Rural Invest – A Story of a Venture who is Educating Rural India

rural-invest

Website – Rural Invest

Co-Founders – Naman Tekriwal, Satyam Mehta, Raghav Sharma, Madhav Sharma

Personal financial management has been a vital affair for the middle class and the rich. Investing money to save taxes or even future planning has been people’s main concerns on why they learn personal financial management. Nevertheless, this pandemic has made it critical among the people in the entire world. Be it a rich or the poor, today we all have our jobs at stake. We are also uptight about the uncertain future and consequently plan to save as much as we can and only spend on essentials. Sadly, rural India is still way behind in understanding how to save and further invest to keep getting returns from the invested money. But interestingly, there have been startups coming up to help rural India grow!

And one such startup that we plan to talk about today is the Rural Invest App who focuses on helping all of us with the best possible investments.

About Rural Invest

Rural Invest was formed by four students, Naman Tekriwal, Satyam Mehta, Raghav Sharma and Madhav Sharma in April 2020. They come up with an interesting app that collaborates with investment-driven experts enduring extensive portfolios, people into equity advisory, financial planning to further assist their investors in a good uniform formulation of wealth. They are majorly into equity advisory and mutual funds.

The idea behind the startup

The four co-founders believe that the understanding of financial planning still lacks to a great extent in rural India. A SEBI conducted survey mentioned that it is just 1% of the rural population that invests in financial instruments. The reason behind the tiny number is lack of knowledge and understanding. Rural India does not have good access to essential financial services. It is sad to know that it is just 0.23% of the India population who is aware of mutual funds and SIPs. And therefore, to grow these numbers, Rural Invest was formed. The four started with targeting drivers and maids, educating them and facilitating their investments in mutual funds. They helped them make savings of INR 500-700 per month in SIPs and learn how they could get away with unpredictable instances of life.

Meaning of success to Rural Invest

The Rural Invest believers in the quote “Doing good is good for business.” Formed as a for-profit company, they aim to contribute towards financial literacy and inclusion in India. Rural Invest is the conception of passionate people who aim to bring a good change in the lives of the Rural Population of India. They look forward to changing the precarious situation of financial planning in rural households and inculcate a habit of saving and investing amongst them. And educating all is what means success to them!

Challenges faced by Rural Invest

The biggest challenge during the setup of the start-up was the construction of the mobile application. Effective interaction with the technological team was hindered due to COVID19 which led to delay in the setup by 2 months. For them, virtual meetings were not fruitful.

Funding plans

Rural Invest is a bootstrapped enterprise. The 4 co-founders have invested money to start the venture. Besides, the startup holds good technical support from Tarakki Invest who has helped them build their mobile applications for both iOS and Android. They hold no plans to get it funded from outside.

These college students have become a motivation to all the young entrepreneurs today who wish to not only do business to make money but also contribute along to society!

What made you strike this business idea? What inspired you to start this company?

Naman – Today, in India, there exists a lack of financial planning in rural Indian households, so even though, India has the world’s largest rural population, it is yet to be tapped to its fullest potential. There exists a pertinent lack of financial planning in rural Indian households. According to a recent survey conducted by SEBI, less than 1% of rural people invest in financial instruments. Rural Population of India suffers from a lack of financial literacy and barely has any personal financial knowledge. They even lack access to essential financial services and have almost no credit availability. Only 0.23% of the Indian population is aware of SIPs and Mutual Funds.

These statistics were what caused the “lightbulb” moment, and this is how Rural Invest was born. We initially started to target maids & drivers working in our neighborhood and started educating them & facilitating their investments into Mutual funds. Initially, they found it hard to believe that by merely saving small amounts like Rs. 500-700 per month through micro-SIPs (Systematic Investment Plans), they will be able to ensure financial stability for their families.

However, we realized that behavior of rural household investors regarding saving & investment behavior is inconsistent and unpredictable because of the lack of financial education, impoverished lifestyle, unstable occupation, and fluctuating income. They are not able to save their money due to these irregularities, and even if some households save, it is usually informal savings in the form of cash, which might pose liquidity challenges during unexpected situations like Demonetization or COVID-19. Lack of awareness about ways & benefits of investing in financial assets leads to an increase in informal savings & investments, which also does not contribute to the capital formation of the country.

Thus, we decided to start Rural Invest, an initiative like Rural Invest which is the need of the hour to leverage finance’s power to empower and tap the untapped Indian rural market.Rural Invest is a startup venture targeting rural financial inclusion across the nation through a comprehensive wealth management solution. It aims to spread awareness about financial literacy amongst rural households. It serves as an effective avenue for Rural India for saving, borrowing, investing, and mitigating future financial risks, thereby also ensuring access to liquidity in times of distress. The core thesis behind Rural Invest is to empower and enable all sections of the society to strategically invest money in financial instruments through SIPs of a variety of denominations. 

When did you start your business?

Naman – We have started the business formally in April 2020.

What does success mean to your company?

Naman – At Rural Invest, all of us are firm believers of the saying “Doing good is good for business” and we wish to inculcate the same ideology at Rural Invest, which is of conscious capitalism. While Rural Invest is a for-profit company, with a pursuit for profit, the mission is always to contribute towards financial inclusion and financial literacy in India. At Rural Invest, we strive for success, because all of us are extremely passionate to bring a change and impact the lives of the Rural Population on India. Rural Population of India suffers from a lack of financial literacy and barely has any personal financial knowledge. They even lack access to essential financial services and have almost no credit availability. At Rural Invest, we envision to change this precarious situation of financial planning in Rural Indian households and inculcate a habit of saving and investing amongst them. Thus, the importance of success, in terms of profitability is paramount for Rural Invest, however, our aim is to create a nation-wide impact on the Rural population of India.

How are you performing currently?

Naman – We are currently in later stages of our BETA Testing, which is coupled with social media promotion. We are actively testing the mobile application to identify bugs, but we have started to attract investments in SIPs and Mutual Funds on our platform. We are a bootstrapped venture, currently have a fully functioning mobile application. We have Tarrakki Invest as our knowledge partner, who supports us in back-office operations of Rural Invest. We have more than Rs. 3,28,561 invested with Rural Invest in SIPs and Rs. 10,67,950 invested with Rural Invest in lumpsum for SIPs. We also plan to conduct a pilot test in 5 villages of Haryana to test the solution out with the Rural Population and adjust our services accordingly.

What is the biggest risk to your company?

Naman – The biggest risk to our company also acts as our biggest challenge, which is the mindset of people, especially Rural people, regarding investments in Mutual Funds. People in Rural areas still prefer to invest in non-liquid financial assets such as Land, Gold, Vehicles, etc. and do not trust the returns of the stock market. Educating these people and spreading financial literacy acts a big risk for our company. Additionally, PayTM Money has also been recently launched, which allows users to invest through low denomination SIPs, something which we initially planned to communicate as our USP. Thus, the hurdles of behavioral change and competition act as some of the biggest risks to Rural Invest.

What are your plans for the funding?

Naman – Rural Invest is a bootstrapped venture, where, all 4 co-founders have pooled in money to get the business off the ground. In addition, we have received technical support from Tarrakki Invest for building out our mobile applications for iOS and Android. We currently have no plans of raising more funds and we will try to keep the venture, bootstrapped itself.

What is the biggest challenge you faced during your start-up setup?

Naman – The biggest challenge faced during the setup of the start-up has been the development of the mobile application. Communication with the technological team was hampered due to COVID-19, which pushed the launch date by ~2 months. Moreover, the inability to meet physically and work together on tasks also proved out to detrimental to the team’s overall productivity, since virtual meetings and communication did not prove out to be that effective and productive.

What does growth mean to you and your business?

Naman – Growth is crucial to the long-term survival of a business. While we can operate with stagnancy initially and still fair well with a decent outcome, the importance of continued growth is paramount. To stimulate growth at Rural Invest, we are deploying multiple growth strategies, which will pull the crowds to invest with us. We are a launching a premium mutual fund subscription, wherein, people would also get a debit card along with their mutual balance, giving them access to immediate liquidity. This service is something, which is not being offered by our investment platforms, and we expect this feature to act as a stimulant for growth of Rural Invest.

Growth for us is extremely important as growth will lead to survival of the business and it is only when the business survives, that Rural Invest would be able to impact the lives of the Rural people and bring about a change in the society. Growth and survival is essential for us to ensure maximum profitability for the business and maximum financial literacy and financial security for Rural India.

How does your product stand different from others in the market?

Naman – At Rural Invest, we are a team of students who are in collaboration with investment driven experts with extensive experience in portfolio handling, equity advisory, and financial planning. Most investment application out there make investments in Regular Plans. This means, they take a certain percentage of commission out of every investment you make. Rural Invest enables users to invest only in Mutual Funds with Direct Plans. We DO NOT charge a single rupee in commissions on mutual funds.

Along with this, Rural Invest offers multiple investment strategies such as, Tarrakki Zyaada, Investment Strategies and Goal-Based Investing, making the entire process of investing easier. We offer unbiased recommendations with Investment Strategies, allowing users to be in the driver’s seat for their investments. We also enable them to save for a goal and calculate their required investments throughout propriety calculation algorithms, in collaboration with Tarrakki Invest.

Where are your start-up services spread?

Naman – Rural Invest is a Pan-India wealth management solution, allowing users to invest from any part of India. Our rural pilot project will however be set in Haryana, wherein, we will target 5 villages for financial literacy and inclusion campaigns.

What does it feel to be the founder of your start-up? How does it feel
getting up every morning and getting on to work?

Naman – When one is working with a passionate team, which is equally zealous about the potential impact of your startup, there can be no better feeling. Launching Rural Invest in times of COVID-19 has been a motivating experience, since COVID-19 has brought about a time of economic uncertainty and disparity. As a team, when we read about the sufferings of the poor people, how they ran out of cash and did not have money to afford basic necessities, we thought to ourselves, “What if they had saved money in Mutual Funds earlier and had access to this money in such times of need.”

This thought in many ways motivates us till date to get up every morning and get on to work, because we understand the enormity of the impact, we can create with Rural Invest. If we can inculcate the habit of saving and investing in the Rural Population, they would be able to achieve higher financial stability and security. Thus, it feels surreal to be co-founders of a startup like Rural Invest and the thought of impacting several lives makes us feel overwhelmed every morning to get onto getting the work done.

Where do you see your business standing in the next 5 years?

We crack this joke in many ways, but all of us wish to be on the Forbes 30 under 30 list in the next 5 years. However, in terms of business standing, in the next 5 years, we hope to have 500K+ downloads of our application and we see Rural Invest, driving the wheel of the Rural financial revolution in India. India has the world’s largest rural population, but it is yet to be tapped to its fullest potential. There exists a pertinent lack of financial planning in rural Indian households. At Rural Invest, we aim to leverage finance’s power to empower and tap the untapped Indian rural market and expect to create nation-wide impact on the lives of the rural population and simultaneously achieve greater profitability for Rural Invest in the next 5 years.

Who support you to stand this business and how?

Naman – We were fortunate enough to receive support from industry mentors like Mr. Saumya Shah (Founder – Tarrakki Invest) and Mr. Rajiv Mehta (CEO – Value Creators). They were our guiding light, who guided us in getting Rural Invest off the ground. From a financial standpoint, our parents helped us to invest money in Rural Invest to bootstrap the venture, but they also helped us with logistical, operational and emotional support.