Saturday, November 29, 2008

Personal Finance Softwares in India

The last post was on Personal Finance Softwares. These are very good efforts but I wonder if the people are ready to use these softwares.

Is it the classic case of a market for shoes where no one wears one?! Help with the following poll will be greatly appreciated. As a small gesture of thanks, I'll guide you to download the free one that I have built myself.

India's first online weekly on Personal Finance

Friday, November 28, 2008

Personal Finance Tracker Software for Indian Users

Measurement is the first step of Management. So we need to measure/track our Income & Expenses and Investments to manage it in a better way.

Trawling on the net, I did find some interesting softwares that helps in managing your money.

MyIris Plus provide a powerful desktop application & RupeeX have an awesome web based Money powertool. I intend to take a test drive for both of them and review them here.

In the meantime, I built this personal finance tracker on Zoho Creator which is for newbie users like me.

The idea is simple and they are:
# Manage & Track your assets and portfolio in a simpler way
# Filter & View your Portfolio on the Investment Categories and periodicity
# Create alerts and reminders
# Links to your choicest Financial Calculators
# Create your favorite bookmarks on personal finance which you may want to revert back again and again.

India's first online weekly on Personal Finance

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Spending Two When You Have One is No More Sexy

Things are changing. And changing fast. I never thought that we Indians would ape the Americans and start spending more than what we earn. But emails have started trickling in about how some guys have got into a vicious debt trap. I really hope this article in Express is an isolated story: Meltdown impact: 'It was over in five minutes

Excerpts: Jadhav has crossed the overdraft limit on his two credit cards and has run himself into a Rs-70,000 credit card debt. As he describes, “I am quite a spendthrift”. If he does not land a job in the next one month, Jadhav cannot pay his credit card dues and the card company will “come knocking to my door.”

Jadhav’s credit card debt has not found favour with his father whom he describes as his opposite because he abhors loans. “If my father has ten rupees in his pocket, he might consider spending one rupee. But I will spend two rupees if I have one rupee in my pocket,” he describes. Jadhav concedes he will have to change his squandering habits for the sake of his wife and son. His wife might soon start job scouting too.

It has only been a week since he has lost his job and Jadhav says he can manage for the next couple of weeks on his last pay cheque. If he does not find himself work within a month, Jadhav says he will go to his dad and say “zindabad” to his bank. He says how he expects his father to respond: “He will call me shameless!”
Looks like the time has come for workshops on Personal Finance, focused towards young and new heads hoping to make better financial decisions and avoiding financial mistakes in the future
Photo credit: Debt20's photostream

India's first online weekly on Personal Finance

Friday, November 21, 2008

Personal Finance Bulletin: Get Started!

I have blogged about why we avoid personal finance generally

I believe ignoring personal finance worsens the situation. And the only way to get the maximum out of your personal finance is to look it into its eye and grapple with it.

The purpose of this e-Bulletin is to get you started. What do we have here in this e-book?

1. Monday is Money day!
2. Basics of Financial Planning
3. Investing Basics: Which financial products to choose from and why?
4. Seven deadly sins of Investing.
5. Asset Allocation.

Free Personal Finance EBook

India's first online weekly on Personal Finance

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Using Technology to Reach Unbanked Rural Customers

Financial Information Network & Operations Ltd(FINO). is an Application Service Provider (ASP). Using cutting edge technologies like Smart cards, Biometrics and a basket of support services,FINO enables Financial Institutions on projects for Financial Inclusion

For example, FINO supports sector initiatives such as General Credit cards (GCC) and Kisan credit cards (KCC) aimed at enabling the rural and remotest un-banked parts of the country to enjoy the benefits of formal financial products and services.

FINO announced its partnership with ACCESS Development Services, which helps tier two and tier three MFIs towards capacity building and adopting MIS management information systems to improve efficiency of their day-to-day operations.

This looks to be a welcome partnership which will enable the distribution channels of MFIs with state of the art technology
India's first online weekly on Personal Finance

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Eko: Financial Azaadi for the Unbanked Indian Population

From CGAP's Focus Notes 47:

    • But in the same way that access to clean water is more than being able to buy a bottle of water, access to finance is more than being able to get the occasional loan.
    • Access to finance really involves being connected to a national payments system, much like the national electricity network.
    • Once I have a transactional account in a “payment grid,” I can receive and repay loans, save up and withdraw from a savings account, and use the proceeds to pay for what I need.
    • This transactional account is my gateway to a range of financial services, it gives me a financial history, and it is the basis from which I can manage my financial life.

Eko's objective is to connect the vast untapped & unbanked Indian population to the Financial Services industry with the ubiquitous mobile phone.
Really impressed with their work, I shot off an email to Abhishek Sinha, CEO requesting his thoughts on Eko, future plans and using ICT for making financial education available to one & all.

Thankyou, Abhishek for your prompt response and it's reproduced below the fold:

About Eko: I used to run a mobile value added services company before doing Eko. We did some mobile commerce projects in my previous company and what came across blatantly was the fact that there was no mobile commerce for people who used cash and did not have bank accounts or credit cards. This germinated the idea behind Eko though it has evolved to a great extent.

Future Plans: Today, Eko has evolved and will continually evolve into a very low cost infrastructure for financial services. We are working towards extremely low cost of transactions and servicing while making the model rapidly scalable. Any financial product should be able to ride over it and reach the unreached. In a very similar thought process, we are looking for a scalable model for financial literacy / awareness.

About ICT: As far as ICT is concerned, I am in total agreement with you. Even in Eko we try and look at ICT for most of our problems as apart from the solution it ensure efficiency and low cost. We have adopted mobile as a channel as we see a mobile phone as a low energy consuming, always on IT device which should be used to connect to the customer. Mobile has breached geographic boundaries as well as customer segments.

While using mobile, we leverage a lot existing behavior associated with mobile. This video should explain this more.

Thankyou, Abhishek and all the very best.

India's first online weekly on Personal Finance

Monday, November 10, 2008 - India's first Interactive, Realtime Online Loan Market

Personal Finance space is slowly but surely getting the attention it deserves. I have chronicled some of the efforts in this space and you can also see all the posts under the personal finance websites category

Another hot start up in the personal finance space is BankBazaar. They provide an interactive online platform that helps the user procure loans. The entire loan seeking process takes place online and can be completed in 15 minutes flat, while the process of comparing interest rates across banks can be possible within 2 minutes.

They offer instant interest rate quotes that matches the applicant's credit profile. Even before he shares his contact information, he would know the loan amount, tenure and interest rates he is eligible for and all this in just 2 minutes before he begins his loan application process, which is also completely online, with no phone calls needed. BankBazaar claims that this kind of personalized interest rate comparison is the first of its kind in the world.

I am waiting for them for rolling out all the remaining financial products which include insurance, credit cards, all other loan products including LAP, business and education loans.

I also had the opportunity to ask Adhil Shetty, CEO, a few questions on the opportunities and the challenges of working in this space.

Adhil Shetty, Founder & CEO,, prior to relocating to India, lived in New York City and managed Deloitte Touche Tomahatsu's US East alliances with the world's leading Information Management Company. Earlier in his career, Adhil worked with Cisco Systems as an engineer in Bangalore and San Jose. Adhil has a Masters degree in International Relations with a specialization in International Finance and Business from Columbia University in the City of New York, and a Bachelors degree in Engineering from the College of Engineering Guindy, Anna University.

Q1. What do you think is the size of the market?

Adhil: In 2007-08, retail lending in India was over 140K crores, and general insurance premium collected was over 90K crores. A significant portion of this retail loan and insurance distribution can be channeled online- Bankers in India believe that a fourth of total disbursements can be channeled online over the next 24 months leveraging web 2.0 technologies. Given the trend that one is increasingly booking flight tickets online, paying electricity bills online and even finding their respective life partners online, I am convinced that the benefits of instantly competing real time loan offers online will find acceptance among the Indian audience.

Q2. What are the challenges in the Indian online scene?

Adhil: Building awareness of our innovative and differentiated product amongst Consumers is a key challenge. We offer a far superior customer experience from the low-value loan aggregation platforms that are in vogue today. Here is how loan aggregation platforms work: they merely generate leads for banks i.e. they sell users' contact information to bank agents. These agents then call the customer and try to market their product. So customers still need to provide their detailed information to each of these agents individually to receive customized quotes, they still need to bargain with each of these banks and they still have trouble comparing the complex offers they are being given. The model adds significantly higher value to the consumer as it offers an end-to-end solution i.e. the consumer gets to do everything online, right from getting customized rate quotes, comparing the offers and applying online directly to the bank.

Q3.What are your marketing strategies?

Adhil: is using online marketing strategies to build awareness of the site among the online population. We also believe in the power of word-of-mouth recommendations. Once the customers experience our offering, we are confident that they will find it attractive, especially as we make it easy for them by saving time and money.

Thank you, Adhil and all the best! I'll be awaiting the roll out for insurance, credit cards, all other loan products including LAP, business and education loans.

India's first online weekly on Personal Finance

Saturday, November 8, 2008

SNAPPY FINGERS: A Search Engine With a Difference

Following is a guest post by Praval who is a freelance writer/blogger and works for Uswaretech, a Web Development Consulting shop as a Web Evangelist.

SnappyFingers is a Bangalore; India based startup and claims to be a search engine for Question and Answers. The interface is pretty clean and leaves a mark when it comes to user friendliness and usability. Though, still in its beta form, the search engine has built a considerable database of 3 million questions in their search index (as per the information given by Chirayu Patel, the founder of the website). To be really honest, I really liked the idea of presenting the search query in a question-answer format especially when you want to explore the possibilities of web for some research work.

HOW DOES SnappyFingers WORK?

SnappyFingers uses a very simple mechanism. It crawls and indexes FAQs across the internet irrespective of the topic. Generally, FAQs provides more detailed answers to queries, so Q&A search helps in finding answers faster. They are also not crawling already established Q&A sites like, Yahoo answers, forums etc. That explains me why I failed searching for the keyword ‘snappyfinger’ on SnappyFingers itself as there is no FAQ provided for it.

SnappyFingers definitely lacks a tutorial and a support section which should explain how one can use it more efficiently and what this unique search engine is capable of.
The biggest challenge which SnappyFingers faces is of ranking the FAQs and proving the authentication of the source of knowledge. For example, I tried searching for ‘GOOGLE’ but didn’t get the exact result instead I got info on Google Apps and bunch of other useless results. They have to work more towards improvising their search algorithm to produce more exact results.

Also the user has the limitation of searching exact keywords and basic questions. There is a whole lot of difference between what you will get as a result on Google and what you will get on SnappyFingers. For example, I can not expect to get an answer for some specific computer error but Google can find it for me.


I tried searching for ‘NASDAQ’ on Google and Wikipedia. As expected, Google gave me a result which contains links for NASDAQ’s website and other stock prices index. Wikipedia gave me a result which has information about NASDAQ’s history, business, market share, etc but I was quite amazed by the result of SnappyFingers. I got all the useful information about how NASDAQ works? What is NASDAQ? What is the NASDAQ market center? These results were by far better then those of Google and Wikipedia.

In spite of all these shortcomings, I really liked the idea behind it. There is still a huge scope in search engine sphere particularly dominated by big players like Google and Yahoo. Contemporary users’ want quick and problem oriented results and SnappyFingers surely provides it. I also hope that the developers will rectify all the problems in their final release.

India's first online weekly on Personal Finance

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Entrepreneur Journeys by Sramana Mitra

I was happy to get extracts of the book written by Sramana Mitra and the permission to publish it on my blog. Sramana Mitra is a Strategy Consultant in the Silicon Valley and has a knack of lucidly explaining the jargons on her blog.

Lighting the Way to India

An excerpt from Entrepreneur Journeys (Volume One) by Sramana Mitra, now available from below the fold.

While greed is infectious, it hasn't touched Harish Hande. Unlike many entrepreneurs, Hande didn't dream of great wealth, luxury or power as he built SELCO India, a rural solar energy company. At a time when his fellow Indian Institute of Technology engineering alumni were drifting aimlessly into the domestic IT industry, Hande stayed focused on his major: energy engineering. After earning a PhD from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, Hande headed back home in 1993 to provide reliable, clean energy to un-electrified areas in rural India.

"We believe that in anybody's daily life, reliable energy, like solar electricity or solar lighting, can lead to a better quality of life," Hande says.

SELCO, short for Solar Electric Light Co., sells small-scale, modular solar photovoltaic systems to households and businesses in villages in the southern Indian states of Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh.

He started small, buying one solar-lighting system with $300 he had left over in scholarship money. Then, to find workers for large scale installations, he went to village TV stores in Karnataka. Hande described what he was doing, and asked if anyone was interested. They were, since many of them relied on candles and kerosene lamps after sundown. This gave him confidence that he could build a team, and that there was a substantial market for what he wanted to do.

Since most rural Indians are poor and can't afford to pay for SELCO's systems out of pocket, Hande needed to obtain bank financing. In late 1996 he was able to convince Malaprabha Grameen Bank in Karnataka to finance 100 solar-lighting systems. "Probably because they were getting fed up with me more than anything else," Hande jokes.

He then leveraged the bank's backing to get other banks to finance more solar-lighting systems. "That was our biggest code to crack, since our entire model is based on banks providing the financing," Hande says.

In addition to providing a source of safe, clean lighting to rural people, SELCO also helps them generate much-needed income. With light after dark, they can keep shops open later and stay up at home working on crafts. Some of his customers told Hande they can now make two to three baskets a night, selling them for 30 rupees each.

This gave Hande the idea to create a business plan for a tribal community in Karnataka, with four-year bank loans under which they would pay for their solar-lighting systems with the proceeds of basket sales.

So far, SELCO has installed close to 100,000 solar-lighting systems, and in the process, it has brought light to people who were considered too poor to be part of the capitalist system.

I use the term "light" both literally and metaphorically, since Hande's thinking went far beyond solar lighting installations. What he did was innovate at a much deeper level by connecting energy services to income generation.

Sadly, Hande says few of his fellow Indian Institute of Technology energy engineering alumni are working in alternative energy. "When I went back to IIT last year, all 26 seats in energy engineering went to [work in] software," he says. "There is an extreme shortage of energy engineers."

I recently wrote an open letter to IIT students asking them to look beyond software – to do something electrifying, following Hande's example.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

RBI Press Release: An Informative Review

The Reserve Bank of India indicated that in the context of the uncertain and unsettled global situation and its indirect impact on our domestic economy and our financial markets, it would closely and continuously monitor the situation and respond swiftly and effectively to developments.

It was also indicated in the Mid-Term Review that the current challenge for the conduct of monetary policy is to strike an optimal balance between preserving financial stability, maintaining price stability and sustaining the growth momentum. Inflation, in terms of the wholesale price index (WPI), has been softening steadily since August 9, 2008 and has declined to 10.68 per cent for the week ended October 18, 2008. Globally, pressures from commodity prices, including crude, appear to be abating. The moderation in key global commodity prices, if sustained, would further reduce inflationary pressures. On the growth front, it is important to ensure that credit requirements for productive purposes are adequately met so as to support the growth momentum of the economy. Domestic financial markets have been functioning normally. Prudent regulatory surveillance and effective supervision have ensured that our financial sector has been and continues to be robust. However, the global financial turmoil has had knock-on effects on our financial markets; this has reinforced the importance of focusing on preserving financial stability,

The Reserve Bank has reviewed the current and evolving macroeconomic situation and liquidity conditions in the global and domestic financial markets. Based on this review, it has taken measures that you can read here

India's first online weekly on Personal Finance

Sunday, November 2, 2008

How Technology Enables Health Insurance Scheme for the Poor

Gurcharan Das writes about Health Insurance scheme for India's poor.

Technology should be customized for mass Indian use and Vijay Anand's point about Indians trying to do US businesses here in India makes a lot of sense. Gurcharan Das explains how the magical smart card will make the National Health Insurance Scheme successful while others have failed. Extracts from the article below:

Nearly 65% of India’s poor get into debt and 1% fall below the poverty line each year because of illness, according to National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) 2004. The answer, of course, is health insurance, but only 6% of India’s workers have it. Free public hospitals are not an option as two out of five doctors are absent, and there is a 50% chance of receiving the wrong treatment, according Jishnu Das and Jeffrey Hammer’s study. This tragic state of affairs is, however, set to change dramatically with Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), a visionary national health insurance scheme, which provides Rs 30,000 ‘in patient’ health benefits at a premium of Rs 600, which the government pays if you are poor.

A brainchild of an IAS officer, Anil Swarup, this scheme will succeed when others have failed because of choice, competition and a magical ‘smart card’. A patient can choose from almost 1,000 private or government hospitals. States can choose from 18 public or private insurance companies. Insurers have the incentive to recruit the poor as they earn premiums by doing so. Hospitals will not turn away the poor because they don’t want to lose the Rs 30,000 in potential revenue. The poor have a choice to exit a bad hospital, something that only the rich can do today. Competition between hospitals will improve the quality of healthcare and new hospitals will come up because there is now money in catering to the poor.

India's first online weekly on Personal Finance