My 2023 resolution is to drive MSME financial inclusion in India: Hardika Shah, Kinara Capital

Moving from the corporate to the entrepreneurial landscape was not at all easy for her. But still, Hardika Shah, managed to break the glass ceiling by building a fintech brand which is completely owned and run by a female entrepreneur


Thousands of businesses go down every year due to various reasons. One of the major reasons is funding. However, on the ground, NBFCs and fintech companies in India are taking some progressive steps towards creating an environment of financial inclusion. One of these is Kinara Capital.

To date, they have disbursed over Rs 3,700 crores worth of nearly 80,000 collateral-free business loans to MSMEs in 100+ cities. Their current plan is to reach an AUM of Rs 6,000 crores by 2025.

“We will continue to aid as many small business entrepreneurs as possible and maintain our focus on going deeper into our existing geographies across Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Gujarat, and Maharashtra,” says Hardika Shah, Founder and CEO, Kinara Capital.

Kinara Capital, founded in 2011, is bridging the massive MSME credit gap by offering fast and flexible collateral-free business loans through a combination of digital processes and doorstep customer service.

In 2022, the company opened 16 new branches in Tier-2 cities which showed significant growth potential following the pandemic. Their HerVikas is a separate programme that supports women MSME entrepreneurs. Hardika plans to reach out to 200,000 MSMEs across 100+ cities in India over the next three years. The social impact of this growth is expected to support over 1 million jobs in local economies and generate over Rs 3,000 crores in incremental income for small business entrepreneurs.

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Hardika interacts with SME Futures and takes us through her journey, enlightening us about how her small idea became a brand.

It’s in her blood

Growing up, Hardika saw her mother being an entrepreneur, but she chose a corporate career. Hardika, while earning her MBA from Columbia Business School and UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, developed a new risk-assessment methodology and piloted it in India. The success of which was the impetus for Kinara Capital, and it inspired her to leave her corporate job and return to India after nearly two decades.

Kinara Capital was born out of a belief that technology and a data-driven approach could democratise access to financial inclusion for the small business entrepreneurs in India, she says.

She admits that the entrepreneurial streak was always there in her. It is in her blood after all!

“My mother always had entrepreneurial leanings and ran a couple of small businesses while I was growing up. I eventually moved to the United States to further my education and built a career in management consulting. However, my mother’s struggle to raise funds to get her small businesses off the ground had stayed with me through all these years. After many years away, studying and working abroad, I returned to India and noticed that despite the various economic reforms that had been carried out in the country, small business entrepreneurs were facing the same challenges that they always had, particularly a lack of access to formal financing to grow their businesses. I wanted to do something to change that, which led to the formation of Kinara Capital,” she tells us.

Navigating towards being a boss

Once Hardika jumped on to the entrepreneurial bandwagon, it was like going into the battlefield every day for her, at least initially. She faced a good number of uncomfortable interactions, which women entrepreneurs generally do.

Jumping from a corporate job to entrepreneurship was daunting, but exciting. Business school set things in motion for me, and I was determined to persevere through the difficulties to effect meaningful change, she says.

“Besides initial difficulties like raising funds and establishing my credibility as a start-up, as a woman entrepreneur, I have faced my share of uncomfortable questions that no one would ask a man. I also faced pushbacks from peers and even investors about hiring a women-majority management team, especially a woman CFO. But I have always been sure of my larger vision. It only strengthened my resolve to persist and bring these opportunities to fruition, and my decisions have paid off over time,” she reminisces.

Steering through the pandemic

However, the pandemic period was perhaps the first time in close to a decade that Hardika felt an overwhelming sense of uncertainty, because the MSME sector was disproportionately impacted by the fallout of the pandemic. However, her coping mechanism was to steadfastly stand by her employees and her customers.

“I think that this was a feeling that was shared by many, as the second and third waves of COVID-19 continued to impact normal business. During the initial phase, between the losses and the confusion, there was also a sense that all of this would pass. The following waves made it seem like there was no end in sight, and the damage being wrought by the pandemic could be irreparable,” she elaborates.

“But we didn’t shut down any of our branches or lay off our employees. We were tech-ready and switched operations to remote working overnight, including our call center. So we continued our customer service, offering support and guidance to help our customers on their path to recovery,” she adds.

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The company also utilised the downtime, refocusing their efforts to transform and further digitise their processes and consumerise their tech. They launched the myKinara App which gives MSME owners access to financial inclusion.

According to her, COVID-19 made her organisation more agile. “It made us realise how adaptable and resilient we really are. It has validated the fact that we have a sustainable business model, and the right tech solution in place to move forward to support MSME financial inclusion in droves,” she says.

Maya Angelou, everyday!

Throughout her journey, Maya Angelou’s philosophy has provided solace and inspiration to Hardika in every aspect of her life.

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour, and some style.”- Maya Angelou, American Memoirist, Poet.

“These lines resonate with me because I have found them to be true to my outlook in life. They have compelled me to slow down sometimes and embrace the beauty of being truly passionate about something. These lines have also inspired me to infuse compassion, humour, and just a dash of style into each day of my life,” she says.

“This mindset of mine has allowed me to find my own joy in life in anything that I do, even if it is just in making a cup of coffee. It has taught me to thrive everyday by living every moment to the fullest and not get caught up with the anxiety of living life as if it were a checklist,” she adds.

As a teenager at 17, Hardika moved across the world alone, for higher education. According to her, this phase of her life was about hustling to find her feet and navigating an unfamiliar environment. Moving past that was like being in ‘survival’ mode for her.

“That’s why Angelou’s quote takes pride of place on the wall of my office, where I can see it right from my desk,” she points out.

2023 resolution—growth

The MSMEs of India have shown the world their resilience! In just the Q1 of this year, their production output exceeded the pre-pandemic levels. Now that India Inc. is firmly back on the growth trajectory, Hardika’s resolution for 2023 is all about growing further. “This is a critical bucket list item for me. My first resolution is to do everything to support Kinara’s growth and to support our employees and customers to the fullest,” she asserts.

The company also aims to further expand their digital learning series ‘Grow With Kinara,’ for their customers. It also plans to launch a learning series only for women entrepreneurs.

Also Read: My 2023 resolution is to drive MSME financial inclusion in India: Hardika Shah, Kinara Capital

Hardika is a pet parent and has adopted 2 Indie pups and also regularly feeds the dogs of her area. She loves to cook and host get-togethers. She also enjoys traveling with friends and family, or even taking solo trips at times. In terms of her personal resolutions for 2023, Hardika wishes to travel more. “Some more personal travel is something that I am craving as it has been too long and I do have a bucket list of places that I would love to visit – right now, Egypt is high on that list,” she enthuses.

“This year, I have inculcated gratitude and mindfulness practices into my daily life. I will be honest, I have too restless of a spirit to even know how to slow down to get through one yoga class, so building on these practices and really taking the time to breathe calmly, to appreciate life, and to have gratitude is a strong new year’s resolution for me,” she says as she signs off.

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