India’s Global Fintech Fest 2023

India’s Global Fintech Fest 2023: A Bold Move Towards Fintech Thought Leadership Worldwide

The Global Fintech Fest (GFF) of 2023 surpassed the previous year’s event in 2022 and is poised to become even larger in the coming year. This festival served as a platform for individuals connected to finance, technology, banking, and investment to establish new connections and exchange innovative ideas.

Pramod Varma, the Chief Architect of UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India) and India Stack, described the spirit of GFF 2023 as “inspiring, energetic, and extremely optimistic,” comparing it to Apple’s annual product launches. The event was a star-studded affair, attracting key figures from India’s financial services sector to Mumbai.

The GFF was a spectacular sight to behold, with a packed auditorium filled with thousands of fintech enthusiasts from around the world. The event was inaugurated by RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das and Nandan Nilekani, the co-founder and executive chairman of Infosys, who launched new features of the Unified Payments Interface (UPI), a payment platform developed and implemented by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), often referred to as India’s “crown jewel.”

The NPCI’s mega launch was just one of more than 100 launches by prominent fintech startups during the three-day offline event at Mumbai’s Jio World Centre. Startups that participated had the opportunity to pitch their ideas to approximately 300 investors, leading to discussions for deals worth over $2 billion. This year’s event saw around 65,000 attendees, a significant increase from the previous year’s gathering of about 25,000.

Organizers had pre-arranged meetings between investors and startups, creating opportunities for closed-door discussions on funding. Each evening, about 10 investor events were hosted at different restaurants, organized by entities such as Omidyar Network, Peak XV, Matrix, PwC, and banks.

The event also featured 900 global speakers, including representatives from banks, regulators, fintech companies, and investors from approximately 100 countries.

The Beginning and the Growth

The presence of Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was a notable surprise as she personally inaugurated the event on September 6. The grandeur of the event was fully realized in the pavilion on the ground floor, where around 300 startups, banks, and government departments had set up their stalls. Setting up these booths cost companies about Rs 2 lakh to Rs 2.5 lakh each, with smaller setups costing about Rs 2 lakh.

Compared to the previous year’s 152 stalls, this year’s event featured around 300 booths set up by startups, banks, and payment companies, including well-known names like PhonePe, Fi, NPCI, Paytm, RBI, and Jupiter. Almost every major fintech company seemed to have sponsored the event.

The festival was a tremendous success, with startups reporting even more substantial business pipelines compared to the previous year. Many B2B companies found it to be the ideal platform to connect with numerous potential clients. The event demonstrated the growing fintech ecosystem’s scale and diversity.

What Changed

Organized by NPCI, the Fintech Convergence Council (FCC), and the Payments Council of India (PCI), GFF 2023 was more than just a gathering; it provided a forum for prominent fintech founders, bankers, regulators, and startups to exchange ideas and engage in closed-door meetings. Several RBI Deputy Governors and Directors, along with Finance Minister Sitharaman and Minister of State for Finance Bhagwat Karad, were present over the three days.

One of the standout aspects of the event was the collaboration and camaraderie between stakeholders from different backgrounds. Unlike in other countries where banks and fintechs are often competitors, in India, they are coming together to serve a broader population. This cooperative spirit was evident throughout the festival.

The relationship between banks and fintechs has also evolved. Collaborations, such as co-branded credit cards, have been successful, as banks and fintechs recognize each other’s strengths. Co-branded credit cards, which combine the credit underwriting capabilities of banks with the distribution and customer experience expertise of fintechs, have been particularly popular among customers.

Challenges and Future Outlook

One notable absence from the event was the presence of crypto founders, as there were no panels or sessions involving crypto exchange founders due to the RBI’s stance on digital tokens.

Looking ahead to 2024, the organizers have already set the dates for GFF, which will take place on October 8, 9, and 10 at the same venue. Many believe that the event will continue to grow, potentially reaching 3.5 times the scale of the 2023 festival.

While the festival showcased the incredible growth and excitement within the fintech sector, some questions were raised about the sector’s focus on lending and consumer credit. Some wondered whether fintech, as a sector, is too focused on lending and what unique innovations it can bring, such as back-end solutions and insurtech.

However, many fintech startup founders believe that lending will create channels for monetization and will be a significant source of revenue. Fintech is expected to continue evolving, offering new solutions to simplify and streamline payments for end customers.

In summary, the Global Fintech Fest 2023 was a resounding success, highlighting India’s growing prominence in the fintech world. It served as a platform for collaboration, innovation, and partnership between various stakeholders, with a strong focus on lending and consumer credit. The event’s scale and excitement point towards a promising future for fintech in India, where it may become a global thought leader in the sector.