Challenged handling your finances? Navigating finance can be a complex task for most. FIGG simplifies your finances with its comprehensive Financial Wellness Score. Startup Dunya Interview Series – in conversation with Sachin Gupta, Founder & CEO, FIGG.
When did your entrepreneurship journey start? I started FIGG in 2017, after leaving my job at Google with an idea to help people build better financial habits and make better decisions. Last year, we were able to pivot our B2C version and in September this year, we launched the app.
IIIT Hyderabad to FIGG – How did this journey happen? I began my career with Rediff.com in Mumbai after graduating from IIIT Hyderabad. It was in my first job at Rediff, I got an opportunity to work directly with Mr. Ajit Balakrishnan, CEO, Rediff. It was an immense learning opportunity. My experience of working with Ajit changed my perception of entrepreneurship. After that, I went on to work at Google in Silicon Valley. Spent 10 plus years building financial products there. In 2017, I left my job at Google to build FIGG.
Was founding a startup a part of your early career plan? I come from a small town in Haryana. Starting up was not a part of my plans but I always wanted to build something which impacts people positively. This thought eventually led me to my startup.
How do you plan your day? I feel it is quite difficult to plan a day given so many things are going in parallel. My day starts with checking emails and filtering out important emails that I need to reply to. After that, I have every day calls with technology and business teams. Based on meetings and emails, I know what are important things to take care of during the day that can help business as well as unblocking the team. I spend a lot of time replying to emails, replying to candidates who applied, reviewing code, etc.
What was your ‘aha’ moment? From my personal experience, making financial decisions is quite difficult given the complex financial landscape. Most of the users do not have access to the right tools and advice which often results in them taking advice from the wrong places. However, The major eureka moment happened when a bank agent sold my 60-year-old mother a ULIP policy. My mother doesn’t need an insurance policy at this age as she is financially sound and there are no liabilities.
When I started my first job and got the first cheque and the first investment I made was in LIC on my parents’ suggestion to save taxes. Looking back, I didn’t have any liability at the time, and I should have made investments in MF which could have given me better returns. Later in our surveys and talks with users, we realized that most users go through this kinda experience. Most users do not have access to correct and impartial advice. So, this propelled me to build FIGG.
Any specific milestones in your Founder’s journey that you wish to highlight? We launched three features recently which we are really excited about.
- WE feature – Lets spouses track finances together
- Nudge feature – Helps people in measuring their goals, and helping them stay on track if they deflect
- Credit Builder feature – Helps people improve their credit scores
EAR TO THE GROUND
What is FIGG all about? FIGG helps users make better financial decisions. Every day we need to make multiple financial decisions be it buying a new iPhone or how much money to invest? However, most of the time our financial data is scattered around multiple accounts, which makes it difficult to make an optimal decision.
While a user can check their investments in one application, track expenses in another and check credit score in the third one, there is no single application that gives a holistic picture of the finance for a user. Moreover, we do not just give data, we also empower users to make smart financial decisions using those data. For example, if somebody is trying to decrease their expenses, we not only show the data on their monthly expenses, but we also give them tips to decrease those expenses.
Your product is being offered over a mobile app. How easy is it to set up? Ease of onboarding is a major USP of our product. Users just need to sign in with Google to start using our app. Whole onboarding can be done in less than 10 seconds and the financial profile is ready in less than 10 minutes.
Are all the features bankrolled into a single product? We have recently launched a new tool called Nudge, which not only allows users to create financial goals but also helps them track and achieve them by providing nudges at the right moment. Eventually, these nudges help them build better financial habits and become more disciplined. Our AI engine keeps track of all the users’ events and nudges users’ in a timely manner in case they are closer to this limit.
Our other major important feature is the Credit Builder feature, which helps users in building their credit score. For example, for most of our users, a credit score is quite important as it enables them to apply for new credit cards or loans. However, most of them are not aware of how to improve their credit score. Most advice on the internet is quite generic.
“Based on our experience, we know percentage usage on a credit card is one of the major factors that affect credit score. Anything more than 30% usage, can have a -ve impact on users’ credit score.”Sachin Gupta, Founder & CEO, FIGG
Are the above separate modules that the customer needs to purchase? We do not charge any fees currently from our users. In the future, we plan to work on a freemium model.
What is the key differentiator that sets you apart from other companies offering similar products or services? There are a number of companies in the fintech segment, making products that will make the lives of people easier. There are various mutual fund (MF) apps, which have made an investment in MFs very easy. There are wallets like PayTm, Google Pay which have made payments very easy. However, it’s our vision that separates us from other apps.
FOCUS ON CUSTOMERS
Which problem are you trying to solve? The major problem we realized with a lot of people is related to discipline & building financial goals. Most of our users are not finance geeks. We wanted to simplify finance for them. Our AI engine takes care of that and gives financial advice.
How else are you helping customers track their financial health? Finance is complex and financial health is a combination of different aspects – savings, investments, credit, expenses, and insurance. We are helping users by providing them ‘a single score’ that represents their financial wellness.
What is FIGG Score? Most people consider their credit score as their financial health score – the better the credit score, the better is their financial health. While there are correlations, we need to understand that credit score just represents credit behavior and not holistic finance. FIGG score while being holistic, provides users a simplistic but quantitative view of their financial health. At the same time, our AI engine continuously tracks all the financial events and provides the users with personalized insights to improve their financial health.
In an age where a customer’s data privacy and security are given the highest priority, especially in the financial sector, how secure is your customer’s data?
“We take data security very seriously.”Sachin Gupta, Founder & CEO, FIGG
Our systems are closely monitored by Google for any security/data leak concerns. We have already done a security review with Bishop Fox, one of the major security firms based out of the US. We follow all best practices from strong passwords from the system to encryption of sensitive data.
LOOKING AT THE FUTURE
What is your company’s vision? Our vision is to bring together all aspects of finance on a single platform. There are no single applications currently which give a holistic picture of the finance for a user. Not just data, we also want to provide users with the right tools and advice to make informed financial decisions. At present, only wealthy individuals or High Networth Individual (HNIs) have access to the right set of tools & advice. We want to give this kind of access to others too.
Any expansion plans on the anvil? No immediate expansion plans as of now. We want to focus on the current features and app.
Where do you see yourself 3 years from now? In 3 years, we want to empower at least a million people with the right tools and advice which will empower them to make better financial decisions.
How big is your current team? We have a current team of 9, with people from both technical and non-technical backgrounds.
Your team is distributed across 2 continents. What are the challenges that you face in managing a remote team? We have been remote for about 3 years. We are global in a true sense. I work out of California, my other teammates are working out of Hyderabad and other states of India.
Remote work has its own challenges like when you are stuck with something, you can’t just walk down to someone’s desk and get it resolved. However, we got the hang of it slowly.
When you are working remotely, it is quite important that the role and responsibilities of each member of the team are clearly defined.
We make sure we have daily standups where we discuss daily tasks as well as weekly/monthly meetings where we discuss the direction for the overall product. In our company, we have quite flat hierarchies, with no team leads. Every member of the team leads a project sometime or another. This enables us to work effectively even with remote settings.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far? Hiring and building a team has been personally the most challenging aspect of running a business for me. Building technology comes naturally to me and I find it easy. However, building a team with limited resources is quite challenging. You also need people who are good with technology and at the same time believe in your vision.
- What spells success to your team? We recently launched the first version of our app. This was a big moment for us. We did have our share of issues after launching but using that feedback we were able to build a much better experience for our users.
Top 3 secrets for effective money management? I can speak about 3 money mantras that I follow and that have worked for me.
- When it comes to finance, discipline is the key. Like physical health, for your financial health too it is important to be disciplined.
- Always plan your life ahead, plan 10 -20 years in advance.
- Don’t follow friends & family blindly while investing. Everyone’s life and their journey is different. You need to create your own financial plan.
What stage of funding is your company in? We are an early-stage startup.
Who gave you the initial Launchpad? We raised initial funding from Angel Investors based out of Silicon Valley. Most of our angel investors are well-known people in the technology domain. Whenever I need any help, they are readily available to mentor and advise me.
Summing up your journey so far? The startup journey is always a roller-coaster ride. As a founder, you have to navigate different emotions every day. It can be emotionally draining at times and does impact personal life too. However, the satisfaction of seeing your vision shaping up makes it worth the effort.
A “thought bubble” for newbie startup Founders?
“My only advice to newbie startup founders would be to focus on building products which users love and not to worry about funding.”SACHIN GUPTA, FOUNDER & CEO, FIGG