For 24-year-old Anamika Sharma, an IT professional residing in Bengaluru, the world of savings and investments is something of an enigma. A young adult who only recently became financially independent, she says she finds little use for investment instruments because she does not have anything left over at the end of the month to invest.
“After rent and utilities, whatever little I have leftover is usually spent on lunching or dining out with friends. If it isn’t that, it’s either always someone’s birthday, or I stumble upon a wishlist plant or a book…just something or the other that I want to buy” she quips.
When she does have major purchases to make though, Anamika relies on fintech apps for a quick line of credit.
“It’s easy to get a loan on apps these days, so if I really need something and don’t have the money for it, I take a small loan. I always repay it quickly though — as soon as I get my salary,” she adds. But there are times she’s not able to draw down the loan promptly, like her recent trip to the Netherlands when she borrowed upwards of Rs 2 lakh.
“That took me around 11 months to pay off in EMIs, and I ended up paying a lot more than I’d actually spent,” she says, referring to the hefty interest rates that short-term, personal loans attract if the principal sum is not paid back within a short window of time.
This classic, vicarious catch-22 of not saving up, taking a huge loan to pay for a big expenditure, eventually coughing up, even more, to pay the loan off, and then not having any money left over to save, is endemic to not just Anamika, but most of the current generation that is growing up with products like on-demand, paperless loans.
And it is this problem Paddy Raghavan, Co-founder and CEO of Multipl, an online investing platform, set out to solve last year.
“Our entire thesis is to move away from the ‘buy now, pay later’ trend, and instead encourage people to ‘plan now, buy smarter’,” he tells YourStory in a conversation.
Multipl is a platform that encourages people to save money for short-term goals. But instead of storing that capital in a savings account which ekes out only very marginal returns from interest rates, the platform invests it in a financial instrument as per the person’s risk profile, which offers far better returns.
The idea is to get people to save money, at least for big expenditures like weddings, travel, big-ticket purchases, etc, and instead of storing it in a savings bank account where interest rates barely beat inflation, put it towards a mutual fund or a financial instrument that can yield better returns, Paddy explains.
“Investing is boring and we don’t invest because we’re not investing for ‘now’ — we’re investing for an unlived future, which is why people don’t do it,” he adds.
But what Multipl does is that it changes the viewpoint of consumers when it comes to investing, and focuses on a fixed, specific foreseeable future expense or a purchase — like travel or a laptop purchase — instead of something arbitrary and intangible, like “the future”. By giving consumers a reason, and assigning an end date, more people could be persuaded to save and invest their money, says Paddy, who built the company along with his Co-founders, Jags Raghavan and Vikas Jain.
Co-founders of Multipl
Multipl is currently an invite-only platform, which was a conscious decision the startup took so it could:
- Test out its products with a small, focused group.
- Build a community of people who are truly interested in the platform.
So far, Multipl has seen over 1,000 downloads on the Google Play Store, and has amassed over 1,500 users across Google and Apple’s app ecosystems. Goals worth nearly Rs 15 crore have been set by its users, till date.
Two models for saving
To get started, and once they’ve cleared the waitlist, all users need to do is complete their KYC process, plug in their bank account onto the platform, and set up their goals.
The app gauges the user’s behaviour, asks them questions to work out their credit risk profile, and then recommends instruments where they can invest their savings.
Users can choose to invest their money in two ways:
- In market instruments, via its ‘market saver’ option: this plan invests users’ money in mutual funds, and SIPs. Multipl also offers its users the option to invest in digital gold, and will soon launch more options such as P2P loans, bonds, and NPS.
- In specific brands, via its ‘brand saver’ model: this option allows users to park their savings with brands that serve their purpose directly. For example, if a user is saving up for a trip to Thailand, they can choose to park their savings with one of Multipl’s several brand partners, such as Yatra.com; or if they’re saving up to buy jewellery, they can assign that money to a company like Kalyan Jewellers. In return, these brands give users massive, exclusive discounts and other perks which can help people save even more money.
For the brand saver option, Multipl has onboarded top companies in India such as Ather, Vedantu, WakeFit, and Pepperfry, among several others, that offer exclusive discounts and perks to savers on the platform.
“If you’ve decided to purchase a piece of furniture, for example, and are saving up for it, you might as well save that money directly with the brand and reap more benefits and perks from the company, than let it generate very minimal returns from interest rates. That is where an option like ‘brand saver’ comes in handy,” Paddy says.
Apart from that, Multipl also rewards its users with Mbits coins every time they save or put money towards an investment instrument. These MBit coins can be redeemed for rewards from over a 100 brands, including Amazon, Myntra, Jio-Saavn, etc.
“Our goal is to make saving fun,” says Paddy, adding that by getting people into the habit of saving for short-term goals, the startup ultimately wants to nudge people towards saving for the long term.
The Bengaluru-headquartered startup does not take a cut from the money its users save and invest in financial instruments, nor does it earn any commission from the mutual funds that list on its platform — which is quite contrary to what most online investing platforms do.
Instead, if a user opts for, say, the brand saver option, Multipl takes a cut of the revenue the brand earns from the user.
The startup says it decided to not play the commission game so that the investment advice its platform gives it is completely unbiased and not influenced by how much it adds to Multipl’s coffers.
In the future, Multipl plans to launch a subscription service for around Rs 999 a year that would include more AI-driven investment advisory services, as well as financial planning help. For now, the money Multipl’s sister concern — a high net-worth investment management company — earns helps run its operations.
The bootstrapped startup is targeting over 50,000 users over the next six months, and one lakh by the end of the year.
“We want people to do things they want and need by inculcating the value of thoughtful spending,” Paddy says.
Multipl’s competitors include, , and , among others. , , , and are also some of its competitors, although they don’t particularly provide specific goal-setting options.
Retail investors, such as the ones Multipl wants to target, have been pouring in droves into capital markets. An SBI report said that the number of individual investors jumped to a whopping 142 lakh in FY21.
On the other hand, the share of individual investors in total turnover on the stock exchange rose to 45 percent, from 39 percent in March 2020, data from the National Stock Exchange, showed — which basically means that individual investors buy and sell nearly half of the average daily trading volume on the exchange.
Still, with nearly 138 crore Indians, half of which are still not using internet services, online investing platforms have a big market to play in – and ample opportunities for growth.