Sanjay Sharma has brought essential access to funding to hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs and small businesses with a venture most thought impossible to pull off.
During our interview on the Dealmakers Podcast Sanjay talked about his first experience taking a business full cycle, his approach to investing for impact, fundraising, and three reasons to choose debt over equity funding. Plus, innovation in India and what’s really happening to businesses and debt in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
From Engineering To Entrepreneurship
Sanjay Sharma was raised in a small steel town in India. It is an area heavy in engineering. His family was mostly doctors and engineers. Studying and going into engineering is something many Indian children are taught to aspire to.
Sanjay had the good fortune to attend one of the best engineering schools in the country, IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) Mumbai. After graduation, you are expected to continue your studies overseas or go into management. He decided to pursue his management degree at the best institution in the country, IIM (Indian Institute of Management) in Bangalore.
Still following his parents’ expectations Sharma took a good stable job. He went to work in banking and spent over two decades working with some of the largest banks in India.
Then entrepreneurship came knocking, and he would become the first in his family to do something differently.
Going Full Cycle
A former coworker called with an invite to head off to the UAE and build a housing finance company, Tamweel PJSC. He thought “why not?” Took off to Abu Dhabi and became the first employee.
It ended up growing into the UAE’s largest company of its type and going public. They were 200x oversubscribed in their IPO, bringing in 200 billion Dirham
The experience taught him how to take a company full cycle from research to building a team and product, and exiting. He saw the tremendous value created from taking on and solving a big problem. That gave him the confidence to pursue his own venture.
The Most Valuable Thing You Can Do When Launching A Startup
Returning to India Sanjay began looking for ideas that could have a positive and meaningful social impact.
He discovered that there were at least 67M microenterprises that didn’t have access to any formal type of financing. A $2.4T market that wasn’t being served. This gave birth to the idea for his own startup, Aye Finance. A problem they set out to solve with data and machine learning models.
They believed new technology brought the capability to solve this lending problem that was previously impossible to conquer.
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