South Asia has seen impressive strides on financial health in the past five years. Mobile money and government programs have helped millions of people open bank accounts, find capital to open a business, or build savings for the future. Still, there’s a long way to go: one recent estimate found that more than a billion people in Asia have no access to formal financial services.
Our latest accelerator, Finance Forward: South Asia 2019, featured 12 startups that are improving financial health for people and small business owners in South Asia. The accelerator was part of Finance Forward, a global coalition created with MetLife Foundation, PayPal, and local partners to support more than 100 early-stage entrepreneurs building tech-enabled solutions around financial health in the United States, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and India.
This was our fifth financial health accelerator in South Asia, and our first to accept startups outside India. We received more than 100 applicants from India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh, working in sectors as diverse as insurtech, agritech, bankingtech, personal finance, and SME finance.
We were excited to see the quickly-developing startup ecosystems outside India, with participating entrepreneurs from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh working on emerging themes in their countries such as alternate forms of payment and insurance marketplaces, themes that have evolved in India over the past 4-5 years. This allowed for significant learning for the non-Indian startups and has paved the way for interesting cross-border collaboration in the future.
The cohort participated in three workshops in three cities: Chennai, Mumbai, and Bangalore. In addition to going through our investment-ready curriculum, the entrepreneurs met potential investors and partners: in Chennai, they received mentorship from PayPal employees, on topics like UI / UX design, legal and regulatory issues, risk management, customer discovery, and managing partnerships with larger financial institutions.
Here are the 12 startups that participated in the program:
Since 2009, Village Capital has run 15 investment readiness-focused accelerators in South Asia for early stage startups in financial health, sustainability, education, and civic tech.