1. How do you think that India needs a debt management?
India is an emerging country with great potential, but it still requires a lot of attention to bring in better practices that protect consumers and lenders. Laws and regulations need to be reviewed to construct a robust system that encourages safety within the financial industry. Effective debt solutions do not exist in India and this has caused a strain on relationships between the lender and the debtor.
Debt management is a popular solution used largely in US and Europe. If the debtor is struggling to maintain their monthly loan and credit card payments, a tailored repayment plan is arranged within their monthly income to cover their outstanding debts and their monthly living expenses. This is common practice in many countries and has helped people stay in control of their finances and remain a key contributor of the economy instead of being financially locked down by debt. We firmly believe that debt management is a solution that is required in India to help customers overcome their debt burdens.
After studying how debt was being handled in India, we realised that the people of India needed a professional debt counselling service. There isn’t any real help for people struggling with unsecured debt when it should be an easy answer. We noticed that the average person didn’t have the basic knowledge of how credit worked and how to manage finances. I think this has caused issues between the borrower and the lender, which is why we offer free counselling and financial education as part of our commitment to help people overcome their debt burdens. The introduction of our services has been widely welcomed, and as a result, our company has grown and evolved PAN India.
2. Your take on this massive illegal lending apps, how best we can generate awareness?
This is a huge problem in India, sadly, many farmers and now urban residences have fallen victim to these illegal loans. Unfortunately, many have committed suicide, with one factor being due to the level of harassment they experienced from collection agents using aggressive and illegal tactics. Our internal research suggests that these illegal loan app firms are targeting vulnerable people, enticing them to take out small loans with extremely high interest rates. The victims are desperate and not understanding the level of interest being charged. Unfortunately, the collection agents are using tactics like blackmail and intimidation to collect the outstanding debts which can cause all kinds of mental issues for the debtor.
SingleDebt advocates have been working very hard in assisting these victims by filing police and cybercrime complaints and also reporting these illegal lenders to the RBI Ombudsman. We have been successful in most cases in stopping the harassment. We have been providing aftercare by counselling the victims and advising them of what they would need to do to stay protected from the harassment.
We are actively promoting our assistance to anyone that is suffering at the hands of the illegal app firms. I think that the government needs to step in with an awareness campaign to really get the message out there. But in the mean-time, our door is always open to anyone facing harassment from illegal app firms.
3. Since the 2020 COVID-19 epidemic, MSMEs and businesses have struggled to repay banking institution debts. Has SingleDebt managed to sought the issue with MSMEs and enterprises?
The Covid lockdown had a huge impact on businesses, which halted their income lines, this applied a lot of pressure when it came to paying back their business loans. Some had to shut down, but others that survived experienced very difficult times to stay afloat. Our expert team of debt advisors are well-versed in business debt. We provide tailored debt solutions that help businesses handle outstanding debt in a constructive manner. One of our debt solutions called CIDA – Company Informal Debt Arrangement, not only allows the business to continue trading without the pressure from creditors but also gives the business breathing space to get themselves back on track. Businesses that have legal action against them due to non-payment, are supported and advised by our legal team. All our debt solutions are non-borrowing solutions; therefore, we are not compounding the problem for the business. The solution allows businesses to repay its debts at an affordable rate, until it has re-established itself and secured its income line again.
4. How can one prevent loan defaults and debt traps, what’s your take?
Normally, when customers approach us for help, they have already fallen into the debt trap, have defaulted on their loans and are receiving pressure from creditors and collection agents to make payment. We will only enroll customers to our services if they have already missed their EMI’s, this shows that the person is genuinely struggling financially.
But to avoid falling into a debt trap, we would advise to work within a budget, that means cutting back on non- essential costs and putting aside extra money every month. A debt consolidation loan is another option where you can pay off existing loans. If you are a homeowner, a low interest secured loan is a good option to pay off existing loans, the EMI can be much lower, so it would be easier to manage.
We provide training material to anyone that wants to learn about finance, budgeting and managing credit. We publish blogs weekly with tips and advice on making your money go further and essentially staying out of debt.
5. What is your view on the lending scenario, do you think, unnecessary or over lending is causing debts?
Most definitely, there is a lot of irresponsible lending happening in India. It also depends on where the person is taking the loan from as some lending companies do not do extensive checks on the potential borrower and it is very easy for someone to take out a loan even though it doesn’t fit within their income. This easily puts the borrower in a position where they have borrowed outside of their means, and inevitably leads to defaulting, putting the lender in a position to collect the outstanding as a debt.
The steps taken by the lender to collect can be very aggressive, and tends to spoil the relationship between the lender and the borrower. At this stage, the borrower will need to be careful as the lender would want the full EMI which can put the borrower in a position of financial hardship. Lenders need to be stringent when assessing the borrower’s capability to keep up with the monthly payments.
6. You have a presence in UK as well, what is the major difference you witness compare to India?
There is quite a difference in the provisions available in UK compared to India. The issues are very similar when talking about irresponsible lending, it caused the credit crunch in 2008 where the market crashed due to a high percentage of people unable to pay back the loans they had taken. This is what India is at risk of if we do not implement the right provisions.
However, the UK recognised that solutions needed to be available for people who were suffering with debt. The only option that the debtor had was to go bankrupt, this doesn’t help anybody, everyone loses in this situation. The debtor cannot borrow again for a long period of time and has a damaged credit file, and the lender doesn’t get their money back. So there needed to be another option that didn’t mean writing off the entire debt.
Debt management was the middle ground. Banks worked with debtors by freezing interest and charges and allowed the debtor to repay the total debt with a reduced payment plan over a longer term. This allowed the debtor to pay back the loan within their means and allowed the lender to have all the money paid back without having to write any of it off. The banks, NBFC’s and the debtor would benefit from this as it would reduce the level of NPA’s, allow the debtor to repay the loan in an affordable manner and keep the relationship intact between the lender and debtor. It also helps to keep the debtor spending within the economy.
- Will the company expand into additional financial management fields in the future?
There is a long way to go, but we are constantly looking at ways we can help the industry maintain good practices. We would like to work closer with the banks and NBFC’s to help minimize NPA’s and protect borrowers from being financially strained.
We will be focusing more on educating people about financial management so that they can make better decisions when dealing with credit facilities. We will be providing courses on money management and budgeting so that people can be more confident when taking credit, paying back loans and keeping themselves financially healthy.