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Coffee With Arjun Shetty – COO BankBazaar.com

21 September 2008 10 Comments

“There will come a time when big opportunities will be presented to you, and you’ve got to be in a position to take advantage of them.” said Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart Inc. And Arjun Shetty & his team have precisely done that. They are trying to extract the huge potential in Banking segment. To find out more, check out this interesting conversation with Arjun.

Coffee With Arjun Shett, COO BankBazaar.com


AS: Arjun Shetty

Me: Sundar Rajan G S

Me: What is bankbazaar.com all about? Are there any other similar sites on the web? How is it different from those sites?
AS: Bank Bazaar makes it possible to get a great deal on any loan and any non-life insurance product within 15 minutes, whereas doing so in the physical world requires about a week of work. On bankbazaar.com a customer can get customized rate quotes from all of India’s top banks and insurance firms instantly, compare the various offers using our easy-to-use tools and apply online. The end-to-end process literally takes less than fifteen minutes, and does not require any phone calls. Plus, because many banks & insurance firms are competing in a neutral marketplace, customers get very competitive pricing.

www.bankbazaar.com offers a far superior customer experience from the low-value loan aggregators that are in vogue today. Here’s how loan aggregators work: they merely generate leads for banks i.e. they sell users’ contact information to banks. These banks then call the customer and try to market their product. So customers still need to provide their detailed information to each of these banks 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 bankbazaar.com 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. Another thing that distinguishes BankBazaar is that we are completely neutral i.e. no bank owns any part of us and we have absolutely no financial incentive to favor one bank over another.

Me: What triggered this idea? When did this whole thing begin? Can you talk about the journey of bankbazaar so far.. You can talk about how u convinced people about ideas, how you recruited people.. the happy moments.. the difficult parts etc.. This will give people an idea what it is to start a company…
AS: I was looking for a home loan in Chennai in early 2007 and found it really hard to get a good deal. I had to go to bank offices during working hours, stand in line and fill in forms to get a quote. Once I got the quotes, I still found it hard to compare them as banks quoted interest rates in different ways and they never spelled out the various fees associated with the home loan. Additionally I learnt that banks didn’t usually start-off offering me the best rate that I was eligible for. They’d usually try and charge me a higher rate, and I had to bargain hard to get them to lower their rates. At the end of a week, despite wasting a lot of time researching loans, being a good bargainer and being reasonably knowledgable about finance, I still wasn’t convinced that I was getting the best deal on my home loan. Many people I spoke to had had similar experiences. My wife, Rati and I brainstormed on whether we could make this process significantly more convenient, and we became convinced that we could. We looped in my brother Adhil, who was then working for Deloitte Consulting in New York, and we founded www.bankbazaar.com. The most fun thing about working on www.bankbazaar.com is that I work with extremely intelligent, passionate people who’ve excelled in their careers, but chose to take a leap of faith and join us because they believe in our vision. As we decided early on that we needed our team to comprise of the very best, the most difficult thing for us has been building our team as few people meet our bar. We’ve been successful at attracting some phenomenal people because we are truly passionate about what we do and because we dream big. My team comprises of people who worked for companies like Deloitte Consulting, Amazon.com, Microsoft, Trilogy, Kraft Foods and Capital One, that are considered amongst the best in the world.

Me: If you look at irctc.co.in or yatra.com, they are automation of a simple process of ticket booking.. Any common man can book bus/train or flight tickets with minimum help.. But when it comes to loan form filling, the forms are so complex that it is difficult.. even for educated people to fill up the form.. without assistance.. How will bankbazaar simplify this step.. Given that there will no longer be agents?

We pay a lot of attention to detail and spend days optimizing every single application form. Bankbazaar makes use of the best of Web 2.0 to make it easy for a lay-man to fill in complex forms via techniques like making the forms dynamic, using drop-downs, providing in-line help and realtime chat. So far, we’ve gotten great feedback from all our end-users on how easy the whole process is.

Me: Lets take the case of home loan.. When you call up the bank for details of loan, they give *barest minimum* information such as interest rates, documents/securities required etc.. Take for example XYZ bank.. it offers 10% floating home loan.. PQR bank offers loan @ 11% floating loan.. with all other *basic details* same.. It might appear that XYZ is a better choice.. But XYZ puts a hefty Prepayment charges.. But PQR has 0% prepayment.. This is just to give an example.. But for some people.. PQR might be a better choice than XYZ.. You understand what I am trying to get at? Do you have any system in place, which enforces the bank to list all the details? And there are no *hidden* traps??? If there is such a system, who decides what are the standard set of parameters that have to be given?

Loans are complex products with a variety of terms and conditions that make them very hard to compare with one another. The challenge that we face is giving the customer enough information to make a decision, without overwhelming them with too much data. We make banks list every single parameter of the loan and we expose them, thus ensuring that when you apply for a loan on bankbazaar.com, there are no hidden costs. Additionally, we’ve have created simple tools that enable customers to compare different offers objectively, based on their customized needs. For example, the pre-payment fee only affects those customers who expect to make a pre-payment, so we have a handy pre-payment calculator that lets the customer choose when and how much they would like to pre-pay and then shows them the relative costs. The beauty of our neutral marketplace is that it creates information-symmetry which places power back in the hands of the customer.

Me: Do you cover all types of loans.. For example.. IIM specific loans are different from any other education loan.. Do you have such information? How often will this be updated?

AS: By the end of 2008, we will offer home loans, auto loans, personal loans, educational loans, business loans, loans against securities, loans against property, credit cards and all types of non-life insurance. For each of these products, we offer all possible variants such as the IIM educational loans. Whenever a bank updates its rates, this change is reflected on our site immediately.

Me: What is your success metric? When would you say bankbazaar has actually succeeded?

AS: When 10% of all retail loans in India are distributed via bankbazaar.com, we’ll give ourselves a pat on our backs. 🙂

Me: What is the work culture in the organization? What is the typical day @ Work? Are there openings for people?

AS: We are challenged at work every day and are learning a lot as we are constantly pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zones. Being part of a small tightly-knit team means that everyone can see their ideas coming into fruition in our product. Additionally, no one is confined to a tightly-defined job role, so everyone takes an interest in contributing outside of their focus areas. We are constantly on the lookout for other like-minded overchievers who believe that they have the potential to built a successful company and realize that there’s more to success than a fat paycheck at a blue-chip company. Our job openings are available at http://www.bankbazaar.com/careers.html

Me: What are your future plans for bankbazaar.com? Once you have this basic version launched?

Nothing matters more to us than giving the best possible experience to our customers. We’ll continue to innovate on our site to constantly make it easier and faster for the customer to get a loan or an insurance product. We plan to partner with more and more banks and insurance firms, and to roll out more products to increase the depth of our offerings so that we can satisfy the loan and insurance requirements of anyone anywhere in India.

Me: Thanks a lot Arjun! It was fun chat with a lot of information exchange. I wish you all the best on behalf of CWS Readers




  • sp2hari said:

    “Bankbazaar makes use of the best of Web 2.0 to make it easy for a lay-man to fill in complex forms via techniques like making the forms dynamic, using drop-downs, providing in-line help and realtime chat.”

    So true. I saw their site. It was amazing to see that they have thought at each and every step to make the job of the user easy. 🙂

  • kuts pana said:

    i looked at the site there isn’t much the site could offer, the best long term rates are provided by public sector lists and they are not there in their partner list.

    also, as i see from the conversation they are supposed to get all loans ready by end of dec, but its jan and i still see only home loans.

    i think would prefer calling bank directly and its not true that u have to stand in long queue, they will come at ur door steps and do everything for u.

  • Sunil said:

    Any idea how much do they earn for each lead generated?

  • Rupeetalk said:

    nice post.. thanks for sharing information

  • Financial Planning Services said:

    Yeah I agreed with kuts pana. Its better to call up directly banks, and moreover you can negotiate woth them. Banks vary their interest rates as their relationship with the customers..

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