Donned in a crisp white shirt and a pair of jeans, Rakhil Fernando greeted me cordially in his cozy office at Ayer Rajah Crescent. He was exactly like the pictures: a humble man with a big warm smile. The CEO and Co-Founder of Kashmi was very professional and clear with his answers and explained Kashmi’s philosophy and products to me patiently. Together with his three close friends, the Sri Lankan native have a lot of big plans up ahead for Kashmi and aim to be the digital bank of Southeast Asia in 5 years.
Rakhil Fernando, CEO, and Co-Founder of Kashmi
How was Kashmi born?
Kashmi was born around nearly 3 years ago. It was founded by me and 3 other very close friends, we are all from Sri Lanka. We wanted to create a platform that was a solution that made it very easy for young people to deal with their money day to day. So we came from Sri Lanka where there is low banking penetration, and the same systemic problem that existed throughout Southeast Asia, and we didn’t really see any solution out there that really catered to the needs of our age group, our demographic, which are millennials. So that’s why we wanted to create a product that really works well in our everyday life and in return, helps others as well.
How is Kashi different from other payment apps?
So Kashmi has a neo-banking platform, takes together or combines the ability to help somebody spend their money, save their money, as well as to budget and manage their day to day finances. When you download the Kashmi app, you actually get a real bank account and not an e-wallet, and a user also gets a debit card that can use to make payments. So that itself, it’s quite different from other e-wallet platforms, that generally just facilitates e-wallet solution and not a banking solution. On top of that, we also provide tools for millennials to save and budget and manage their finances. Now, in Asia, we don’t really see a lot of these apps combining all these features together, and we think we are one of the first applications out there that provide a complete solution in terms of financial services for millennials.
Describe Kashmi in 3 words.
It’s secure, it’s easy to use, as well as useful.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced thus far?
Being a small startup, in this FinTech world, it’s difficult because Fintech is a big community, and many provide financial services, you need to partner up with big institutions like banks or other financial institutions like acquirers, that require a lot from their customers, or their partners, and as a startup, it’s tough to sometimes meet those requirements. So in that sense, being difficult and challenging. Regulation again is challenging, regulators are used to controlling banks, but they (banks) have a lot of resources to be compliant. Small startups don’t have that many resources both financially as well as manpower. So, in that sense, it’s been a lot of work for small companies like us, but I think we sort of come through those challenges positively.
A piece of advice to budding entrepreneurs?
What I live by is: Don’t be afraid to try something. We’ve started to try creating a financial institution, with just three, four co-founders with no real financial background, or resources behind us, but we went for it. It’s all about trying and making sure you understand the market and understand your customers, and then building the right products. So go ahead and keep trying if you fail as well because as an entrepreneur you’re going to fail many times over. So that’s something you need to get used to and it’s going to be a part of your journey.
Photo Credits: Kashmi
In Your Opinion: Your forecast of the Fintech scene in the next decade.
I think FinTech is a very broad word. You have companies that do B2B services or companies like us which are direct to consumers. So in our specific sort of wheel house of FinTech, I think there is going to be a lot of re-bundling of services, what I mean about that is, you have platforms that are created for remittances, you have platforms that are created for making payments, you have platforms to help you budget. And I think the consumers are going to feel a lot of fatigue, when it comes to having many destinations to do different things with their money, and what they want, and what I think the industry will converge to it, sort of like creating singular platforms where all these service providers can plug in. So it has to be bundled into one solution. Because all these services are interconnected, seeing everything in one payers is far more convenient for users versus visiting many apps and many sites to do different things.
Any inspirational quote to live by?
There’s this quote that sort of sticks in my head and I think I’ve seen it in the movie or somewhere. It says, “Be good and do good”. So my resolution for the year is to set up some kind of initiative to help others, and my goal is to sort of create a foundation that helps very underprivileged children to learn how to code. So, that’s sort of something I’m trying to live by. Very early stages in that, but we will see.
Kashmi moving forward:
Kashmi is doing some exciting stuff over the next couple of years. We’ve just going to startup pilot from a neo-banking platform in Sri Lanka, which we hope to start in the next 30 days, we think. We are also just about to sign an agreement with the bank in the Philippines, we have launched a neo-bank in the Philippines as well. So we have a lot of going on, we plan to be the digital bank of Southeast Asia and all the countries in the next 5 years. So we’ve put a lot on our plate, and a lot of hard work in front of us.
For more information about Kashmi, visit www.kashmi.com