Inkredo joined F10’s Singapore Incubator program with the intention of growing their base of Southeast Asian customers but soon found that COVID-induced restrictions would set a different course. “We decided to just focus on India,” Kumar said, explaining how the pandemic forced them to keep close to home.
Staying local has by no means limited Inkredo, who empower small loan providers (like car-leasing companies or phone retailers) with a tool to analyse bank statements and thus assess the financial health of potential borrowers. Kumar is a self-confessed systems thinker, who strives to mindfully observe and understand human behaviour.
We sat down with him to learn the 10 most important lessons he’s uncovered on his entrepreneurial journey:
Before starting Inkredo, Kumar was taking a break in New Delhi. He saw migrant workers being charged huge fees on relatively modest transactions, and found himself wondering: “why are the poorest people paying the highest interest rates to borrow such small amounts of money?” This question sent Inkredo on a journey to uncover how the financial system isn’t working for so many workers.
As the team began building, they kept adding features. And then they joined F10. “It really helped us narrow down on what we, as a company, want to achieve,” Kumar told us, sharing that the team scaled back from 7 or 8 ideas to one single goal to start a business.
“We really enjoyed the processes that F10 taught us - they gave us enough space & time to apply the learnings that were specific to our problem.”
With a goal in mind, it’s important to evaluate it against people. Kumar’s greatest entrepreneurial revelation has been “understanding human desire… whether it’s B2B or B2C, you have to fulfil human desires, usually around making progress.” Kumar shared, admitting that: “whenever things have gone south, it’s because I’ve forgotten to keep the human desire to grow at the centre of what we do”.
The Inkredo team has started measuring their time in terms of customer impact. “If the impact is small, but the effort is huge, we no longer focus on that”.
“People can sign up and test our product themselves,” he said, indicating that this saves time earlier in the sales cycle, which makes the later human touch feel more exclusive. It also keeps the product streamlined: “If the product is simple, you don’t need human intervention”.
“We met some good people during the F10 program”, Kumar reflected, though the online experience has made him appreciate the value of in-person gathering all the more.
“It’s informal meetings that help you understand people and how you can work together”. While the Inkredo team was built remote-first, they are now hoping to integrate in-person retreats into the workplace culture. “I would like to meet my customers, after we have closed deals!”
While Kumar hopes to shake the hands of his customers again, he isn’t one to dwell on the negatives. With online sessions, “everything starts on time and finishes on time,” which offers startups precious time to keep building. By meeting virtually, you reduce hours of travel time and simplify sales cycles.
It’s taken many years for Kumar to cultivate his mindset, and he admitted he started his first venture purely with profits in mind. “After a couple of years, I realised that entrepreneurship was a journey of self-actualisation. Before understanding customers I needed to understand myself.” While the intentions may have complicated his first steps in startups, learning from his mistakes has made Kumar resilient.
“As entrepreneurs, we must see the bad side of our business more than the good,” Kumar confessed. His solution? “Talk about your problems without any expectations of solving them, with someone who accepts who you are as a person”.
Fortunately for Kumar, an F10 mentor offered the sounding board he needed to keep on track. “we could speak very openly with each other … and we still talk at least once a month”.
When you’re hustling hard in a changing landscape, it can be hard to pause and reflect. But taking the time to concentrate elsewhere can have pay-offs you don’t expect.
“I often find serendipity in reading books, were I find the answers I need”.
Inkredo uses uploaded bank statements to inform its automated analysis, rather than access user bank accounts. While it’s a common practice, it’s one the team wouldn’t want to take part in as consumers themselves.
“We have consciously chosen to not do this,” Kumar shared, indicating his belief that ethical decisions are the ones that prevail in the long run.
By focusing on the big picture of ethics, human desires, and overall wellness, Inkredo has created a set of beliefs that guides their work - freeing the team to focus on building products that provide value for their customers and serve the people who have been blocked from accessing the financial products that could revolutionise their lives.
As a leader, Kumar’s enthusiastic acceptance of failure has equipped him to be a mindful leader making meaningful change.
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