Asish Mohapatra is the co-founder and the head of sales at OfBusiness which is a technology-driven SME financing platform.
An alumnus of IIT Kharagpur in Mechanical Engineering, Asish went on to pursue his MBA from ISB Hyderabad and embarked his career with McKinsey and Co. Since the early stage of his career, Asish focused on the healthcare sector as he believed that this sector will be crucial in India’s rapid global growth.
Asish has acquired vast knowledge on the complex functioning of SMEs and has identified the problems which are retarding the growth of SMEs. With this in mind, OfBusiness was incorporated in 2015 with an aim to turn around the Indian SME sector.
Tested by the pandemic, Asish Mohapatra’s business venture has persevered and is once again roaring back. It is now looking to expand, by continuing to address the needs of working capital financing for small and medium-sized enterprises.
In an exclusive interview with DKODING, Asish Mohapatra shares his business ideas on the growth and the future of SMEs.
Q. Please tell us a bit about howOfBusiness came to be?
OfBusiness was born to solve the age-old problem of SME working capital financing. Funded only 20-30% by banks, SMEs are heavily reliant on the trader network, who double as raw-material suppliers, but are actually bringing in working capital providers.
Since the supply chain is long, these traders burden the supply chain with high costs, which the SMEs eventually pay, stymying their prospects for growth. We are five co-founders, determined to solve this problem given our professional and personal backgrounds in SMEs.
We are likeminded, experienced and connected individuals from equity, debt financing and raw material supply chains, which makes us a team diverse and capable enough to address the issue from multiple perspectives.
Q. How has the entrepreneurial journey turned out so far? What kind of knowledge have you picked up along the way?
The entrepreneurial journey has been no less exhilarating than I had anticipated. Each day is a new challenge, with a new milestone to be achieved. At the same time, I have to keep each day aligned to the overall vision and focus. I would choose this venture any day over any future pursuit.
The biggest learning for me has been the importance of people to business.Asish Mohapatra, Co-founder, OfBusiness
I knew they mattered, but I can now tell you it’s the largest part of building a business. The choice, grooming and continuous satisfaction of people defines the success of any enterprise.
Q. How has the COVID-19 Crisis impacted OfBusiness? What challenges came your way and how did you overcome them?
COVID-19 was a reality check, especially the initial crisis in April, May, and June. Amidst all the public strife, we were at least able to see whether our business was built to last.
For our sector (i.e., SME lending), our borrowers’ businesses were decimated due to limited demand and the unavailability of labour.
At the same time, our lenders were afraid of lending to us because our borrowers might not have been as creditworthy. Government schemes were announced to spur both, but hardly anything saw the light of day.
I can proudly say, though, that we have come up trumps in the areas that matter: collection efficiency and capital availability.Asish Mohapatra, Co-founder, OfBusiness
It is largely due to the unique design of our product (where we offer raw material as a service in addition to lending and hence, the SMEs kept a great track record with us) and the culture of people at OfBusiness, who gave their last drop of blood and stretched each sinew to defend what we have built.
July onwards, we are back to approximately 80% of the pre-Covid levels and hence, life is now back to normal.
Q. Do you have any future expansion plans in the pipeline? What is your long-term vision for the company?
We are out to build India’s largest SME lending network with some choice services in addition (like today we have raw materials’ fulfilment and discovery of revenue opportunities).
Hence, we call ourselves Lender ++, which, as a proposition, has just about scratched the surface in both lending and services. So there is a long way to go.
We will expand into different regions (we are only 2-3% of pan-India today), extend services (there are others in the pipeline) and develop raw materials (today, we fulfil only 5% of all possible SKUs).