ISME ACE Fintech Accelerator Focuses on Startups Leveraging Technologies Such as SMAC, AI & Blockchain

'Seed fund, mentorship, sales & marketing support, legal & accounting support, etc. are some ways in which we can help the Startups and that’s what the plan is at ISME ACE,' says Radha Kapoor Khanna.

ISME ACE Fintech Accelerator Focuses on Startups Leveraging Technologies Such as SMAC, AI & Blockchain
ISME ACE Fintech Accelerator Focuses on Startups Leveraging Technologies Such as SMAC, AI & Blockchain

The Indian School of Management and Entrepreneurship ISME has recently announced the launch of a new accelerator headed by YES Bank chief Rana Kapoor’s daughter Radha Kapoor Khanna.

The programme called ISME ACE has been launched for fintech startups in Mumbai. YES Bank chief Rana Kapoor’s daughters manage ISME under holding company DOIT Group, as part of The Three Sisters: Institutional Office (“TTS:IO”). The three sisters Roshini, Rakhee and Radha also manage the Indian School of Design and Innovation (ISDI) that was launched in a partnership with Microsoft Ventures to foster the start-up ecosystem in India, in 2015. With innovation and start-ups thriving in the Indian economy Radha had the breadth of.

In an interaction with BW Disrupt, Radha Kapoor Khanna talked about ISME Fintech Accelerator’s future plans.

Excerpts from the interview:

Congratulations on your announcement of the new initiative to work closely with startups. What are ISME FinTech Accelerator’s plans to attract startups and the plans of nurturing them?

ISME ACE is India's largest FinTech Accelerator. We are creating an ecosystem to nurture and accelerate Startups backed by the philosophy of Design, Innovation & Creativity led Entrepreneurship (DICE). The Accelerator has developed a comprehensive and collaborative ecosystem to nurture and accelerate FinTech Startups joining the ISME ACE program by partnering with multiple stakeholders such as IBM, Amazon for technology, Luthra & Luthra for advisory support, Indian Angel Network, TiE & LetsVenture for investor and entrepreneurial network support, KPMG for knowledge support, Let’s Talk Payments as innovation partner, and AWFIS as infrastructure partner.

ISME ACE is designed to accelerate Startups by providing seed funding, focused & hands-on mentorship, access to financial services partner firms, technology, fund raising and marketing support.

What are your target segments for selecting startups for ISME`s startup accelerator program to work with during the accelerator program? Is that choice related to known gaps in the portfolio or longer-term strategic goals?

The focus sectors of ISME ACE are alternate lending, financial inclusion, smart authentication, insurance tech, wealth management, payments, etc. – all of which revolve around the financial activities a common man performs - pay, borrow, lend, insure or invest. Startups, either B2C or B2B disrupting these financial activities are welcome to apply for the accelerator program. The focus will be on Startups leveraging technologies such as SMAC (social, mobile, analytics and cloud), artificial intelligence and blockchain.

In FinTech space, so far the focus of innovation and adoption has been restricted to payments services. There are still many other services which are still not accessible to a large population. At ISME ACE we are determined to fill that gap and strive to nurture Startups, which will one day make all the financial services accessible to every person.

Is FinTech the only sector where you see opportunities or would you in future expand to other sectors too?

FinTech is a part of the overall ecosystem we are creating. The Innovation ecosystem we have created here at Lower Parel Innovation District (LPID), is spread over 6,50,000 sq. ft., in the heart of Mumbai, India’s financial capital. and comprises of academic spaces as well as accelerators and other business interests. ISDI Ace accelerator focuses on design and creative innovations with focus areas extending to AR/VR, IoT, Healthcare, Media etc. We are also developing a culinary incubator to promote Indian chefs.

At The Three Sisters: Institutional Office (TTS: IO), we have incubated businesses focusing on education, tourism, retail, family entertainment centres and agri-logistics among key focus sectors to develop and invest.

Upon completion of the program, is ISME FinTech Accelerator looking to partner/fund with the most promising startups coming out from the accelerator? 

Yes indeed. First of all, we are investing in all cohort Startups in the beginning itself – a gross funding of ~USD 100,000 in each Startup, which I believe is the highest amongst all FinTech accelerators or incubators in the country. At the end of the program, ISME ACE, our mentors, our investor partners which are top financial sector firms in India, will further invest in Startups.

What are the most critical factors for India to become an international FinTech hub?

i) Mass access to FinTech products 

Financial services have to be inclusive since they are more of a necessity, hence the solutions have to be designed keeping human behaviour in mind to ensure their accessibility to common population without the barriers of education, language, social and economic status. A person not fluent in English or able to type complicated instructions should also be able to buy insurance or invest in mutual funds. A farmer should not have to struggle to get a loan for buying a tractor or purchasing harvest insurance.

A very appropriate example of such human behaviour led thinking is evolution of UPI, which now extends the access of payment services to every Indian by only using his mobile phone and biometric using Aadhaar. UPI started with a mobile application for smartphones covering around 250 million of smartphone users, then quickly included USSD as a mode of delivery to make it more inclusive and included another 350 million feature phones and basic phone users. Inclusion of Aadhaar biometric as a mode of authentication makes it a truly universal payments product for Indian population.

ii) Synergies/partnerships between large financial institutions and Startups

I think that the global financial world is at an inflexion point and there are lot of disruptions happening across the globe, esp. India due to recent developments such as Jan Dhan, Aadhaar, mobile adoption, demonetization, etc. The large financial institutions have an inertia towards change, and FinTech Startups have to be creative to come up with methods which are more acceptable and suitable for the recipient of these services in order to break that inertia. As the trends suggest even large incumbent players are opening themselves up to these creative FinTech Startups and solutions offered by new age entrepreneurs for their last mile delivery.

iii) Requisite infrastructure and funding support to Startups

Startups are bringing the FinTech revolution globally and also in India. We need to push them to achieve the same. Seed fund, mentorship, sales & marketing support, legal & accounting support, etc. are some ways in which we can help the Startups and that’s what the plan is at ISME ACE.

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