Sundaram Finance backs online education loans marketplace GyanDhan

GyanDhan, an online marketplace for education loans operated by Delhi-based Senbonzakura Consultancy Pvt. Ltd, has secured an undisclosed amount from Sundaram Finance Holdings, a subsidiary of Chennai-based Sundaram Finance Ltd, it said in a statement.

GyanDhan, which was founded by IIT Kanpur alumnus Ankit Mehra and IIT Delhi graduate Jainesh Sinha in May 2016, facilitates loans for students aspiring to pursue studies abroad. It has tied up with Axis Bank and State Bank of India to offer loans, and takes a commission from the lenders. The company claims to have helped more than 250 students get education loans worth Rs 60 crore.

The platform had raised an undisclosed amount in seed funding from Stanford Angels & Entrepreneurs and Harvard Angels in July last year .

It had earlier received angel funding from Satyen Kothari, founder of Cube and Citrus Pay.

Sundaram Finance deals in retail finance with a presence in vehicle finance, home finance, mutual funds, general insurance and financial services distribution.

“We are already engaging with multiple startups with various types of engagement models – operational, financing and equity investments,” said Harsha Viji, deputy managing director, Sundaram Finance.

The group is looking to buy minority stakes in early-stage ventures for $1 million or less, though larger investments will be made where they are needed, it said.

The group is also planning to co-invest with venture capitalists and angel investors in this space.

In the same space, Chennai-based school financing company Shiksha Financial Services India Pvt. Ltd had received about Rs 6.7 crore ($1 million) from The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation along with Aspada Investment Company last year in November.

Other players in the segment are Delhi-based Indian School Finance Company Pvt. Ltd (ISFC) and Bangalore-based Thirumeni Finance Pvt. Ltd, which operates under the banner of Varthana.

While ISFC caters to private unaided schools, vocational colleges, coaching and tuition centres, Shiksha provides loans for asset creation, working capital and school fee in the education sector. Varthana offers loans to private schools that cater to the poor and the emerging middle class.

In September 2016, ISFC raised Rs 10 crore ($1.5 million) in funding from US-based impact investment firm Gray Matters Capital and its associate fund GrayGhost Ventures.

In April 2016, Varthana raised Rs 93 crore ($14 million) in its Series B round of financing led by Kaizen Private Equity and Zephyr Peacock India.


R3 Aims to Build the ‘Operating System of Finance’

R3 CEO David Rutter has stated that his company seeks to build the “operating system of finance” and compared their project to a platform like Apple’s App Store.

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R3 (or R3CEV) is a distributed database company headquartered in New York City. The firm leads a consortium aimed at the development of blockchain database usage in the financial system. Their plan is to unify the banking system by one ledger, which would allow the validation of transactions in near-real time. The company created a blockchain-based platform called “Corda“, which can be used by developers to build applications for financial institutes. Just as Microsoft developed the Windows operating system to run various software, R3 seeks to do the same with Corda.

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He stated:

Corda is a completely open system that is going to empower entrepreneurs to be able to build Corda apps, roll them out, and actually have them be adopted because they will work with the current financial rails, in a way that is cognizant of and compliant with the regulatory regime.

At the end of May, R3 raised a record $107 million in a fundraising round, which is currently the largest single investment in a blockchain company. The investors included banks, such as Japan’s SBI group, the UK’s HSBC, Brazil’s Banco Bradesco, French investment bank Natixis. The first two stages of the fundraising were only open to members of the consortium, which includes more than 70 of the world’s largest financial institutes.

In an interview with Business Insider,  Rutter said banks are spending tens of billions of dollars each year on writing APIs between trading and order management systems. The CEO stated that such third party software “doesn’t communicate easily”. Santander’s 2015 report backs Rutter’s statement, where researchers of the financial institute reported that the blockchain technology could save banks as much as $20 billion per year.

R3CEV works together with 40 big banks that are current investors of the company, and a further 50 members of the consortium. According to Rutter, the financial institutes are interested in different “themes” when deploying the blockchain tech, including trade finance, global digital identification, post-trade processing, and payments.

Rutter said that a major part of the $107 million will be spent on the development of Corda, as well as encouraging developers to start building on the platform using the training material provided by R3.

“One point I try to get across when I meet these new entrepreneurs with a great idea is that if you are a JPMorgan or a Goldman Sachs or a Wells Fargo or HSBC, you can see an amazing presentation by a company that has five, ten, 20 employees and $10 million in the bank. You CANNOT go to your boss and say I want to move this mission critical function to this thinly capitalized 20 man shop,” Rutter said.

However, not all banks are so positive of R3’s project. JP Morgan, the largest financial institute of the United States, left the consortium at the end of April. Since JP Morgan is one of the founding members of the Ethereum Enterprise Alliance, a rival blockchain platform committed to the business use of Ethereum, many think the bank left R3’s consortium since it was a rival project. Along with JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Santander, and State Street had left R3CEV. Despite the fact that multiple financial institutes left the project, Rutter expects a positive outcome.

“Those guys [banks who left R3], I’m sure they’ll work with R3 in the future, especially as we become the standard. As you know, the network part of this is very important. There’s been a lot of people that have talked about this as being a team sport. You could talk to the 90 members of R3 and they would increase the confidence that we’re on the right track with the right sponsorship. They’ll come back. They were there at the beginning, they’ll come back,” Rutter said.