ARTECULATE

Helios P2P – Democratizing Access to Finance in Sri Lanka

Your car suddenly breaks down. The doctor says you need to undergo surgery. Christmas is around the corner and you need to get presents. At some point in your life, you’ve found yourself in need of money. If you’re lucky then your friends will be able to lend you the amount you need. Alas, if this isn’t the case, you’re left with a limited set of options. It’s here that Helios P2P wants to step in to help you and others by democratizing access to finance.

The startup is an alumnus of HatchX, Sri Lanka’s 1st virtual fintech accelerator. The programme was run by Hatch in partnership with Lankan Angel Network (LAN) with funding from the Ford Foundation and support from the Central Bank of Sri Lanka. The programme aimed to connect local fintech startups with resources, mentorship, and business support to grow and expand across the South Asia region. 

Helios – Peer-2-Peer Lending

The Founders of Helios P2P – Nuzhi Meyen (L) and Shanaka Perera (R)

In the words of its co-founder, Nuzhi Meyen, “Helios P2P is an online digital marketplace, connecting lenders to borrowers. Utilizing blockchain technology, the platform provides equitable finance and financial inclusiveness.” Moreover, with its secure framework, adequate risk assessment, and complete management of fund collection, Helios P2P makes an enriching addition to any investor’s portfolio.

The platform targets short and midterm loans such as those for credit card refinancing, debt consolidation, education loans, and more, with an estimated market value of approximately US$ 25 million in Sri Lanka alone. These financial services are traditionally the products of banks and other financial institutions, making such organizations Helios P2P’s prime competitor. However, Nuzhi reaffirms that “We are not here to replace banks, but rather work in partnerships to drive forward the fintech industry in Sri Lanka”.

The birth of Helios P2P and journey so far

The journey of Helios P2P began at the John Keells X innovation challenge. It was here that the founders Nuzhi Meyen and Shanaka Perera first pitched the idea and were accepted into the programme.  In the years that followed, Helios P2P has been all about “Launching, refining and pivoting the platform to try and attract customers to promote the goal of financial inclusiveness”, as per Nuzhi.

Throughout this journey, Helios P2P has grown through the many challenges it faced; primarily in developing a strong value proposition for its products and managing customer expectations. This was accomplished by the development team through the incorporation of blockchain technology for customer data, in full compliance with governing regulations. In addition to this, the team at Helios P2P also had to convince lenders to invest in opportunities on the platform; through the development of strong risk mitigation strategies.

Products offered through Helios P2P

To date, Helios P2P offers 3 products for customers looking to receive a loan through their peer-2-peer system. Getting started, the first step would be the registration with Helios P2P. The registration includes a unique rating process for each product, that utilizes proprietary analytics to rate borrowers based on their documents and information provided. Afterward, an auto-debit agreement is set up electronically, and the money is received within 3-5 working days. The three products are as follows:

Depending on the requirements of the borrower and their eligibility, the ideal product and interest rate is then selected to meet their financial requirements. A key difference in the HERO and HELO products is the requirement of additional documents, such as bank statements, for HELO for salary criteria validation. For the HERO product, the same validation process is carried out for the borrower, but data is obtained from the salary files through the registered organization.

To complete the peer-to-peer model adopted by Helios P2P, the platform also attracts ‘smart investors’ that provide higher interest rates unmatched by savings accounts. Based on the risk appetite of the lenders they are able to get interest rates on their lending portfolio in the range of 15% to 30% per annum, as a result of lower overheads from running the platform online.

Whenever a borrower submits a financial requirement, potential lenders can view the investment opportunity on the platform’s marketplace after a complete verification process by the team at Helios P2P. The lender will be able to view the loan request details, along with the loan agreement before choosing to accept it. Helios P2P uses their proprietary tech to mitigate the risk of default and follow industry best practices to mitigate the risk of default. This makes Helios P2P a safe and attractive investment, complete with an assessment of the borrower’s creditworthiness before any exchange of funds.

What’s next for the platform?

Nuzhi Meyen – CoFounder of Helios P2P pitching at the HatchX Demo Day

Having gone through the HatchX fintech accelerator, Helios P2P has come out stronger. Reflecting on the programme, Nuzhi shared, “The HatchX fintech accelerator was a good programme. It offered us connections to experienced mentors that supported us in quantifying metrics we were pursuing towards refining our product. The programme also offered us connection key stakeholders and the regulators. Overall, it was a great experience that helped us grow as a startup.”

The road ahead for Helios P2P is a challenging one as well. When asked what the future holds for Helios P2P, Nuzhi explained that the startup was looking to finalize their series A round of funding by the end of the year. As for the next 2 years, Helios P2P envisions closing out the peer-to-peer financial market in Sri Lanka with the addition of new fintech products to their platform.

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