Monday, May 28, 2018

New era of P2P Lending in India

Crowd-funding is a relatively old practice commonly known as “friends and family financing.” The transparency and scalability of Web 2.0 technology has emerged as a social media-based funding mechanism leading to development of Peer to Peer platform. Crowdfund investing (CFI) is the investment alternative to pledge-based crowdfunding. This term, which describes securities based equity and debt fundraising through crowdfunding platforms, has recently emerged as an alternative to more traditional funding tools such as bank loans, angel or venture capital (VC) investments for financing entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Debt crowdfunding is more popular and commonly known as peer-to-peer lending (P2P lending). It is the practice of matching borrowers and lenders through online platforms.

This is an innovation in entrepreneurial finance that can fuel the Rise of the Rest globally. In the developed world, most platforms are donation and perks-based. The early success of platforms, such as Kickstarter, has brought annual growth in the number of platforms of 60% CAGR. PwC has presented an analysis on P2P lending Peer pressure: How P2P is transforming consumer lending industry. PwC paper discusses how peer-to-peer lending platforms are transforming the consumer lending industry and the key considerations that financial institutions should evaluate when deciding on their strategic response.

Is P2P disruptive? I would say it certainly has been, but in the Indian context, it can make serious and material difference to the credit scene in the country. Access to finance is the most common constraint to growth cited by entrepreneurs in a broad range. Growth rates are higher for smaller enterprises yet the size of them becomes stagnant after a certain turnover. More recently, micro-finance has succeeded in expanding access to credit for the poor but high level of interest rates hinder the formation of surplus. By allowing customers to borrow smaller sums and lower interest rates than MFIs, the advent of P2P finance can open more possibilities for reaching the under-served than ever before. Currently the recommended rate of interest ranges from 12% p.a. to 28% p.a. and the loan tenure ranges from 6 months to 36 months.

The Fintech revolution in India had also facilitated a sudden boom in Indian P2P lending industry. The Indian P2P lending space has players like LendBox, LenDenClub, IndiaMoneyMart, Monexo, Rupaiya Exchange, LoanBaba, CapZest, and i2iFunding. Until few years back, there was no regulation in place to regulate P2P Lending. Any entity could undertake the business of P2P Lending Platform without any restriction and accountability. RBI has shared master directions for NBFC–Peer to Peer Lending Platform in 2017 and updated as on February 23, 2018. The new regulatory era began when Faircent become the First and only RBI recognized P2P lending platform.

India must find an appropriate balance between protecting investors and ensuring the flow of capital to early-stage companies. Modest and balanced regulatory schemes will more likely to accelerate formation of high growth MSMEs and crowd-funding ecosystems. The existing companies which are currently carrying on the business of P2P lending has been given 3 months’ time to apply for registration as an NBFC-P2P within 3 months from the date of the direction i.e. January 03, 2018. Recently, reports surfaced that digital payments giant Paytm is in the process of seeking a license from the RBI to operate a P2P lending platform.

Most of the MSME owners don't have the assets to present a collateral and hence don't qualify for the traditional finance. The need for collateral, from lender perspective, arises because default rates in this segment are higher and are unfeasible for profitable lending. However, only a small portion of borrowers (entrepreneurs) default and majority of this group forms a genuine customer base. But unfortunately, today there is no mechanism to segregate good portfolio from the bad in MSMEs. Hence, the lenders mandate some form of collateral to manage the risk. To reach their complete potential, this systemic hindrance & risk management must be tackled by P2P platform. Investors will be needing standardized and efficiently delivered information about business plans, use of proceeds, valuation and other disclosures in order to make investment decisions. The future is bright but the customer protection measures in place: caps on investment size, repayment frequency, tenor, margins and lending rate can lead to a sustainable Business model.



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