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US startup Tala to double micro-lending in PH

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By James A. Loyola

Tala Philippines, the local unit of US fintech startup Tala, is aiming to at least double its smartphone-based micro-lending activities in the country where it has already hit 100,000 borrowers in just six months.

In an interview with Business Bulletin, Tala’s global CEO Shivani Siroya said Tala now has 1.3 million borrowers worldwide of which 900,000 are in Kenya, 100,000 in the Philippines, while the rest are in Tanzania and Mexico.

“We operate in regions where there’s incredible opportunity and demand for our product due to large unbanked and underbanked populations,” said Siroya.

She added that, “the Philippines is our first market in Southeast Asia: first, because of sheer growth potential; second, because it has one of the first central banks in the world which assembled a unit to specifically work on financial inclusion.”

Among Tala’s local borrowers, 70 percent use the money for small businesses, about 20 percent use it for consumption while the remaining 10 percent are borrowing due to emergencies.

Tala is also looking into entering other markets in the region such as Indonesia, Vietnam, and Malaysia, and Siroya said “we really think that the Philippines will end up being our hub for the markets. So, it’s important for us to focus here. Build our team here. And then start to think about expanding.”

Through its mobile app that is available in Android phones, Tala is able to disburse loans from R1,000 up to R10,000 even to individuals without a credit history.

Borrowers simply have to download the app, answer the questions asked by the app, and have the approved loan amount disbursed by Tala’s local disbursement partners such as Bank of the Philippine Islands, Cebuana Lhuillier, coins.ph, and Palawan Express.

Loan payments can be made through 7-Eleven, M. Lhuillier, and Cebuana Lhuillier. Loans are typically due in 30 days at rates that are lower than the traditional “5-6” loans that small borrowers turn to.

To evaluate creditworthiness, the Tala app analyzes over 10,000 data points from a would-be borrower’s mobile phone: from basic information, to the size of one’s support network, to routines like bills payment.

“Tala is committed to putting our customers first at every interaction. Filipinos who use the app love its speed, convenience, and privacy,” said Siroya.

To date, Tala’s global repayment rate is above 90 percent. It has delivered more than 5.4 million loans amounting to US$260 million in the four countries where it operates.

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