Communications and Knowledge Management Consultant
Over the past few months, UNCDF Malaysia has been working with 18 start-ups that are creating and refining products and services that help low- and moderate- income people improve their financial health.
To be financially healthy people need to be able to manage their spending, save for the future, borrow when they need without becoming over-indebted, and plan for goals and unexpected costs. All 18 start-ups worked on solutions that address one of these four components of financial health; spend, borrow, save and plan. Pod is one of the start-ups focusing primarily on helping people to save. In this post, Pod recounts its experience of the B40 Challenge that took place over three and a half months and was concluded by the announcement of the winners during MyFintech Week’19.
Pod is a micro-savings app that helps young Malaysians save money for specific goals. Users of Pod can begin to save with as little at MYR 10 sen. By rounding up users’ leftover change and transferring it into savings, users can progress towards their goals without feeling the pinch. Pod is partnering with merchants and retailers nationwide to allow people to save at the point they spend.
We entered the B40 Challenge as we knew we wanted to help low- and moderate- income young Malaysians to save. With more than 75% of Malaysians reporting they would struggle to raise RM1.000 (+/- USD 240,65) in the event of an emergency we knew the need for our product was out there but we needed guidance on how to reach this market. We wanted to create a solid expansion plan. As an early-stage start-up we also had some issues around compliance; we wanted clarity on which licenses we needed and how to ensure we could secure them.
The challenge overturned our assumptions in a number of ways. Through applying human-centred design tools and conducting interviews with our target audience we learnt more about the aspirations of the B40 market and realized we needed to change our marketing. We are now conducting weekly interviews to refine our product and messaging. We will also be creating a welcome pack for all new employees to teach them about the human-centred design tools we learnt to use during the bootcamps.
The networking involved in the B40 Challenge, with other start-ups, the partners and the mentors proved invaluable. We realized we needed to create partnerships to scale our product. The bootcamps helped us to connect with a major national retailer selling groceries in rural and lower-income areas. By depositing change into Pod at the point of sale users can save as they spend. We also connected to MyKasih, a local NGO, through the mentoring platform. They provide support to lower-income people to buy groceries. We are exploring how we can help these people save through an e-card. We are also piloting a project with one of the other start-ups, GoGet, to allow their users to save the money they earn via the app.
We also benefitted from direct contact with Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) and are hoping to take part in their sandbox. Mentors from BNM talked us through our product and helped us to identify regulatory “grey areas” and how we can address them.
We need to build a strong network of partners; like retailers, who will help users save as they spend, and fintechs, who we can supply with data on saving behaviour and thereby refer users for longer-term saving products and insurance, and NGOs, who will help us to deliver financial literacy training. UNCDF’s ability to connect us to these partners, and the perspective of extra funding to develop our products if we win, prompted us to enter the B40 Challenge. But even if we do not win the funding we are now in a better position than when we entered the B40 Challenge with all we learnt.
Read our other blogs in this series to learn about the experience of other start-ups that are helping people to spend, borrow and plan in Malaysia.