CS Sudheer, Founder & CEO, IndianMoney.com, holds a strong vision to serve the nation by spreading financial literacy and promoting financial inclusion. The author of Love Beyond Death,
a book that talks about the importance and need of being insured,
Sudheer has served as a manager at ICICI Prudential Life Insurance and was the Cluster Head at Howden India. Sudheer completed his graduation in BBM-Marketing and is a post graduate from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business.
In an interaction with Ujjwal Rao, Editor, IIFL, CS Sudheer
said, "The crores of citizens that are yet to receive financial education highlight the dormant demand as well as the future of financial advisory in India."
Tell us about IndianMoney in brief. How did it come to be? What is its objective?
IndianMoney.com is India’s largest, free, unbiased financial education provider in India. I founded this company in 2008 to address the urgent need for financial education among the common man.
While working for an insurance company back then, I met an auto driver who told me that he had purchased an insurance policy. He said that the salesperson had promised him -- “Rs1 lakh in 3 years for a one-time payment of Rs25,000".
When we checked the policy document later, we realized that it was a regular premium ULIP plan, wherein the man would have to pay Rs25,000 for three consecutive years to be eligible for the returns. Moreover, the returns would be market-based and not guaranteed. This incident shook me and made me look at things from a different perspective. Sales people were misleading and “misselling” to the uneducated common folk in order to satiate their greed and their targets.
This was the instance that made me realize the need for genuine, honest, and unbiased financial education so that people could avoid being misled or duped. That's how IndianMoney.com began: to end unethical, misleading sales practices and to spread financial literacy.
To begin with, I had to decide on a model to educate the masses. I explored multiple ways and zeroed in on the on-call advisory method to connect effectively with the public.
Although paving the right path to success was a herculean task, we overcame all obstacles, and today, we have successfully completed a decade of making people ‘Wise and Rich’.
The prime objective of the company is 100% financial literacy in India and fostering financial inclusion among the masses by making them financially aware.
Who is your target audience? How do you reach out to them or make them reach out to you? How many people have you been able to “educate” so far?
Every individual who seeks financial advice is our audience. A person who wants to be aware and informed before buying any product where he/she is not misled or misguided leaves
a missed call on our helpline and we reach out to them.
Word of mouth also plays a very critical role in our business and helps us increase our reach and presence. People also reach us through the content on our website, articles published on leading portals, magazines, and newspapers in various languages, handbooks, education through videos on YouTube and TV shows, and our very own IndianMoney mobile application.
IndianMoney has educated close to 36 lakh people so far.
Can you tell us about the penetration of financial education in India, both demography-wise and region-wise (rural and urban)?
India is home to 17.5% of the world’s population, but according to a Standard & Poor (S&P) survey, nearly 76% of India’s adult population does not understand even basic financial concepts, including risk diversification, inflation, or compound interest. This is across regions and demographics. 73% of the Indian men and 80% of the Indian women are financially illiterate today. Moreover, studies have found that the rich are also in need of financial education.
A lot of companies such as PolicyBazaar and BankBazaar provide free financial education. How is your service different than theirs, i.e. what is your USP compared to the competition?
PolicyBazaar and BankBazaar sell products to the end consumers while functioning as financial advisors on several banking products. Such online insurance aggregators and online marketplaces source customers as leads to bankers and insurers. This could encourage bias and conflict of interest as commissions are involved.
IndianMoney, on the other hand, does not sell any personal financial products. It only provides free and unbiased financial advice on a wide range of topics. We educate consumers on financial products and concepts, thereby remaining unbiased and genuine.
If the very idea the company operates on is providing free financial education, then what is/are your source(s) of revenue, i.e. what is your business model?
IndianMoney does not sell any financial products. Our revenue model is mainly dependent on generating leads for associates who are registered on our platform, i.e. after the approval of the customer. Consumers are not charged for the service they receive. On the contrary, we earn a 'referral fee' for every lead that is transferred to the associates based on the requirement. Thus, we remain unbiased and render honest and genuine advice. The referral fee ranges from Rs50-500.
Who are your ‘wealth doctors’? How do you incentivize them? Is it a voluntary service or is remuneration involved? How does the whole customer service department at IndianMoney operate?
Our wealth doctors are certified financial advisors who educate people on financial products. Wealth doctors are on the company’s payroll and earn salaries and incentives.
Moreover, we have a dedicated customer service team that responds to the day-to-day queries of callers. We call them the ‘associate care’ team and they attend to the general concerns of the consumers. The team is equipped to address concerns via calls, emails, reviews, as well as WhatsApp.
Teams have further been divided into sub-groups and each of this sub-group is allotted a topic and a medium of communication to address the concerns and grievances of the customers. These groups report to their respective managers, who, in turn, ensure that all queries are addressed. They also have to file everyday reports to the head of the department.
Considering the current market turmoil, both in debt and equity, what would be your advice to individual investors?
Yes, stock markets have crashed. However, it is wise not to stop SIPs in equity mutual funds in these volatile times. Equity investments reward investors who stay invested for the long-term. Invest in equity and equity-related securities of large-cap companies that focus on strong fundamentals.
When it comes to debt, the IL&FS downgrade from AAA-rating to ‘D’ has forced mutual funds to mark down these bonds from their portfolios by 25-50%. Also, rising bond yields and a depreciating rupee are causing heavy losses to investors. Hence, it is wise to stay far from long-duration funds and stick to liquid funds. These funds can deliver 7-8% returns with minimum risk.
What is the future of financial advisory in India, especially for IndianMoney? Are there any newer segments the company wishes to foray into or focus upon?
India’s population is estimated to be around 1.35bn, making it the second-largest country in terms of population. This makes the need for financial education and awareness among citizens very important.
The crores of citizens that are yet to receive financial education highlight the dormant demand as well as the future of financial advisory in India. To boost financial inclusion and make people conscious of their investment decisions, IndianMoney has taken the lead. This has not even been discussed at a regulatory level yet.
Yes, IndianMoney is seeking to expand and grow exponentially. The company will soon launch a wholly-owned subsidiary -- Suvision Insurance Brokers Pvt Ltd – through which we will sell insurance products over calls, something which insurance brokers are unwilling to do owing to lower profits and commissions.
Apart from this, the company is also seeking to expand its publishing business by launching handbooks on various financial products. We will also look at producing content for various news channels, newspapers, magazines, as well as writing regular columns for leading newspapers in various languages across India.