How Refyne is financially empowering employees with ‘pay-as-you-go’ in India
An employee’s financial well-being plays a key role in their happiness, satisfaction, and job performance. Employees facing financial difficulties 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 most of their compensation only adds to their woes. It is then up to employers to step in and ensure the financial well-being of their team. Mr. Apoorv Kumar, CTO and Co-Founder, Refyneshared his thoughts with CXOToday on the need for real-time access to salary and how Refyne is leveraging technology to make it a reality for the Indian workforce.
Q1. Refyne is the first and largest pay-on-demand platform in India and Asia. Can you tell us more about the concept and its popularity since its inception last year?
Refyne helps employees build financial resilience by allowing them to access their pay as they earn it. We partner with employers to allow their employees to track, collect and spend a portion of their earned but unpaid wages at any time before payday, allowing for greater financial control and freedom .
Refyne works in a business to business to consumer (B2B2C) model. Our solution is free for employers and integrates seamlessly with any human resource management system, without disrupting payroll. The plug and play solution works as a mobile and web application that allows employees to access their earned but unpaid salary when they need it. Employees can instantly transfer the money to their bank account or any digital wallet. It helps them deal with any unforeseen or planned expenses throughout the month, without having to nervously look at their calendar, calculating the days until payday. Refyne’s pay on demand is not a loan, so does not involve borrowing on the part of the employee and does not incur any cost to the employer.
Our unique value proposition has been a respite for several hundred thousand employed Indians who face financial hardship and cash flow shortfalls between payroll cycles. For employers, Salary On-Demand means improved productivity and workforce retention, reduced attrition, faster hiring, all at zero cost.
Q2. How many companies does Refyne now work with, and the total number of clients? How do you plan to develop in the coming year?
Currently, we partner with over 200 organizations, serving 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 plan to reach over 3 million employees by the end of 2022. Our geographic footprint has rapidly expanded 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 an US$82 million Series B funding round led by Tiger Global. Since its inception in late 2020, Refyne has raised a total of US$106 million. This includes previous funding of US$16 million from its Series A in June 2021 and US$4.1 million in a seed round in December 2020.
Refyne is backed by leading global investors including QED Investors, Jigsaw VC, partners at 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 are also expanding our product capabilities, team and various business functions.
Q3. How does the flagship application interface with the organization’s existing payroll processes?
Refyne is an easy-to-use application for employees to benefit from on-demand compensation. The platform integrates with the employer’s attendance and payroll system and uses this data to provide staff with real-time access to earned salary. The status of the employer’s working capital does not undergo any change. Refyne prepares the withdrawal and credits the money to the employee’s payroll account, without disrupting the organization’s payroll process. I would like to emphasize that data security and confidentiality are of paramount interest to us. We only collect information about employees who register with Refyne, and strictly according to RBI compliance standards.
Refyne has also developed a proprietary Vendor Management System and Attendance Management System that allows large companies to seamlessly tailor pay to demand for their on- and off-role employees.
Q4. How does the organization use AI, ML, cloud and emerging technologies?
Technological innovation is at the heart of Refyne. We used high-tech capabilities such as AI and ML to enhance OCR to categorize and identify the type of data and its accuracy while capturing data from photographs of documents such as Aadhar, DL, PAN, Voter ID, etc. This makes the KYC registration process easier for users. It also supports us in building technology that helps less tech-savvy partner companies optimize transformation structures.
We have successfully built a real-time KYC system as well as AI-based underwriting algorithms. At Refyne, we are also building a new layer on top of AI and ML capabilities standardized by Google and Amazon to help us capture revealing data about user behavior that we can use to further optimize our technology. We have automated technology to track real-time salary updates that allow employees to access their earned salary anytime before payday. We also rely on a super light team and deep automation with DevOps.
Q5. What efforts does the company make to secure the privacy of user data?
Refyne has been extremely vigilant about data security since day one. Refyne’s systems are ISO-27001 certified for information security. We are RBI compliant and have conducted and completed vulnerability testing by top VAPT companies in India including WeSecureApp and all employee data is handled in accordance with data privacy laws.
Q6. How do you see the adoption of Salary-on-Demand evolving over the next 3-5 years?
The adoption of on-demand pay has allowed companies elsewhere in the world (US, UK, Latin America) to differentiate their benefits, making them more attractive to potential workforce and talent . To research shows that by enabling access to earned salary before payday, companies 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 demonstrate a greater sense of loyalty to their employer.
On-demand pay will be a game-changer when it comes to hiring and retaining talent, an EY report released last year found that nearly 60% of Indians see it as a deciding factor for their next job. The future looks bright for Salary-on-Demand and employees across India can expect to see this important benefit introduced to their industry.
Q7. How are you using technology to dismantle biases in India’s financial inclusion journey?
Refyne was designed to dismantle access to finance biases among the underbanked and unbanked masses in India. Small borrowers in the low income group repeatedly end up paying much higher interest rates than others. The terms surrounding informal lending, i.e. loan sharks and unregulated lending apps, are exorbitant – some as high as 300% interest and various hidden fees and commissions. This makes users vulnerable to vicious debt traps. All this, only because they try to align their income with their expenses.
Refyne helps prevent clients from falling prey to these predatory schemes by giving them easy, instant access to the cash they have rightfully earned, without worrying about interest rates or repayment stress. This helps them wean themselves off expensive credit systems.
A key feature of Salary-on-Demand that addresses lending biases is making the product affordable and accessible to everyone. Refyne does not ask users for their credit history. Instead, we have a proprietary scoring model called Refyne Score which takes multiple factors into consideration – like career trajectory, work diligence, etc. which helps users to strengthen their creditworthiness, benefit from more financial products and participate in the formal financial ecosystem.
Q8. Is Refyne a multilingual platform? Which language is the most preferred on the platform?
Yes, Refyne is made in India, made for India. We are very serious about making Indian financial inclusion a reality. Our app supports 12 Indian languages including English, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Konkani, Telugu, Bengali, Odisha to name a few. Of these, the most widely used is English, closely followed by Hindi.
Q9. What are some of the people-focused priorities you promote within Refyne?
Refyne is big on people and culture. Management has always put our team and its interests first. Refyne was born during the COVID-19 pandemic, so we are fiercely loyal to our culture and the well-being of our team. Starting with hybrid working policies and providing support for our members working from home. We ensure that adequate measures are taken to protect our employees and enable them to pursue their strengths. We also support routine development, awareness and wellness programs and the adoption of tools that automate and optimize team production. We believe in and follow the people and employee centered approach.