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Transformations in the worlds of money and technology are converging, as described in the book by Sanjay Phadke, Fintech Future: The Digital DNA of Finance.

The material is spread across 17 chapters, and makes for an informative read for beginners new to this field. However, the choice of font could do with considerable improvement, and there are several typos; more figures would have been a welcome addition to improve readability as well.

Sanjay Phadke is the Head of Global Platforms and Alliances at Vayana Network. He describes himself as a “tinkerer (almost) and teacher (hopefully)”. He graduated from Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies and Sardar Patel College Of Engineering.

Here are my takeaways from the 190-page book, summarised as well in Table 1. See also my reviews of the related books Prediction Machines; Seeing Digital; A Human's Guide to Machine Intelligence; Machine, Platform, Crowd; and The AI Advantage.

T

Table 1: Fintech transformations (image credit: YourStory)

Evolution of money

The invention of language and money are key contributions to the evolution of society, Sanjay begins. Money acts as a bridge from past to present and future. It is a form of payment and trust, and even a way to acquire more money through financial investment.

Money is a means of exchange and way of comparing the worth of different assets and services. It has deterministic, probabilistic, and even emotional connotations. Evolving from shells to coins and banknotes, currency and its governance are being transformed in the digital era.

While coins did not need numbering, banknotes do. Banknotes today account for only five percent of monies globally, Sanjay explains; the rest is stored in digital or ‘dematerialised’ form.

“Digital money is data,” the author observes, it is a string of characters, and does not derive trust from its physical form any more. New risks arise, of course. “No digital property can be guaranteed to be foolproof from digital theft,” he cautions.

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Key players

Banks, big tech giants, and fintech startups are the three categories of players in today’s financial scenario, Sanjay explains. The industry is tightly regulated, so governments and exchanges play a key role as well.

There are significant differences in the mindset and operations of banks and tech-led firms. Tech DNA is about rapid change, agile development, and learning quickly from mistakes to develop easy-to-use offerings. Bank DNA is about being cautious, paranoid, careful in experimentation, and slow change.

One chapter traces the evolution of the “finscape” in the US, China, and India. The US already had a mature system in place in the pre-digital era, with social security numbers, credit cards, and credit bureaus. “China and India, in contrast, had vastly underdeveloped ecosystems,” Sanjay observes.

The US tech players have now set high expectations for engagement among the younger generation of mobile-connected always-on users around the world. “Silicon Valley is coming,” in the words of Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan.

The market value of US tech giants like Apple and Amazon is around half of India’s GDP, and they are entering the world of finance along with Google and Facebook as well, Sanjay explains.

Fintech 1.0

Mobile payments and digital-only banks are some forms of Fintech 1.0, Sanjay explains. Alibaba’s Ant Financial set up MyBank as a digital-only bank to offer loans to small businesses in just minutes. It draws on transactional and social media data, fed into AI scoring models.

Neo-banks do not have a banking license but partner with banks to offer banking services. Some existing banks have also rolled out their own digital-only banks, such as Fidor by JPMorgan Chase and Kotak’s 811.

Payment via QR codes has accelerated mobile payments even more. IoT and the emergence of 5G will speed up the momentum further. IoT sensors in vehicles are being used by automobile insurance firms; voice-based assistants and face-recognition technologies are other trends to watch in fintech.

Paypal was one of the first “native-Internet” fintechs. Microsoft is more likely to be a collaborator with banks than a competitor. Softbank is another player to watch, thanks to its investments in fintech startups, the author writes. Fintechs in other countries include Adyen (Netherlands) and Klarna (Sweden).

China has a highly-innovative landscape at scale, as seen in Alibaba’s Alipay, Yue Bao (money-market fund), and Sesame Credit (social credit rating). Ant Financial is the first of the “super fintechs," according to Sanjay. (See also my reviews of the related books Tech Titans of China, China's Mobile Economy, and AliBaba.)

There are new active players in wealth management, consumer loans and insurance. Alibaba also expanded into finance for logistics services, a move copied by other players around the world. Thanks to not having legacy baggage, China has created a “futuristic fintech ecosystem,” Sanjay explains. However, it is siloed into the BAT trio worlds.

India has emerged as a laboratory for global big-tech players, along with local firms like HDFC Bank and Bajaj Finance. Among startups, the book focuses largely on Paytm and not the broader spectrum of players. Paytm’s fortunes were boosted by events like demonetisation, and also received India’s first investment by Warren Buffet.

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Fintech 2.0

The world is awash with money, yet few get loans, the author laments. Cautious banks need collaterals, guarantors, or credit history data based on past records. Unfortunately, the aspirational needs of low-income or poor people cannot be fulfilled in such a system, even though India has 120,000 bank branches – the highest number in the world.

“The poor pay the highest for a loan and gets next to nothing on deposits,” Sanjay observes. Even remittances of foreign labourers are charged relatively high service fees.

Frauds and false identities have plagued the banking system. Digital transformation can help in this regard, but there are also risks regarding theft of data, money and reputation, the author cautions.

India’s larger fintech moves have been cautious and led largely by the government, as seen by inter-connected developments in the B2C and B2B sectors like biometric UID, UPI (Unified Payment Interface), and GST. The author identifies other developments as well, such as DEPA (Data Empowerment and Protection Architecture), PCR (Public Credit Registry), and AA (Account Aggregator).

Aadhaar helped Jio acquire a million customers a day, and reduced activation times. Jio is forging alliances with a range of tech giants, Sanjay observes. Digital technology and finance innovations helped spur the Chinese economy and created a vast pool of SMEs; it is hoped that a similar boom can take place in India as well.

The API architecture is spurring a range of innovations on top of existing digital infrastructure, driven by the talent of entrepreneurs. Hopefully, these combined developments can make access to capital easier and more automated, given the rapid growth of data communications in India.

The success of emerging economies like India depends on democratising access to capital as raw material for the needy, the author emphasises.

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Fintech 3.0

The author charts a range of technologies in the next wave of fintech, clustered as the new ABC: AI, algorithms, autonomous operation; big data, blockchain, bitcoin; and cloud, crypto, cybersecurity. Other trends to watch are quantum computing, which can also pose risks to security via the ability to crack codes.

Continuous feeds of data and powerful algorithms can improve automation and robustness of financial processes at scale. For example, they can improve assessment of ability and willingness to pay by better understanding social psychology (though overcoming bias will be a challenge). Spotting anomalies and outliers can improve fraud detection defences.

Bitcoin regulations vary around the world, but some blockchain features are being implemented. Hybrid systems may emerge in such a context, the author observes.

Platformisation combined with AI is a powerful combination. But countries have adopted varying positions on cloud infrastructure and data sovereignty as well (eg. EU’s GDPR), and trade wars have triggered off new moves in geopolitics.

If all goes well, however, the dream of making financial security and prosperity for all can become a reality when arteries of finance become unclogged, the author sums up. Innovation, agility and scale can be enhanced through financial ecosystem partnerships and progressive regulation.

Edited by Kanishk Singh

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Original Source: yourstory.com

The fintech industry in India is growing rapidly. They have captured a good space with advanced technologies like smart usage of Data Science, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. Even large banks and financial institutions have now started to value the importance of fintech.

The rapid growth of India’s fintech space can be attributed to the success of mobile payments and digital lending. Hence, it is not very surprising that traditional banks are also keen on embracing new technologies and partnering with fintech players to improve their service standards.

Many large banks have even set up fintech subsidiaries to internalise fintech competitiveness and export technology capacity to smaller banks. Fintechs are also stepping in to help financial institutions handle the large number of loan applications by enabling digital applications, facilitating data collection or assisting with the underwriting and approval process.

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How fintechs are helping keep consumer liquidity flowing?Mobile payments

Fintech has significantly pervaded the mobile payments landscape. Many fintech players are taking advantage of the rise in the use of smartphones, improvements in digital infrastructure, and a growing interest in online shopping.

The advent of UPI has further eased the process of making payments online. The biggest advantage offered by UPI is its interoperability among multiple banking platforms. This enables customers to enjoy a fast, seamless and reliable payment experience, and pay utility bills. In addition to this, they can send money to their family and friends almost instantaneously.

Digital lending

The process of availing loans from traditional banks is not only time-consuming but also paper heavy. It sometimes takes weeks to just get approvals for the loan. The COVID crisis has further worsened the situation as most of the banks are reluctant to lend in this uncertain scenario. Against this background, digital lending NBFCs have emerged as a saviour for customers.

Fintech companies operating in the digital lending space uses new-age approaches to disburse credit. Instead of relying on traditional financial data, they are now using alternative data to make more accurate and informed credit decisions.

Alternative data for credit scoring can cover employment history, academic background, rental payments, utility bill payments, insurance payments and even social media activities.

Since there is a shortage of credit data on MSME borrowers, fintech lenders leverage alternative data to assess their creditworthiness. This method improves access to credit for MSMEs, who are often declined credit from the formal banking sector.

Not just MSMEs but alternative data also helps salaried professionals and freshers who do not have any credit score. This explains why despite being a fraction of the banking system in size, the digital lending space is growing at a rapid pace owing to the faster and hassle-free process of loan disbursal.

Another main advantage of digital lending is that it allows for digital customer onboarding and credit disbursements, thereby eliminating the need for the customer to be physically present at the lender.

The digital lending space apart from being hassle-free is also helping the new to credit customers and those who have lower income to avail short term personal loan with a few clicks. The fintech companies, through technological means, can promptly evaluate credit risks by using the database containing loan applicants’ background and approve the loan.

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Savings and ProtectionFintech firms are offering platforms to customers to enable them to save, manage their wealth, and make investments. They also help them to choose from a spectrum of financial products across categories such as insurance, savings account and mutual funds.

Some fintech companies are also providing customised financial advice on a range of financial products. Mutual funds, for example, can play a key role in addressing the credit needs of customers.

In March and April this year, around 1.2 million new investors opened demat accounts with the Central Depository Services (CDSL) despite the ongoing nationwide lockdown. This is an indication of more and more retail investors in the country taking to equities and MF route as against the more traditional forms of investments, viz., FD, gold, property, etc.

As many as 122 million Indians have lost their jobs due to the pandemic during the period between March and April, according to the Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy. This means a large portion of the population do not have a steady income source and are suffering from a liquidity crunch. While traditional banks are not much of help in this situation, fintech NFBCs are providing a wide array of products and services to cater to their liquidity requirements.

Be it a personal loan or insurance, fintechs are using their strategic partnerships within the industry to financially empower their customers. The uptick in smartphone use and availability has also prompted many insurance providers to enable customers to complete applications and file claims from their smart phones.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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Original Source: yourstory.com

Facebook-owned global messaging platform WhatsApp will be the newest entrant to India’s payments market now that it is in compliance with the country’s data-localisation norms. Entering the country with a beta launch in 2018, the payment feature will now be rolled out to its 400 million-strong user base once the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) gives the go-ahead.

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This comes on the heels of the National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI) certifying to the Supreme Court that WhatsApp had now “localised five data elements” that were identified by the banking regulator and mandated them to store in India.

WhatsApp has said that it has spent “significant engineering time and effort” over the last seven months to comply with the guidelines laid down by the country’s banking regulator.

According to an official statement from parent company Facebook, “An independent third-party auditor, certified by CERT-in (the government agency under the IT ministry), has confirmed that WhatsApp’s payments feature satisfies the data localisation requirements under the RBI circular and frequently asked questions (FAQs).”

According to an affidavit filed by RBI in the Supreme Court, the central bank said it was satisfied with WhatsApp’s compliance with the regulator’s data storage rules and was good to go live on the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) platform. WhatsApp Pay is already running a beta rollout with some users in India.

“More than four years ago, Prime Minister Modi launched this (UPI) ground-breaking initiative to provide Indian citizens with the ability to make digital payments to one another and to the more than 60 million Indian small businesses that serve local communities and the world,” said Will Cathcart, Head of WhatsApp, in an opinion piece in The Financial Express.

Cathcart added that UPI is a world-class payments system, that can also anchor a broader suite of fintech applications like micro-pensions, digital insurance products, and flexible loans which WhatsApp can facilitate. “These powerful tools can build on the extraordinary success India has made in lifting millions of people out of poverty and build resilience to future economic shocks,” he said.

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Partnering for progress

As part of its efforts to further integrate with the Indian fintech space, WhatsApp has also become the platform of choice for both SMBs and large businesses to talk to their customers and grow through the pandemic. Payments is that last step in that journey.

“The launch of payments can truly accelerate financial inclusion by giving access to the users that need it the most. For your average rural women entrepreneur, the internet is synonymous with WhatsApp, making it seamless to use digital payments once made available on this simple platform,” said Abhijit Bose, WhatsApp’s India Head at the virtual Global Fintech Fest on July 22.

He added that WhatsApp would also work with partners such as banks and other financial institutions to give people, especially those in rural areas and from low-income groups, easier access to financial instruments like insurance, microcredit and pension. This will also accelerate the use of digitised payments by small and medium businesses.

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“We will take risks, but we’ll do it with controlled pilots. And, based on user acceptance, we will invest and scale the solutions that deliver results," he said.

Bose also said that WhatsApp had been working closely with banks — including ICICI, Kotak Mahindra and HDFC — over the past year to explore ways to increase financial access to these individuals who were yet to enter the mainstream banking market.

In his opinion piece, Cathcart had stated that rapidly scaling UPI is the need of the hour and one of the best ways to strengthen India’s digital economy. “Today people can send money to their ageing parents isolated during this time of physical distancing. Migrant workers can support their families. Farmers can make sales outside of the market.”

He said that WhatsApp shares PM Modi's belief that “there has never been a better time to invest in India. With courage, ambition, and boundless potential, India can emerge from this pandemic stronger than ever before—a leading democratic digital powerhouse that will lead the world through the 21st century.”

Want to make your startup journey smooth? YS Education brings a comprehensive Funding Course, where you also get a chance to pitch your business plan to top investors. Click here to know more.

Original Source: yourstory.com

VSS_TechSparks 2019

Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Founder and CEO, Paytm

Fintech giant Paytm's latest acquisition of insurance firm Raheja QBE for $74 million portends a metamorphosis in the Indian financial services industry where the penetration of financial services and offerings continues to be very low, despite digitisation taking place at breakneck speed.

 

“At Paytm, we are on a mission to drive the financial inclusion of over 500 million Indians, and our acquisition of Raheja QBE is a significant step towards this goal,” Amit Nayyar, Paytm’s President, tells YourStory.

Bringing millions of underserved Indians into the folds of the mainstream economy has always been Paytm’s central mission – ever since the fintech startup and its adroit Founder and Chief Executive Officer Vijay Shekhar Sharma took the reins of India’s fintech revolution over a decade ago.

Paytm-roadside vendor

Over the past few years, India has emerged a leader in driving digital payments adoption among the masses, evolving from an online-only model to a complete 360-degree adoption of payments via mobile phones, mainly through wallets, Quick Response (QR) codes, United Payments Interface (UPI), and cards.

 

Still, insurance products continue to have one of the lowest penetration rates among financial services offerings. A major reason for the low penetration of formal financial services such as insurance, credit, and savings remains inaccessibility to financial institutions, especially for those living in rural and far-flung areas. 

 

However, fintech has upended that by not only putting financial services offerings in the hands of people, regardless of their location, but also helping them sign on for such services using independent identity verification services and enabling them to tailor financial products to their needs.

“We have extensive plans to strengthen our position as a fintech leader by increasing our offerings in the financial services space, and our acquisition of Raheja QBE will enable us to build on our reach with our merchant partners and customers,” Amit says.

Amit Nayyar

Amit Nayyar, President, Paytm

On July 6, Paytm announced it would buy all of Prism Johnson’s 51 percent stake and ASX-listed QBE’s 49 percent stake in Raheja QBE through QorQl Pvt Ltd, which is a technology company with majority shareholding of Vijay Shekhar Sharma and remaining held by Paytm’s parent company One97 Communications.

 

“Insurance (both life and general) is highly under-penetrated in India as compared to other countries. With Paytm's reach, we have the unique advantage of taking insurance to the larger population of the country,” Amit says.

 

To be sure, Paytm aims to give half a billion Indians access to a range of financial services offerings across savings, credit, protection, and wealth management, and its recent acquisition of Raheja QBE is one way it’s getting deeper into the space, say analysts covering the fintech space.

paytm

Infographics by Tenzin Pema

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Paytm, which has over 150 million annual transacting users, is expected to close the acquisition of Raheja QBE after receiving approval from the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI).

Mumbai-based Raheja QBE reported over 41,000 customers, underwrote 69,000 new policies in the financial year ended March 31, and had $60.5 million in total assets, according to its latest financial statements. Its gross written premiums in FY20 surpassed $20 million, growing over 35 percent, year-on-year.

Evolution into fintech leader

Even though Paytm started as an e-wallet and bill payments service loosely based on PayPal’s model, the Noida-based startup has evolved into one of the most comprehensive payment apps, with all funding sources such as bank accounts, UPIs, cards, and wallets. 

“Our innovative technology such as Scan and Pay QR, online payments, and many others have ushered the growth of the digital payments ecosystem in India and has transformed the way India makes payments, manages businesses, or does investments,” Amit says.

paytm merchants

In the past few years, Paytm has also been moving into the consumer retail and on-demand space with an array of offerings such as bill payments, payment gateway, offline payments, and online ticket booking services, as it makes a beeline towards becoming India’s first ‘Superapp’.

But inclusive digital finance has always been Paytm’s axiom, and that is well reflected in the products and solutions it offers through its digital bank Paytm Payments Bank, which crossed Rs 1,000 crore in deposits by over 57 million savings account holders as on April 22, 2020. 

In 2018, Paytm also launched its first wealth management product, Paytm Money, to make it easier for customers to invest in mutual funds – a financial instrument that has largely been wielded by institutional banks that charge excessive handling fees.

With smartphones and the internet steadily percolating into the societal fabric of the country, Paytm has a clear first-mover advantage in helping make access to finance easier. 

The tailwinds that Paytm witnessed during demonetisation has also helped it amass a loyal customer base, as has the company’s rapid launch of a slew of innovative but simple financial services offerings aimed at the underserved who haven’t had any access to financial services.

Also watch: Paytm Founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma on what it means to build for India, from India

Even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Paytm Payments Bank – which facilitated about 500 crore digital transactions worth Rs 4.6 lakh crore in FY20 – witnessed an accelerated increase in deposits, as more people embraced digital banking during the three-month-long nationwide lockdown that began in March-end.

In the post-COVID-19 world, Paytm has played a significant role in helping businesses and common citizens with services such as digital payments for all essential services, scan to order, cash at home, and COVID-19 insurance, among others.

Last month, Paytm significantly expanded its digital credit service called Postpaid to a large set of payment use-cases, including groceries, milk, and other home essentials from neighbourhood Kirana stores and also at popular retail outlets such as Reliance Fresh, Croma, Apollo Pharmacy, and Shoppers Stop, among others.

“What drives us continuously is driving the digital penetration of financial services within India,” says Amit, adding that Paytm is focussed on “…solving for customer needs while providing the best user experience.”

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Today, with 100 million UPI handles, 220 million saved cards, 300 million wallets, and about 60 million bank accounts, Paytm offers one of the most comprehensive digital banking services and boasts an account holder and debit card holder in every district of India.

Paytm had also been distributing insurance for various players through its Insurance Broking platform, even before its latest acquisition. With the Raheja QBE deal, Paytm can now start manufacturing general insurance products that will likely cater to a tapestry of financially diverse individuals based on parameters such as incomes, flexibility, and risk profile, among others.

“We believe that, along with existing customers of insurance, we can reach new large segments due to our reach and our tech-led, low-cost customised solutions,” says Amit of Paytm’s latest buy.

Its competitive advantage of a wide and growing customer base that is used to purchasing financial products online could help put it ahead of larger rivals such as Coverfox and PolicyBazaar, as well as withstand challenges from traditional players that are increasingly going online these days, say industry analysts.

Earlier this year, One97 Communications said Paytm Insurance Broking Private Limited (PIBPL) secured a licence to sell life and non-life insurance from IRDAI. The company has already tied up with around in 20 leading insurance firms in India and said it would integrate with 30 more companies over the next few weeks.

According to data from IRDAI, gross premiums underwritten by general insurance companies declined 4.24 percent in the first three months of the current financial year, while gross direct premiums underwritten by non-life insurance players grew 7.83 percent to Rs 13,961.25 crore in June. 

Want to make your startup journey smooth? YS Education brings a comprehensive Funding Course, where you also get a chance to pitch your business plan to top investors. Click here to know more.

Original Source: yourstory.com

Jaipur-based last mile rural distribution startup, Frontier Markets, on Monday announced that it has raised $2.25 million in a Pre-Series A funding round led by ENGIE Rassembleurs d’Energies, The Rise Fund, and The Singh Family Trusts (advised by Artha Impact), along with Teja Ventures and affiliates of Beyond Capital Fund.

 

Founded in 2011 by Ajaita Shah, Frontier Markets is a last mile-assisted ecommerce and distribution company that leverages its network of tech-enabled women agents to market, sell and service products and services across rural India. 

 

The current investment will drive the company’s assisted ecommerce platform to the next level, adding digital marketing tools, AI-enabled digital training, and a B2C solution onboarding its rural customers directly on its digital platform, it said. The company will also leverage its B2B2C ecommerce to drive digital and physical services to rural customers and become the primary income source for rural women.

Ajaita Shah, Founder and CEO of Frontier Markets

Ajaita Shah, Founder and CEO of Frontier Markets

Also ReadFrontier Markets: A Lesson in Rural Product Positioning and Marketing

 

Frontier Markets claims to have over 4,000 women entrepreneurs who are tech-enabled using its proprietary assisted ecommerce platform to deliver over one million products and services to 700,000 rural customers in Rajasthan, UP, and Bihar. The company said it is associated with several partners including Samsung, Crompton, HUL, Eko India Financial Services, and more to curate products based on data insights collected through its tech platform.

 

In response to COVID-19, Frontier Markets launched doorstep delivery of essential goods and digital banking services as a response to the challenges presented by limited access to supplies in rural India. 

 

Ajaita Shah, Founder and CEO of Frontier Markets said, 

 

“Prior to COVID-19, Frontier Markets invested in a technology platform that leveraged data to deliver a wider range of products and services in energy, finance, connectivity, agriculture and more to the last mile consumer, digitally onboarding all of our agent network. Today, we have added essential products and services—from food to protective gear to mobile banking, recognizing that our customers trust us and want us to deliver all solutions to them through our platform.”

  

Lead Investor Anne Chassagnette, Managing Director of ENGIE Rassembleurs d’Energies’s commented, “

 

“The swift adjustment of Frontier Markets’ organization to the COVID-19 crisis and its ability to leverage its innovative tech platform to address the essential needs of the rural population on short notice confirm our full support and our trust in its trailblazing business model.”

By 2025, the company plans to grow to one million rural women entrepreneurs serving 100 million consumers with all types of products and services relating to agriculture, insurance and environment to drive economic empowerment in Bharat India.

 

“Post-COVID, what was “socially good” has now become essential and urgent – Frontier Markets is leveraging upon the untapped opportunity of 900 million rural consumers through rapid expansion of its technology platform and its network of digitally enabled women micro entrepreneurs,” remarked Virginia Tan, Founding Partner, Teja Ventures.

(Edited by Aparajita Saxena)

Want to make your startup journey smooth? YS Education brings a comprehensive Funding Course, where you also get a chance to pitch your business plan to top investors. Click here to know more.

Original Source: yourstory.com

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