ways to address healthcare for their U.S. employees, with the aim of improving employee satisfaction and reducing costs.

I am still bullish on the prospects of this venture and I know Amazon knows a thing or two about building an ecosystem and how to use data.  However, the potential of Walmart buying Humana does have me very intrigued.

They have a massive head start to Amazon in terms of building their healthcare ecosystem.  After all, it was only 3.5 years ago that they announced the goal ‘To Be The Number One Healthcare Provider In The Industry’.  This includes:

Further, earlier this week, Walmart announced a redesign of its website and Amazon ‘put a pause on its plan to sell prescription drugs to hospitals’.

Summary

OK, are you still with me?  I know this has been a long article.

This topic interests me because it has been the single most mind-boggling item for me to deal with since moving back to the U.S.  I can’t believe how complex the system is here as well as how expensive it is.

It is really an area that needs a lot of help.

I know some of these mergers as well as Amazon’s foray into the larger picture of U.S. Health Insurance are still hypothetical.  However, they are important to monitor for the future of healthcare for people living in the U.S.

In addition to these events from the large Health Insurance incumbents and tech players, I also wouldn’t discount some of the work that Oscar are doing, as well as AXA, which has recently entered an agreement with Oscar and also acquired Maestro Health.

Now that I have looked at the breakdown of spending a bit more, I do believe the companies spearheading these large mergers are aiming to provide their customers with preventative measures, ‘offline’ one-stop shops (clinic plus pharmacies) and online facilities (teleconsulting and pharmacy refill/delivery).  

This will ultimately help them with getting a bigger piece of the $2.8 trillion.

Let’s hope all these efforts also help to reduce that actual dollar amount from a consumer spend perspective.

Image Source

Stephen Goldstein is an experienced Insurance executive and Insurtech dealmaker with a core focus on growing revenue, launching go to market initiatives and advising industry leaders.

Get fresh daily insights from an amazing team of Fintech thought leaders around the world. Ride the Fintech wave by reading us daily in your email.

Insurtech Retrospect, a review for 2018

Retrospect

The Theme last week was blockchain still alive in InsurTech.

A late Merry Christmas and an early happy New Year to dear readers of DailyFintech!

At the end of the year, we bring you the theme for this week: Insurtech Retrospect, a review for 2018. This is a tough year for investors and startups. The shadow of trade conflict between US & China and economic volatility have grave effects on business. How is InsurTech coping with that?

For more about the Front Page Weekly CXO Briefing, please click here.

Incumbents embracing InsurTech is a common theme in our posts. This time, it’s about customer engagement.

Story 1: Digital Insurance’s top 10 stories of the year

Extract, read more on Digital Insurance:

“What a wild year for insurance — or insurtech — or whatever you want to call it! 2018 will surely be remembered as a banner year for the industry’s transformation agenda. Carriers big and small, across lines of business, rolled out all sorts of next-generation technologies with the aim of getting the best ever-exclusive customer experience. And money flowed into insurtech, with more than 15 investment rounds of more than $40 million dollars going to some leading startups.”

Lots of stories happened in InsurTech community in USA this year. You can see Uber and Amazon are mentioned, and old school incumbents like Travelers embracing digitalization as well.

Story 2: Top 100 Insurtech: Quarter four update

Extract, read more on Insurance Post:

“It’s time for the final 2018 update on the Insurtech 100, the global index compiled for Post by Tällt Ventures. Here founder and CEO Matt Connolly rounds up the latest investment and partnership news.”

You can find most of the financing records of the year of InsurTech startups in this article, as well as partnerships, product launches, expansions, even personnel changes.

Story 3: Quarterly InsurTech Briefing Q3 2018

Extract, read more on Willis Towers Watson:

“In this edition of the Quarterly InsurTech Briefing, we look at event-based, or “parametric,” insurance offerings and ask ourselves whether event-driven cover is just a niche product or a Trojan horse that can simplify and fundamentally change the industry.”

Wills Towers’ 46-page quarterly briefing includes an industry theme for 2018Q3, startup profiles, transaction spotlight, thought leaderships and data center.

InsurTech has delivered a relatively better performance in 2018 than other sectors in technology and Internet industry. At least that’s the case in China. When economy goes down, people are more inclined to put money in insurance.

Zarc Gin is an analyst for Warp Speed Fintech, a Fintech, especially InsurTech-focused Venture Capital based in China.

Check out our advisory services(how we pay for this free original research).

To schedule an hour of Zarc’s time for CHF380 please click here to send an email.

Amazon vs Alibaba – the clash of the mighty techfins in numbers

We may have to soon rename ourselves as Daily Techfin. We have been focusing on the breaking of banks and their resistance to the Fintech avalanche, while Techfins have been slowly but surely capturing the FS world. Lots of numbers coming your way – so be warned.

eCommerce-Success-750x381

Image Source

Money 2020 opened up in China, Hangzhou – the home of Ant Financial – for the first time this year. China is really were Fintech is happening at scale, and just by sheer numbers, the West look dwarfed. This is largely driven by the growth of Alibaba and Tencent.

Alibaba did $31 Billion in sales on Single’s day, and Amazon had its best sales in history through the 2018 thanksgiving period with 180 Million transactions.

Amazon haven’t announced exact sales revenues, but using Statista’s average online transaction size in 2017 of $81, their total sales could have been $15 Billion.

That just shows the scale of China vs rest of the world. Also, the total ecommerce sales number on Cyber Monday in the US was $7.9 Billion, that is just about 25% of what Alibaba achieved.

While the US Ecommerce market is set to reach $630 Billion by 2020, China’s is projected to be around $1.7 Trillion. Its fascinating to see how these two giants compare against each other in the ecommerce space. But, by Alibaba (Ant’s) own admission ecommerce and payments are just a foot in the door.

Some of the metrics discussed at Money2020 in China this year for different financial services that Ant offered were the following:

“1+N” – Onboard the customer with 1 QR-code – as payment technology. Cross sell marketing, training, cash management, loans, insurance etc.

“310” –  These are their KPIs for SME loans: 3 minutes for processing application, 1 second for monies in the bank, 0 manual work.

“212” –  Their KPIs for Insurance claims – 2 minutes for processing application, 1 second for review, 2 hours for insurance settlement to the account.

Stats Source here

This is only managed by cutting edge technology used with alternate data on consumers, to model their behaviour and assess risks in real time. I had already written about how Amazon helped an SME I knew, with a loan decision on the same day. Ant are just doing it better.

Now who is winning the battle? Amazon definitely have the global advantage. As of 2017 they had 2 Billion visitors per month, whereas Alibaba was at about 900 Million visitors per month. But that doesn’t necessarily translate into Financial Services that are provided by these firms.

In 2017 the number of Alipay users were 400 Million compared to Amazons 33 Million users, and as of September 2018, there were 520 Million Alipay users. Comparing transaction sizes is almost meaningless, as Alipay is light years ahead.

And all this with just 55% internet penetration in China (vs 78% in the US), with Alipay conquering 54% of China’s mobile payments. If payment services that the largest Techfin in the West does, is about 10% of that of the largest Techfin (of the East), it should give a perspective of what it means to other ancillary Financial Services such as lending, insurance etc., And if that is the comparison between the US and China, UK and European Fintechs perhaps won’t even come close.

I must confess that, I started this article wanting to just talk about Alibaba, China and Money2020. But when I started to look at the startling number differences between Amazon and Alibaba, I had to make it more of a comparison (although there is not much of a comparison).

An American friend of mine who recently visited China, mentioned that going to China felt like visiting the future. With the numbers that I have managed to dig out, China does feel like Wonderland when it comes to Fintech, thanks to its TechFins.


Arunkumar Krishnakumar is a Venture Capital investor at Green Shores Capital focusing on Inclusion and a podcast host.

Get fresh daily insights from an amazing team of Fintech thought leaders around the world. Ride the Fintech wave by reading us daily in your email


 

Insurtech Front Page Weekly CXO Briefing – Tech giants are serious about insurance

SGA

The Theme this week is Tech giants are serious about insurance. Tech giants making moves into insurance is not new, but continuing news update can prove that they are pretty serious.

The Insurtech Front Page Weekly CXO Briefing is all you need to know for the week, jargon free for executives, entrepreneurs and investors who want a piece of this huge, fast changing market. Each week we select one theme illustrated by 3 news items, because we know that you are busy. Our job is to filter out the noise, so you can read the signal. We bring you the raw news plus our take on why it is significant.

For this week we bring you three stories illustrating the theme of Tech giants are serious in insurance.

Story 1: Softbank Plans Big Push into Insurance Investments

Extract, read more on Insurance Journal:

“Softbank’s Vision Fund plans to pump more money into insurance, a sector it sees as both ripe for disruption and a potential booster for its bigger bets in cars, health and financial services, a Vision Fund executive told Reuters.”

Softbank is not a typical tech giant, they have contributed a lot in telecommunications, but they are better known for their investments in Alibaba, Uber, Boston Dynamics etc. They also invested in Zhong An. With Softbank’s huge fund ($100 billion) and successful investments to date, their moves into Insurance will be worth watching.

Story 2: Google Invests in Insurance Agency Software Firm Applied Systems

Extract, read more on Insurance Journal:

“Giant Google’s investment arm has purchased a minority stake in Applied Systems, a provider of insurance technology and cloud-based software for independent agencies.

The investment in Applied Systems is being made through CapitalG, the growth equity investment fund of Google’s parent Alphabet, which has also financed companies including Lyft, Airbnb, SurveyMonkey and Zscaler.”

Google’s comparison site didn’t pan out. Fortunately for the industry they are still watching and investing.

Story 3: Amazon makes another insurance move and partners with Vitality

Extract, read more on Life Insurance International:

“Vitality has announced a partnership with Amazon with gives its Active Rewards programme a boost.

As a result, members will receive a month’s access to Amazon Prime for every 160 Vitality activity points they earn. This can lead to savings of up to £79 ($104) a year.”

Amazon made several moves before, such as investing in Acko and the joint action with Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan into Healthcare. Partnership with Vitality seems relatively a small one, and more like a pilot cooperation. But it might turn out to be critical since it involves actual insurance work.

Since the day the word “InsurTech” was invented, tech giants have been making moves to enter insurance. They have suffered a few setbacks (e.g. Google Compare), but they are the leaders in the “Tech” part. When they have a deeper understanding in insurance, their technologies might start playing major roles.

Zarc Gin is an analyst for Warp Speed Fintech, a Fintech, especially InsurTech-focused Venture Capital based in China.

Get fresh daily insights from an amazing team of Fintech thought leaders around the world. Ride the Fintech wave by reading us daily in your email.

 

 

A true story: Techfins (Amazin) beat Fintechs and Banks on SME lending

No – the title doesn’t have a typo. It actually started as a typo, but I chose to keep it that way. Google SEO will learn.

amazon-lending

They are really Amazing Amazon for the work they do in the SME lending space (not for just that). This is a real life story, where I was involved with an SME and witnessed first hand how hard they had to struggle before they got funded by Amazon.

The SME is Ausha foods, I know them personally as they are run by a friend. After a few months of ideation and planning in 2016, they launched in 2017. They sell organic food products in the UK, based out of London. Their supply comes from Kerala (mostly) in South India.

They made sure they went for all the top certifications and are very quality focused across their supply chain. Now, this is not to provide free marketing for them, but just to set the ground for the firm under discussion.

Ausha listed themselves on Amazon as seller, and for a year have seen some serious sales happen through the platform. They have sold 18 products on Amazon over the past 12 months. After hitting good revenues there, and with 4.8 stars on Amazon reviews, they decided to expand. They wanted to ship larger volumes of their products, and needed some financing options. And like any typical funding request, they wanted the monies in 2 weeks.

For an SME who haven’t done fund raising for expansion before, it can be quite daunting. They reached out to me, and I gave them a few tips, and suggested to go for debt rather than equity as their need was small, and my ecosystem of equity investors were largely tech focused.

I put them in touch with a Fintech I knew, who were good at connecting SMEs to lenders. They got two lenders who were interested in talking to them. But both lenders wanted them to fill in tonnes of paper work, and gave a minimum time line of 6 weeks to even get to the approval stage. The result could also be a reject.

The founding team didn’t give up, and reached out to Amazon for financing their expansion. Amazon already had all the details about their products (about 18 products listed on the platform), the sale they make and the reviews they have from customers. They knew that the business was scalable, and gave them the approval for the funding request on the same day of applying. Ausha got the money in their bank account in 2 working days.

I met the founding team at a party, and I was surprised when they told me what had happened, and felt compelled to write this story.

Its critical that SMEs felt well supported by the financial services ecosystem they operated in. The founders of Ausha were well educated engineers who knew the right doors to knock on – but most SMEs don’t.

Its critical that SMEs atleast have the information on who to reach out to when they need funding. Despite the efforts of the British Business Bank, I believe, there is still a lot of work to be done in the UK to bring awareness in this space. It is also critical for these lenders to tap into data available on social media and other platforms where a borrower trades.

In an open banking day and age, they can proactively reach out to these firms when they see anomalies in their transactions, and find out if they needed any funding help. How hard can that be?

Techfins like Amazon and Alibaba have an information advantage over the Banks, and even Fintechs. These giants have transaction level information on the SMEs trading on their platform and get to see demand for their products. And when an SME fully relies on, say Amazon, it is an Amazon family SME. By funding the SME, Amazon are really funding their own growth in the e-commerce space and in the Financial Services space.

Amazon rules. Go Ausha.


Arunkumar Krishnakumar is a VC investor focusing on Impact investments, a writer and a speaker.

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