Financial wellness of an employee plays a key role in their happiness, satisfaction, and performance at work. Employees who are facing financial stress are less engaged, motivated and likely to change jobs. Lack of funds, low income, or pressing financial responsibilities trigger stress, anxiety and even depression. The fact that employees are ill-equipped to make the best use of their remuneration only adds to their woes. It is then up to employers to step up and ensure their team’s financial wellness. Mr. Apoorv Kumar, CTO and Co-founder, Refyne, shared his insights with CXOToday on the need for the real-time access of salary and how Refyne is leveraging technology to make this a reality for the Indian workforce.
Q1. Refyne is the first and largest ‘Salary-on-Demand’ platform in India and Asia. Can you tell us more about the concept and its popularity since inception last year?
Refyne helps employees build financial resilience by allowing them to access their salary as and when they earn it. We partner with employers to enable their employees to track, obtain and spend a portion of their earned but unpaid salary any time before payday, enabling greater financial control & freedom.
Refyne works in a business to business to consumer (B2B2C) model. Our solution is free for employers and seamlessly integrates with any HRMS, without disrupting payroll. The plug and play solution works as a mobile and web app that lets employees access their earned but unpaid salary whenever they need it. Employees can instantly transfer the money to their bank account or any digital wallet. This helps them meet any unplanned or planned expenses through the month, without having to nervously look at their calendar, calculating the days until payday. Refyne’s Salary-on-Demand is not a loan, therefore does not involve borrowing on the part of the employee and carries no cost to the employer.
Our unique value proposition has been a breather for several hundred thousand employed Indians who face financial stress and cash shortfalls between pay cycles. For employers, Salary On-Demand results in improved workforce productivity and retention, lower attrition, faster hiring, all this at zero cost.
Q2. How many companies does Refyne now work with, as well as the overall number of customers? How do you intend to grow in the coming year?
Presently, we are partnered with over 200 organizations, catering to over 1.5 million employees. Our clientele includes Rebel Foods, Acko, Akash Byju’s, Aarti Industries, Practo, Café Coffee Day, Cars24, Epigamia, House of Hiranandani, among others.
We expect to reach more than 3 million employees by the end of 2022. Our geographic footprint has expanded rapidly from Tier 1 to Tier 3 cities including Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi NCR, Hyderabad, Raipur, Lucknow, Kanpur, Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Bilaspur, Kharar, Vizag, Kochi, Trichy, and many more.
In January 2022, Refyne closed a Series B round of US$ 82M led by Tiger Global. Since inception in late 2020, Refyne has raised a total of US$ 106M. This includes previous funding of US $16M from its Series A in June 2021 and US$ 4.1M in a seed round in December 2020.
Refyne is backed by leading global investors including QED Investors, Jigsaw VC, partners of DST Global, RTP Global, and XZY Capital. We also have a strategic partnership with ICICI Bank.
We intend to scale the business and venture deeper into the Indian market. We’re also expanding our product capabilities, the team, and various business functions.
Q3. How does the flagship app interface with the organization’s existing payroll processes?
Refyne is an easy-to-use app for employees to avail on-demand pay. The platform integrates with the employer’s attendance and payroll management system and uses this data to provide real-time earned salary access to the staff. The employer’s working capital status does not undergo any change. Refyne fronts the withdrawal and credits the money to the employees’ salary account, without disrupting the organization’s payroll process. I’d like to emphasize that data security and privacy are of paramount interest to us. We only collect information on employees who sign up for Refyne, and strictly as per RBI norms for compliance.
Refyne has also developed a proprietary Vendor Management System & Attendance Management System that allows large enterprises to seamlessly scale Salary-on-Demand for their on-roll and off-roll employees.
Q4. How is the organization utilizing AI, ML, cloud, and emerging technologies?
Technological innovation is at the heart of Refyne. We have been using deep-tech capabilities such as AI & ML to enhance the OCR to categorize and identify data type and its correctness while capturing data from photographs of documents like Aadhar, DL, PAN, Voter ID, etc. This eases the process of signing up for KYC for users. It is also supporting us to build technology that helps partner firms who are not very tech savvy, to optimize processing structures.
We have successfully built a real-time KYC system along with AI-driven underwriting algorithms. At Refyne, we are also building a new layer on top of AI and ML capabilities commoditized by Google and Amazon to help us capture revealing data on user behaviour to which we can use to further optimize our technology. We have automated tech to track real-time salary updates that enable employees to access their earned salary any time before payday. We also rely on a super lean team and extensive automation with DevOps.
Q5. What efforts is the firm taking to secure the privacy of user data?
Refyne has been supremely vigilant about data security since day one. Refyne’s systems are ISO-27001 certified for information security. We’re RBI-compliant and have conducted and completed vulnerability testing by top VAPT firms in India, including WeSecureApp, and all employee data is managed as per data privacy laws.
Q6. How do you envision the adoption of Salary-on-Demand evolving over the next 3-5 years?
The adoption of salary-on-demand has enabled firms elsewhere in the world – the US, UK, Latin America – to differentiate their employee benefit packages, making them more appealing to the workforce and potential talent. Research shows that by enabling access to earned salary prior to payday, firms can improve employee engagement, productivity, overall retention, and attrition rates. For example, employees who feel in control of their income are less stressed about their finances, more motivated and productive, and exhibit a stronger sense of loyalty towards their employers.
Salary on-demand is going to be a game-changer when it comes to hiring and retaining talent, an EY report published last year revealed that nearly 60% of Indians consider it a deciding factor for their next job. The future looks bright for Salary-on-Demand and employees across India should expect to see this important benefit introduced in their industry.
Q7. How are you utilizing technology to dismantle bias in India’s financial inclusion journey?
Refyne was built to dismantle bias in access to finance among the underbanked and unbanked masses in India. Smaller borrowers from the lower income group repeatedly end up paying much higher interest rates compared to others. The terms around informal lending i.e loan sharks and unregulated loan apps are exorbitant – some going up to 300% interest and various hidden charges and fees. This leaves users vulnerable to vicious debt traps. All this, only because they’re trying to align their income with their expenses.
Refyne is helping prevent customers from falling prey to these predatory schemes by giving them easy and instant access to ready liquidity that they have rightfully earned, without worrying about interest rates or repayment stress. This helps them wean off costly credit schemes.
A key feature of Salary-on-Demand that addresses lending bias is making the product affordable and available to everyone. Refyne doesn’t ask users their credit history. Instead, we have a proprietary scoring model called Refyne Score which takes into consideration several factors – like career trajectory, diligence at work, etc. that helps users build their creditworthiness and avail more financial products and participate in the formal financial ecosystem.
Q8. Is Refyne a multi-language platform? Which language is most preferred on the platform?
Yes, Refyne is made in India, made for India. We’re very serious about making financial inclusion for Indians a reality. Our app supports 12 Indian languages, including English, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Konkani, Telugu, Bengali, Odisha, to name some. Of these, the most used is English, closely followed by Hindi.
Q9. What are some of the people-first priorities you’re promoting within Refyne?
Refyne is big on people & culture. The leadership has always put our team and their interest first. Refyne was born during the COVID-19 pandemic, so we’re fiercely steadfast about our culture and well-being of our team. Starting with policies on hybrid work and providing support for our members working from home. We are ensuring that adequate measures are being taken to safeguard our employees and allow them to pursue their core strengths. We also support routine upskilling, awareness and wellness programs and adoption of tools that automate and optimize the team’s output. We believe and follow the people-first, employee-centric approach.