Why we built Trustio?

When I graduated from college (DCE 2014), I joined Akosha (now known as Helpchat) for a generic profile (called Startup Junkie) where my main role was to work directly with the co-founders and help them in whatever domain/task they needed my help. A sort of fast track leadership role at a startup that had just secured Series A from Sequoia (just 1 week before my joining). The big idea behind leaving my Business Analyst placement from college and joining Akosha at a lower salary and at a role that didn’t offer any specialization (or for that matter, even a job title that made sense) was that I wanted to learn the fundamentals of running a startup. My salary was low, and my hours were skewed. Our office was in Okhla and I HAD to reach the office at 10am sharp. If I ever got late, my mentor Vishrut (and cofounder at Akosha) made sure that I learnt my lessons in professionalism and discipline by giving me a 15 minute lecture and asking me to step out of any morning meeting. I loved it. Unlike most people, startup culture didn’t ruin me. I learnt a lot. But that aside, my home is 35 kms away from Okhla, and it took me 1:30 hours on my bike in the heat, morning traffic and pollution of Delhi to reach Akosha office from Paschim Vihar. On top of it, I almost never got free before 9pm. Travel was pain. Salary was low. Time was limited. And there were too many things that I wanted to do.

For starters, I wanted a flat near Okhla (which I eventually got), but that meant paying a security deposit and brokerage (remember no time for house hunting). At that time, I wanted to do courses in Finance and get some certifications. But most professional certifications and exams required up-front money deposit, which I didn’t have. I was using the same laptop that I had in college which I got along with my education loan, and the same mobile phone which was so old that I was not able to hear the other person properly on a call. Not exaggerating. Anyone who knew me back then would attest to the glorious stories of my mobile phone and how it displayed one miracle after another, every week. All things aside, I just needed around INR 1 Lakh to get my life in order. And I could have repaid that within just 12 months. I never asked my parents for any favor because that’s how I have been. I took an education loan in college to fund my INR 40k/annum fees at DCE and a laptop of similar worth, because I just didn’t want to be a burden on my parents. I had no clue from where I could get the money, but now that I had a job, I was definitely not going to ask my parents for financial aid for things that (according to them) I could do without. It took me a few months to get my life in order. I ultimately rented 1 room in Jasola (near Okhla), where I slept on 1 side of the double bed and kept all my clothes, food and utensils on the other bed because I didn’t have anything else in that room except that bed. At that time, I didn’t have the time to think about all these things. In fact, I just let these things go, thinking that everybody of my age group suffers from the same issues and things will pass. Most things were postponed. In fact, even today I have not done any certifications and I still use the same laptop. Everything was postponed.

So when I left Zostel at the end of 2016 (another story all together), after the Oyo acquisition, and I took a break to figure out problem statements that I related with, one of the things that came to my mind was this problem – the absence of credit option at low rates at the beginning of one’s career when you don’t have a credit score (the other 2 ideas were on Education and Entertainment of Millennials). Usually there are 2 ways to borrow money – From family and close friends; or from Banks and such institutions. Asking money from Family and close friends is not always feasible. And taking money from Banks is not only complicated, but also it is almost impossible for a person with no credit history to get a loan. So for someone who has just started his career, there are no easy ways to source money quickly. We built Trustio with the understanding that there are lot many use cases which are not satisfied by the above 2 buckets. And often, we end up postponing our needs for later. To solve this, we turned up towards the alumni community, which has graduated from same college, been through same situations and have somewhat settled down in life. We believed that these people would not only relate to the problem statement but also fund such brilliant graduates at the beginning of their professional career if there was some financial incentive on top of the social good. Trustio aims to increase the personal financial safety net for everyone and create a sort of alumni community that invests in each other in their good times and borrows money at low rates when they need it. Why go to Banks, when you can borrow at rates lower than what they offer and invest at rates higher than what you get from FDs? All this while doing something good for the community.

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The whole idea behind Trustio is to use new technology and social media to get back to an old-fashioned model of finance where members of a community invest in the success of other members of the community. Whether it’s helping fellow alumni settle comfortably into their new life after graduation, pursue professional certifications or buy electronics to increase their productivity and give their career a boost, we offer a rewarding new way for alumni to invest directly in each other. Trustio’s unique, alumni-based social circles enables people to bypass the banks to get better rates by borrowing and lending directly within communities they trust. To help people identify lending and borrowing opportunities, Trustio looks at factors such as where a person went to school or what they do for a living, and based on these similarities match people with relevant alumni who would be interested in backing their peers who are similar to them. Trustio handles user authentication, bank account verification, workplace and university verification, income verification, funds transfers and collections. We wanted to make the whole process as safe and easy as possible: Trustio suggests a socially appropriate interest rate to borrowers but leaves it open for them to decide the interest they want to offer their community for helping them so that nobody has to negotiate, it automates payments so you don’t have to remind or be reminded, and it provides an option to the borrowers to ask for some grace period to repay the loan, without any physical communication with the lender, in case of emergency, economic hardships or unemployment.

Trustio is an unique experiment to create an automated, low-overheads, community network that reduces the cost and returns the savings to the members of its community. We are currently inviting people from Delhi College of Engineering to join the private beta and invest in their peers; also we are open for the second batch of applications from people who want to borrow (and have graduated from DCE). Our first batch was successful and we managed to give loans worth 5 Lakh INR to recent graduates of 2016 batch from DCE. Most of these loans were 3 month loans and have already been returned to investors. Others were 6 months loans and have shown 100% repayment till now. We are happy to have served more than 16 people in the last few months. If you feel our cause is worthy enough, write to me at pranay@trustio.in and give feedback or request access to our Beta. Trustio exists because of the trust between you guys. Let’s create a safety net for the entire generation so that nobody ever has to borrow money at high interest rates again.

The author is the CEO of Trustio – the personal financial security net for the new generation. Write to him at pranay@trustio.in

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