There have been several notable trends in the fintech sector in Southeast Asia (SEA) in recent years, but according to Quona Partner Varun Malhotra, one of the most notable includes the surge in embedded finance.
“The integration of financial services into non-financial platforms has become a game-changer, providing users with seamless and contextual access to various financial products,” he explains in an email interview with e27.
“This trend is creating a more convenient and user-friendly experience for individuals, as they can access financial services directly through the platforms they already use, such as e-commerce or ride-sharing apps. This not only enhances accessibility but also opens up new avenues for collaboration between fintech and non-fintech entities.”
Quona invests in startups that aim to expand access to financial services for consumers and growing businesses across India and Southeast Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East. The firm focuses on markets that are massively underserved by the legacy finance infrastructure, where they see the biggest opportunity for transformation into more equitable financial systems.
As a global venture capital firm with a focus in inclusive fintech, Quona keeps a close watch on innovation in the sector, particularly how new technology is opening up new opportunities for efficiency and, eventually, inclusion.
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To learn more about fintech trends in SEA, check out the edited excerpt of the interview with Quona.
How is AI going to change the fintech industry in SEA? What changes have you seen already?
AI is revolutionising SEA’s fintech industry by enhancing efficiency and personalisation. We are already witnessing AI-driven customer service, fraud detection, and credit scoring. These advancements not only streamline processes but also enable fintech companies to offer tailored solutions, meeting the unique needs of users in the region. Several of our portfolio companies in the region are leveraging AI to improve the quality of services.
What do you think will be a big theme next year for fintech in Southeast Asia?
Looking ahead to the next year, sustainable finance is poised to be a major theme in SEA fintech. I believe with a growing emphasis on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors, fintech companies are gearing up to play a pivotal role in promoting responsible and sustainable financial practices. We are also excited about fintech infrastructure players in the region that are leveraging the digital public infrastructure to connect traditional financial institutions and digital platforms.
Serving the underbanked community has been a major theme for SEA fintech in recent years. Do you see major milestones made in this aspect? What is the remaining homework for fintech companies in this matter?
I believe that fintech as an industry has made commendable progress in serving the underbanked in SEA. Expanding financial inclusion through digital solutions has provided access to previously underserved populations. However, challenges such as improving digital literacy, addressing infrastructure limitations, and tailoring solutions to diverse needs remain. The ongoing focus is on overcoming these hurdles to ensure that the benefits of financial services reach every corner of the region.
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What major milestone has Quona made recently?
Despite the challenging funding environment, several of Quona’s portfolio companies in SEA have completed follow-on funding this year. We recently participated in a funding round of US$10 million for Broom, an Indonesian automotive financing startup which also saw participation from other big players.
Every new follow-on funding is a milestone for us, and this also speaks to the quality of the fundamentals of these businesses.
What is your big plan for 2024?
Looking ahead to 2024, our big plan at Quona is to deepen our engagement in emerging markets, fostering innovation and collaboration within the fintech ecosystem. We aim to catalyse transformative solutions that address current challenges and anticipate and meet users’ evolving needs in these dynamic markets. It is an exciting journey, and we are enthusiastic about the positive impact we can make in the coming years.
We are also seeing impressive quality of pipelines come in from markets such as the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam, along with Indonesia. We remain bullish on the evolution of these markets and track the opportunity set closely.
Image Credit: Quona
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