The Finance Association at XLRI (FINAX) recently hosted ‘GNOSIS 21’ – 12th Annual Finance Symposium on the 13th and 14th November. Usually held in India’s financial capital Mumbai, this year’s event was organized online owing to the pandemic. The event saw the participation of faculty, students and corporate delegates all over India.
The theme was “Shifting Tides in Financial Services”. As the pandemic is receding, numerous paradigm shifts such as digital finance, IPOs, Neo-banking, crypto currency and financial planning, which are making its way into the Indian economy and financial services industry.
The keynote address of the symposium was given by Mr R Gandhi, former deputy governor of Reserve Bank of India. He illustrated the long history of technology and history ‘Jugalbandhi’ and how this time enabled by technological progress made over the past 20 years have made way for digital push in Indian banks. Backed with solid data gathering, he informed the delegates about how the shift to digital banking has ensured more inclusiveness. He discussed how RBI and the Indian government has been the front runner in terms of integrating technology in the Indian finance ecosystem. RTGS, NEFT and UPI have enabled faster and larger real-time payments arrangements. Gandhi informed the attendees about the steps being taken by RBI to introduce digital currency by December this year and make government securities available to retail investors through the recently launched Retail Direct platform by the RBI.
Fr. Paul. Fernandes, S.J., Director, XLRI highlighted that how the recent financial crises have exposed inadequacy and vulnerability of the traditional mechanisms in managing risk, it is imperative that we have to look for newer and innovative ways to ensure safety of assets. He emphasized the new innovations in the banking system should act as catalyst to reduce economic inequality and protect people’s hard-earned money. Dr HK Pradhan, Senior Professor of Finance and Economics at XLRI articulated the greater role of banks in financial intermediation despite digital deepening and entry of payment banks. He highlighted the financial sector to have been quick and adaptive to technology, the digital penetration in transaction responding to lockdown, and the accentuation of risk capital finding their way into many emerging sectors in payments system, including e-commerce, and innovative start-ups.
Later on Day 1, there was a panel discussion on India’s millennial era with mega IPOs. The panelists were Mr Kaushik Guha, Co-founder, Hostbooks; Angel Investor for Ola, Housing.com, R Srinivasan, CIO and Head (Equity) of SBI Mutual Funds, Rajesh Sehgal, Managing Partner, Equanimity and Ajay Sharma, ET Now moderated the panel. The diversity of the panel with leaders from the institutional investing sector, private investments and PE ensured a healthy discussion, diving deep and explaining the difference on how they see the current boom in IPOs differently. They discussed the various trends underpinning the IPO frenzy that has been underway in India in the past year. The necessity to change the way how a business is valued was discussed in great detail. Instead of attacking the valuations, traditional investors need to keep an open mind and still need to focus on unit economics. Changing times now demand that we factor in the narratives built around the businesses in addition to the current cashflows. Rajesh also emphasized investor sensitization about the kind of questions to be asked when evaluating startups. Different templates should be used when valuing legacy businesses and startups.
Day 1 ended with an enthralling learning session by Aswini Bajaj, CEO of Leveraged Growth on “Managing Personal Finances”. The first-ever learning session in GNOSIS was organized specifically for student delegates. It was an interactive session with numerous corporate and student delegates, taking tips on emergency fund management, investing in SIPs, building a proper portfolio, etc. Salient discussions included weighing the pros and cons of term insurance vs life insurance and how fruitful a real estate investment could be during this scenario.
Post creating a mark of day 1 successfully, GNOSIS’21 continued its legacy to host insightful panel discussions. Day 2 commenced with a panel discussion on “Neobanks and the next banking revolution”. The panel consisted of Nirvikar Jain, CFO, DreamBig Semiconductor Inc., Vaibhav Joshi,CDO, Equitas, and Sameer Jaini, Founder, Digital Fifth. It was moderated by Upasna Handa, Founder, K Lane Fintech Consulting.
The road to profitability favoured Neobanking, keeping in mind the high returns from fintech. The panel came to a consensus about convenience being the key, thus supporting Neobanks in the next banking revolution. The diverse backgrounds of panelists gave us different perspectives on the future of Neobanking and how regulators approach the new trends, said the Secretary FINAX Ms Anjali Dahiya.
In the last leg of Day 2, the symposium had a speaker session by Tahem Verma, Co-founder and CEO of Mesha, a decentralized social platform for investors. With deep knowledge about blockchain, cryptocurrencies and NFTs, he gave a masterclass on how to navigate the new world of tokens, stable coins, various use cases of blockchain and valuing the coins. His way of evaluating the tokens included the purpose that the tokens served, the team behind them and the hype around the tokens. He also warned that this could be another crypto bubble but opined that in the long run, cryptocurrencies would emerge as a substantial way to invest. ‘Even if 5% of the world’s investment were to be redirected to crypto, bitcoin would be valued in excess of $200 thousand’ he said. He further discussed how NFTs would have the biggest use case in the online gaming industry where players could own skins, part of games and create a secondary market associated with the online games.