Hena Mehta’s joy at being accepted into the prestigious Wharton School’s MBA programme in 2016 wore off quickly when she realised how hard it would be for her to pay for her higher education, that too abroad. She did not want to take out a loan that would encumber her entrepreneurial dreams, but was there another option?
“In hindsight, I wished I had planned my finances more prudently when I started working at the age of 21 and made use of compounding to grow my wealth,” she tells YourStory.
“I knew at the time that I needed to do something about this problem: Why don’t more women take charge of their finances to power their life goals?”
The question stayed with her during her time in the US and when she eventually returned to India in 2018, she realised after interacting with nearly 500 urban women across the country that this was the problem she wanted to tackle — helping women become more financially savvy and define their financial future.
Hena teamed up with her childhood friend Dipika Jaikishan, who had spent over a decade in the personal finance industry, and launched Basis, a financial app for women.
Basis helps women address their monetary needs and set their financial goals by accessing options tailored to their requirements, without having to lean on male members of the family.
Especially in a country like India where men mostly make the financial decisions in a family, women taking charge of not just their basic financial needs such as saving money, but also learning to invest in capital markets, tax-saving instruments, and other financial products is key to realising the “financial inclusion” goal set by the government and financial institutions.
Consider the stats: 23 percent of women in India still do not have access to any formal financial services; of the 77 percent who do, 44 percent are dormant customers, who don’t use the services due to lack of regular income, motivation, or understanding of the financial world, says a 2020 report by Microsave Consulting.
“With few options in the market catering to women, we envisioned a platform that will speak to and address the financial needs of urban women, not as an extension of a male-centric product, but to a woman, as she is — strong, independent and full of choices,” says Hena.
Her goal is to make Basis one of the top three resources for Indian women seeking financial advice and recommendations.
Basis’ biggest competitors are LXME, FemWealth, and the soon-to-be-launched Salt. On the core team of Salt are former Paytm Payments Bank CEO Shinjini Kumar, former founding team member of the bank Aditi Sholapurkar, and fintech startup Simpl Co-founder Chaitra Chidanand.
How the app works
The registration process is easy and quick, with options to enter customised information.
The main features of the app are its “Knowledge Boosters” section, which simplifies financial jargon; the “Advisory” section, which offers tools to help the user manage her money better — from investing in mutual funds that fit her financial goals to calculating the capital cushion she might need during periods such as a career break; and the “Community” section, where users can interact with each other, ask questions, and share learnings.
Basis also regularly conducts financial webinars for women on the app.
Financial recommendations are curated for each user by the startup’s proprietary algorithm, and overseen by the founders.
Hena started her career as a software engineer with Goldman Sachs and went on to work with Ezetap and Square. Dipika has managed investment portfolios of over Rs 100 crore, conducted more than 1,200 financial awareness conversations, and worked with financial services firms such as Money Matters and Fisdom.
Basis mostly targets urban millennial and Gen Z women. At present, its user base comprises salaried women, entrepreneurs, freelancers, and college graduates looking to handle their financial matters better.
The app recently crossed 50,000 downloads on the iOS App Store and Google Play Store. Better Capital, EMVC Fintech Fund, and Kora Capital are some of its investors, and the company has so far raised an undisclosed pre-seed round.
The Bengaluru-based startup will soon launch a premium subscription plan to offer more personalised financial advice, masterclasses, and on-demand financial advisors as part of its “Basis First” service, which will help it generate recurring revenue.
Giving women more access to financial products and services is a win-win for everyone: fintech companies as well as women. The global financial services industry could potentially gain nearly $330 billion in annual revenue by focusing on women-centric financial products and services, says a 2018 BNY Mellon and United Nations Foundation report.
The financial services industry in India is expected to reach Rs 6.21 lakh crore by 2025 from Rs 1.92 lakh crore in 2019, expanding at a compound annual growth rate of nearly 22.7 percent during the 2020-2025 period, says a Research and Markets report.