Interview with Mr. Ajeet Kumar Singh, MD, CEO and Co-Founder, SAVE Solutions Pvt. Ltd
Mr. Ajeet Kumar Singh is the MD, CEO, and Co-Founder Director of SAVE Solutions Pvt. Ltd. The company is one of India’s largest banking correspondent networks.
Driven by the sole aim of creating and delivering last-mile customer service, he founded the company with a two member team in 2009 in Gaya, Bihar.
It was then incorporated in 2013 due to the concerted efforts and hard work of Mr. Ajeet. The firm has grown significantly over the period of time and is now recognized and classified as SAVE Solutions Pvt. Ltd.
He has played an instrumental role in establishing alternative banking channels in 30 states for SAVE Group.
Apart from steering the firm on the path of development, he is also one of the Board of Directors of the group.
Ajeet comes with over 15 years of extensive experience in the financial services and banking sector across both rural and urban areas.
He is contributing significantly in not only upscaling the market but also driving Save Solutions on the growth trajectory.
His core expertise lies in rural marketing. Leveraging his diverse experience and aptitude, he is managing the networking, business, and market development verticals at SAVE Solutions Pvt. Ltd.
Under his leadership, SAVE Solutions has been able to knit a network of 15000+ CSPs, which service over 21 million rural Indians residing in 8600+ villages, that are spread across 559+ districts in 28 States and 3 Union Territories.
It is due to his mentorship that the firm has emerged to be a one-stop solution for all financial needs under one roof. Leveraging its deeply penetrated network, SAVE has forayed into lending the unserved and underserved populations through its three wholly-owned subsidiaries engaged in NBFC-MSME, NBFC- MFI business, and NBFC- Housing segment.
These three sister concern companies offer a variety of loan products, that further provide financial support and income-generating opportunities for the unbanked communities of the country.
So far, SAVE has successfully established its banking BC business with a transaction value of 41,000 crores in FY21.
Mr. Ajeet wants to contribute in the company’s mission of serving over 5 crore individuals customers in 5 years through its plethora of financial services, especially the Kiosk Banking channel.
He envisions delivering high-quality financial services through a dedicated network of motivated CSPs across rural and urban areas.
Adding to it, Ajeet also wants to boost the growth of the firm and aims at making SAVE Solutions Pvt. Ltd., one of the customer-centric, globally recognized banking networking firms in the times to come.
Mr. Ajeet believes there is no bar to achievement. He feels the brand as well as him are yet to achieve various milestones in the times to come.
He takes pride in the fact that the journey of the brand started from a small district in Bihar and has now grown across the country.
It is this grassroot level journey that differentiates them from the other players in the market. The fact that the firm provides the best quick and seamless grievance resolution mechanism is what gives it a competitive edge.
The entrepreneurial lesson that Mr. Ajeet has learnt in his journey and that he wishes to share is that dedication is the key to success.
Thinking rationally and coming up with effective solutions of the problems in hand with utmost attention and hard work is important.
Another learning that he has gathered over the period of time is that procrastination has no place in life. Prioritizing your work is essential if you wish to achieve your goals and attain success.
Mr. Ajeet is a morning person and his daily routine is waking up at 5 a.m. followed by one hour exercise regime as directed by his fitness coach.
He often listens to the talks and sessions delivered by motivational speakers to boost himself. His latest read, ‘Start with Why’ by Simon Sinek inspired him immensely. It is now no less than a bible that pushes him to surpass all challenges in his life and walk ahead towards his goals.
When he is not immersed in work, exploring new technologies and keeping abreast with industry trends by indulging in reading is how he keeps himself occupied.
He further spends his leisure time brainstorming as to how the new trends and technologies can be implemented in the brand to reduce human efforts and improve efficiency as well as productivity. Being prepared for the unforeseen, planning for the future, and ensuring it is tech-driven is his hobby.
SAVE Solutions is the first organization in India that offers a diversity of financial products and services under one umbrella.
Mr. Ajeet envisions making the firm a full-fledged and one of the leading financial product providers at the pan India level in the next 5 years.
He plans to make SAVE Solutions as the go-to brand where every ticket size loan and every banking service will be offered under one roof.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you came to found this company?
Ajeet Kumar Singh: The SAVE group of companies had extremely humble beginnings, when three young graduates with a zeal for social advancement came together in 2008 to discuss the issues faced by the rural communities in their social advancement.
The three co-founders took up the challenge of starting a non-profit organization to work towards Financial Inclusion, Growth, and Prosperity.
An NGO called Society for Advancement of Village Economy was incorporated in 2009 in Gaya, Bihar, with the goal of offering banking services to the unbanked sector in India.
The main aim of the NGO was to engage in offering financial literacy to the underserved individuals, while also providing them benefits through various government schemes that have been put in place to help in the advancement of underprivileged communities, particularly in the rural sector.
SAVE became National Business Correspondent for State Bank of India in 2012. A registered entity under Company’s Act 2013, SAVE made the transition as a Private Limited organization in 2014 for creating an enabling environment for Customer Service Point network expansion and improvement in service quality.
What inspired you to start a banking service provider company?
Ajeet Kumar Singh: SAVE Solutions was launched to provide door step banking services to the populations residing in India’s hinterlands.
Recognizing the issue of a lack of knowledge and awareness amongst the rural population who do not have access to formalized credit sources played a key role in establishing the mission of the organization.
Taking into consideration the various roadblocks caused by the language and geographical barriers SAVE has attempted to reach across the lengths and breadths of the country through its network of Customer Service Points; with the final aim to make CSPs available in every Panchayat in India.
Regularly conducted community meetings and financial literacy camps for the rural people regarding importance of having Bank Account and other government schemes has been a key contributing factor in reaching out towards the organizational goals.
SAVE Solutions is working closely with these marginalized sections to bring them under the umbrella of organized finance.
Kindly brief us about SAVE Solutions, its specialization, and the services that it offers?
Ajeet Kumar Singh: With the basic goal of providing financial inclusion for all, SAVE began its journey as Banking Correspondent from the state of Bihar.
Over the years the company has not only become the first choice for banking among the rural communities of Bihar, but the growth has slowly reached the pan India level in the field of Banking Correspondence.
Having acquired 100% subsidiary of Karmayogee Finance in 2014, and renaming the same as SAVE Financial Services Pvt. Ltd. has helped the business offer internal lending to SAVE’s CSPs along with providing MSME loans-secured and unsecured loans to the community.
2017 has proved to be a landmark for the organization, having received the Certificate of Registration by RBI for an NBFC- MFI called SAVE Microfinance Private Limited, which is a Micro Finance Institution, working on the JLG lending model for women.
This subsidiary also finds its origin in Bihar, and while slowly becoming operational in 2018, it soon started expanding across the Northern, Western and Central parts of India with 250+ branches.
By 2021 SAVE Solutions has been able to acquire another subsidiary New Habitat Housing Finance and Development Limited, with which the mission to offer an umbrella of financial inclusion services has come a full circle, through the addition of Home Loans, and LAP as part of their financial products.
Recently in 2022 the holding company has also established a synergy with South India based organization SaGgraha Management Services Pvt. Ltd. that acts as lending service business correspondent in the Microfinance space offering Micro Loans and Small Business Loans particularly for the rural women.
Presently the entire group encompasses a network of 12000+ CSPs, which service over 21 million rural Indians residing in 8600+ villages, that are spread across 559+ districts in 28 States and 3 Union Territories.
The daily client footfall is estimated to be 4,00,000. The USPs of the company include: Financial Inclusion, Women Empowerment, Income Generation Facilitation, Youth Employment, Easy and convenient Banking services to the unbanked populations of the country.
The portfolio of financial products offered by the SAVE group of companies include Business Loans, Loan Against Property, Co-Lending, Housing Loans, and Micro Loans, while the various banking related services include Account Opening, Cash Deposit/ Withdrawal, Pension schemes, Insurance Schemes, Agri- Tech, Fast Tag and so on.
What do you think sets your company apart from other banking service providers in the market?
Ajeet Kumar Singh: SAVE Solutions is the first organization in India that offers a diversity of financial products and services under one umbrella.
The journey of the brand that started from a small district in Bihar and has now grown across the country is extraordinary.
It is this grass-root level journey that differentiates them from the other players in the market. The fact that the firm provides the best quick and seamless grievance resolution mechanism is what gives it a competitive edge.
The Unique Customer Service Point embedded collection process makes SAVE’s branches 100% cashless.
The company is greatly enabled with paperless operations while providing doorstep loan disbursal and collection.
The well-designed training and capacity building programs for the credit users ensure that they understand group-dynamics and are judiciously able to utilize the loans.
Financial literacy programs are also frequently organized for the financially illiterate and for those who are unaware of banking services.
How do you ensure that your banking services meet the needs of your clients?
Ajeet Kumar Singh: The organizations’ deep rooted network of Customer Service Points across the entire nation has helped leverage various banking and financial solutions among the rural, semi-rural and urban clients.
Spanning a tenure of nearly 15 years, SAVE has become a one stop solution for a wide range of financial products and services offering many lending products through its Non -Banking Financial Companies, Lending services Business Correspondent, and Housing Finance Company subsidiaries i.e.
Business to Customer; and Banking services in partnership with various PSU and Grameen Banks through its Banking services Business Correspondence i.e. Business to Business.
Can you tell us about any challenges your company has faced and how you overcame them?
Ajeet Kumar Singh: During the course of the development and expansion of the business the company has often faced many challenges particularly with respect to the kiosk banking network. These include:
• Technical Challenges- Most of the Kiosks are at the Rural Level where usage of Computers is almost negligible so computer education for the CSPs has been a big challenge.
The majority of rural areas lacked internet connectivity. To overcome this issue VSAT was introduced to establish a channel of communication.
• Trust- Initially building trust amongst the customers was a big challenge as it was difficult for them to come to terms with the fact that the banks have been allowed to open mini bank branches at their doorsteps.
The traditional mindset of customers who were used to taking loans from their local money lenders acted as a barrier in convincing them of this new loan application methodology.
On the whole, the biggest difficulty when providing services in these areas is gaining the trust of the locals.
• Selection of Correct Applicant- The kiosk model was introduced to generate employment. So, the selection of genuine applicants was also a preliminary obstacle.
• Aadhar Authentication: The Government’s regulation that requires individuals to link their Aadhar Card to a Mobile number through OTP is another challenge, as the people in the community frequently change their numbers making it difficult to add them to a lending database.
However, these challenges have been recognized while finding corrective measures around t them for creating a business that is extremely adaptable to the industry requirements.
How do you plan to scale your company and continue to grow your customer base?
Ajeet Kumar Singh: SAVE has successfully established a wide spread pan Indian banking BC business and is working towards the mission to serve over 5 crore customers in 5 years through its plethora of financial services, especially the Kiosk Banking channel.
The organization plans to scale with a vision to deliver high-quality financial services through a dedicated network of motivated CSPs across rural and urban.
To boost the growth of SAVE, it is the aim of the firm to create a customer-centric, globally recognized banking networking brand in the times to come.
The future sees an introduction of more products in the portfolio such as Consumer Durable Loans, KCC, Gold Loans, Agri Tech Loans, along with a BCAT agreement to be started with SBI, thus becoming the first BC business to do so with a PSU.
- SAVE Solutions is in discussion with other PSU Banks and is planning to start Agri loan and expand our co-lending partnership.
- SAVE Microfinance plans to reach upto 6 lac clients.
- SAVE Financial Services Pvt. Ltd aims to support the needs of upto 4500 clients.
- New Habitat Housing Finance and Development Limited is currently focused on partnering with SAVE Financial’s existing branches to expedite the Housing business to accelerate the disbursement while touching the lives of 3000 clients.
The group company is also aiming to generate over 350+ on roll and 5200 off roll job opportunities across India.
How do you envision the future of banking and financial services evolving, and how is your company prepared to adapt to these changes?
Ajeet Kumar Singh: NBFC (Non-Banking Financial Companies) sector is rising in terms of market share, popularity and customer reach but is still undergoing technological development and is not able to reach their full potential.
The NBFCs and MFIs must adapt to agility. The customer base for these institutions has been low-income individuals in rural and semi-urban areas who are not able to access the banking systems efficiently.
However, with a vast size of customer segment comes a need to streamline the operations, reduce customer acquisition costs and de-risk the existing portfolio with an increase in credit penetration in the emerging markets.
Therefore, in such cases, NBFCs and MFIs must embrace tech-enabled business solutions to cater to the needs of their customers.
With the advent of technology, developmental benefits can be experienced such as efficient connectivity, digital dividend, improved service delivery and efficient back-end operations.
Information asymmetries, costs and risks can be reduced by adopting digital technologies. Substantially, it also reduces the marginal costs and spurs innovation in the financial field, which can improve productivity at a greater level.
Through the developmental mechanisms of digital technology, inclusion and efficiency can be achieved meticulously. In addition, operational errors can be significantly reduced and the process journey can be improved.
Following a personalized approach while catering to their needs is important. Initiatives such as Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT), Adhaar Pay Bridge System and India Stack have increased the accessibility of customers for NBFCs.
In addition, the increase in the usage of smartphones in tier-2 and tier-3 cities has been helpful in tapping the untouched markets of credit needs.
To understand the demands of new-age customers, the organization is following a data-centric and analytical approach to make strategic decisions.
Technology in this sector is helping to open many gates with newer opportunities while reducing risks and operational costs.
A continuous upgradation of Technological know-how and usage is being done to perform better in domains such as resource utilization, manpower management and administration.
How do you stay current with the latest developments in banking technology and what are your success tips for young and aspiring entrepreneurs?
Ajeet Kumar Singh: Exploring new technologies and keeping abreast with industry trends by indulging in reading is the key to remaining current on the new banking technological developments.
Regular upgradation of the NBFC software from time to time as per the market trends is also important.
Being tech driven, many initiatives are being taken to digitalize the organizational processes. Brainstorming on new trends and technologies that can be implemented in the brand to reduce human efforts and improve efficiency as well as productivity has proved to be extremely beneficial.
Being prepared for the unforeseen, planning for the future, and ensuring it is tech-driven is always a primary concerns.
In terms of achievement one cannot set a bar, and believing that the sky is the limit is one of the most important factors in building path breaking enterprises. The brand is yet to achieve many more milestones.
An important business lesson that can help all the budding entrepreneurs in the industry is the belief that dedication is the only key to success.
Thinking rationally and coming up with effective solutions of the problems at hand with utmost attention and hard work is important.
Another thing to be noted is that procrastination has no place in life. Prioritizing your work is essential if one wishes to achieve goals and attain success.
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