Electronica Finance Limited: Creating, updating, and fine-tuning machine loans in real time

With a population of 1.37 billion and growing, India is set to become the most populous country in the world before the decade’s end. Among those people are some of the most enterprising, who run 5,000 medium businesses, 330,000 small businesses, and more than 63 million micro businesses. These micro, small, and medium enterprises, or MSMEs, account for more than 45% of manufacturing output and 40% of exports, making them one of the largest contributors to the Indian economy. But behind the scenes, MSMEs typically employ nine people or fewer and turn over a maximum of Rs 50 million (US$660,938) per year. This makes it harder for them to get checking accounts, lines of credit, or loans from traditional banks. Some MSMEs turn to borrowing from family and friends, crowdfunding, or expensive overdrafts; growing their business can be an uphill climb.

That’s where Electronica Finance Limited (EFL) comes in, with assessment-based financing to help more than 7,500 MSME customers to buy machinery and industrial property, gain access to working capital, or expand their business. As the first financial company dedicated to providing machine loans for MSMEs in India, the first to provide exclusive loans for the purchase of industrial properties, and the first to provide financing for rooftop solar installations, it’s safe to say that EFL is a pioneer in the industry. Driving this passion for innovation is vast insider knowledge from the company’s experience of being on the other side of the fence.

Born from a machinery company itself, EFL understands the needs of MSMEs when it comes to both raising capital for industrial assets and keeping those assets cost-effective. EFL’s parent company realized that MSMEs needed an easier way, with fewer barriers, to raise finance for the machines needed in daily operations as well as long-term growth. Together with its loan offering, EFL also has an online marketplace at eflconnections.com, where it helps to connect existing MSME customers who want to sell older machines with those who are looking to buy. This enables smaller or newer MSMEs to run at a lower machine investment cost, while more established MSMEs can sell off older machines and upgrade to new models. Both offerings, and the industry insights supporting them, serve to strengthen EFL’s proposition as a solutions-oriented and customer-centric company that truly stands behind its tagline, “...by your side.”

And EFL is not stopping there. It’s on a mission to keep evolving, supporting MSMEs with targeted products and services, and looking ahead to what the next need might be. It’s also diversifying beyond the manufacturing sector to support more small businesses across India and exploring new lines of business to complement its offering. In the words of Bejoy Varghese, Head of Information Technology at EFL, “Our mission is clear: we want to help create more success stories for small businesses. So we don’t think in transactional terms; we’re looking at long-term partnerships with our customers, advising them and working together to deliver the best products that will help them grow.”

With all this strategic work happening across the business, EFL needs its technology to support, not get in the way, of progress. “In a dynamic industry like ours, information must move clearly, quickly, seamlessly: from head office right down to every department, every employee,” says Bejoy. “Business and technology need to work hand in hand.” For seamless company-wide communication that empowers its teams to keep innovating and delivering for customers, EFL relies on Google Workspace.

Taking Communication from Siloed and Slow—to Flawless

EFL operates on a hub-and-spoke model, where its head office works as the informational hub, or about 20% of the organization, while around 80% of the organization are mobile sales teams that are spread over 55 branches and form the spokes. Mobile teams are always on the field, but they must be able to work in sync with central offices, get key updates on policies and guidelines from headquarters, and have access to ongoing training. Not only that, but information needs to move effectively within the mobile teams as well. It’s all key to keeping everyone on the same page, from senior management to credit appraisals and underwriting teams, from customer engagement teams to telemarketing staff, and from admin support to IT. As Bejoy puts it, “In an instant, we should be able to open up discussions, make decisions, and communicate them to the right people. Our communication needs to be timely and flawless.”

However, when Bejoy joined EFL in 2019, he saw that its existing communication and collaboration solutions were slowing down productivity. “We needed an effective way to email, chat, schedule meetings, hold video calls, and be productive, but our on-premises solution was keeping all these things from happening.”

EFL’s email system had serious issues such as latency and database corruption, which led to emails only leaving inboxes after a delay, and in some cases, not being delivered at all. This caused problems internally as important messages might not reach teams when they were needed, and externally as customers were left waiting indefinitely for a response on their loan application and would complain about delays. To make matters more challenging, any downtime at EFL’s data center would impact communications across entire departments.

Meanwhile, the company was paying a high licensing fee for software that wasn’t helping staff to collaborate via team meetings or other communication methods, and which was tied to the desktop or laptop it had been installed on. Bejoy explains: “Only some of our staff are given laptops as part of their role, so the rest were turning to their personal social media and messaging apps in order to work on the go. It led to poor visibility of conversations, as a discussion could start on a phone call and finish via text message.”

A major concern with employees using personal devices and social media accounts for work was that it might make business strategies and internal plans vulnerable or leave the company open to threats of spam, phishing schemes, and viruses. Bejoy’s team wanted a solution with better control and security features to safeguard against these threats. “To guard our information, and that of our customers, we needed to make our entire infrastructure secure, from our email solution to our productivity tools,” he says. “We were spending a lot of time and effort to ensure that these things were taken care of.”

Bejoy knew that the key to solving all of these problems was to adopt a secure, cloud-based solution for communication and collaboration. He reviewed EFL’s IT infrastructure and saw there had been a previous migration to Gmail in 2016, but realized that it had not been a true migration to cloud-based email. “Instead of a browser-based version of Google Workspace, we were still using our previous client on the back end to connect us to Gmail,” he explains. “On top of that, we weren’t even using 5% of the features available on Google Workspace, despite having access to everything through our license. We were missing out on a much more comprehensive solution that would help all of our departments, no matter their role or level of mobility, to work together in sync rather than in silos.”

Backed by the full support of management, Bejoy and his team began working with Google Cloud Premier Partner Searce to expand EFL’s adoption of Google Workspace across its more than 500 employees. As an initial step, Searce introduced EFL to the full capabilities of Google Workspace, pointing out where cost savings could be made and training the IT team on how to get the most out of each product. “Searce played a major role in matching Google Workspace solutions to the needs of our different teams and employees,” says Bejoy. “The team supported us in implementation, training, sharing tips and tricks, and helping to configure our security settings and usage of Vault. We also have regular engagement reviews to continuously monitor adoption, and Searce makes a consistent effort to drive adoption scores with minimum impact to our daily operations.”

Keeping Customers Happy with Faster Responses, Faster Approvals

The first big change that EFL made with Searce was restoring its Gmail solution to browsers, instead of the previous on-premises client arrangement. This has eliminated unpredictable cases of latency and database corruption that EFL previously experienced and which led to complaints from customers. Today, a loan application passes quickly through several teams via email, and just as quickly reaches a customer who is anxiously waiting for approval. This has greatly improved the overall experience for customers, who report more timely communication and quicker approvals.

Another major change has been the adoption of Sheets, which jumped to 41% across the company in just three months, thanks to EFL management initiatives around making the full move to Google Workspace a success. Sales teams use Sheets to prepare loan schemes to talk through with existing or potential customers. Included are details such as types of loan suited to their needs, the interest rates of each one, plus tenure and repayment options. It’s a key part of the sales process, as it helps the customer understand what is available to them and whether it’s right for their needs. With the company’s previous spreadsheet software, there was no way to update a loan scheme with any changes after sending it out. To reflect changes, a new version had to be created and sent out and the old one cancelled, a process that led to confusion for customers during negotiation.

Today, several sales team employees can use Sheets to work on the same loan scheme simultaneously, revising and updating as needed, and communicating within the document itself. They can share with other departments such as credit appraisals or underwriting for approval or feedback, which is then reflected in real time. And instead of many different versions of one loan scheme, using Sheets means there is always only one true version, with a version history that can easily be referred back to, or rolled back to, if needed. All of this has not only led to a much more seamless experience for customers, it’s enabled them to ask questions about their proposal and see those questions answered in the same meeting, instead of hours or days later. As Tushar Chandorkar, Business Head at Electronica Finance Limited shares: “Our sales teams can effectively negotiate with customers in collaboration with the back office using Google Meet, Google Chat, and other productivity tools, giving them the necessary agility to revise and fine-tune loan schemes on the go.”

A Culture Change that’s Preparing EFL for a Brighter Future

Underpinning the new high customer satisfaction rates is how EFL’s culture has changed since fully adopting Google Workspace. “With Google Workspace, we’ve started working in a more collaborative way, boosting overall engagement and productivity,” says Shilpa Pophale, Managing Director of Electronica Finance Limited. “It’s been a huge cultural change, helping us to a great extent in the challenging times of COVID-19 lockdown.”

Bejoy adds that a cloud-based working environment also facilitates on-the-job training among coworkers. “A junior or lateral can be in the room while a negotiation is going on, and instead of just watching the scene play out and taking notes, they can be actively involved in the process,” he says. “Using Chat or Meet, they can contact a senior working from a different location and bring them into the discussion with the customer. They can organize follow-up meetings on the spot using Calendar. They can even make changes to a Slides presentation to address questions raised during that presentation and improve it for the next round. This kind of peer-to-peer training means that knowledge is always ‘percolating’ in our teams; people are always upskilling.”

For Bejoy, one of the biggest benefits has been freeing up his team from repetitive IT admin tasks such as onboarding new employees. EFL went live with its intranet in a week using Sites, where new starters go to get their Google Workspace account details and access to all the apps they need for work. With the time his team has won back, it can now focus on high-value projects that will help drive the business forward. “During the COVID-19 lockdown, we’re running training sessions to further help employees make use of Google Workspace to work effectively from home,” shares Bejoy. “Another project involves getting more staff working from tablet devices and building a mobile app to better serve non-manufacturing MSMEs.”

Perhaps best of all, EFL is putting the money saved on software licensing and data center rental costs back into technology transformation, with an objective to ease business processes and enhance customer experience. It’s partnering with a US-based investment firm to offer rooftop solar panel financing, a new line of business that supports its mission to help MSMEs grow and another first for the industry in India. It has also worked with a partner to help offset the carbon-intensive manufacturing sector through “Green Masala bonds,” funds dedicated to expanding EFL’s energy-efficient machinery-lending portfolio for manufacturing SMEs. For a company that prides itself on being a pioneer, having the ability to focus on projects that drive the industry forward is invaluable. As Bejoy says, “We’re trendsetters, and now that we have the right technology, we’re ready to keep raising the bar on excellence.”