From left: Chandi Dharmasena- Board Member, Lanka Angel Network, Sharhan Muhseen-Member SriLanka-Singapore Business Council [SLSBC], Rajkumar Kanagasingam- President of Fintech Association of Sri Lanka [FASL], Prajeeth Balasubramaniam- Chairman, Council of Startups of The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, Jeevan Gnanam- Founder Hatch
Despite being in its infancy, Sri Lanka`s fintech industry has made great strides over the years, and one of the biggest came last year with the launch of the country's first-ever fintech accelerator program.
Having launched amidst the pandemic last year HatchX, completed a highly successful first round, empowering seven fintech startups. Following this success, the program is now returning for another run in 2021.
Launched by Hatch in partnership with Lankan Angel Network (LAN), and funded by the Ford Foundation, this enables local fintech startups to reach out and collaborate with fintech ecosystems across both Sri Lanka and South Asia. Due to this, the initiative also received endorsements from both the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) and the Fintech Association of Sri Lanka (FASL).
The main goal of the program was to help solve some of the challenges Sri Lanka faces due to the local fintech industry still being in its early stages. Some of these challenges include the lack of a customer identification mechanism such as e-KYC and Digital ID, impediments in a regulatory and legal environment, lack of coordination and communication among various stakeholders, low levels of financial literacy in the population, and the lack of digital inclusion.
After a call for applications, HatchX shortlisted seven fintech startups out of 20 total applicants. These seven Sri Lankan startups successfully went through an intensive curriculum of four months and were the recipients of tailored advice from the mentors of the industry.
The seven startups include Digital Insurance Lanka Brokers, Direct Pay, Flipbox.com Helios P2P, iLoan, MintPay, and OGO Pay. The Founders of these companies also gained access to banks, financial institutions, and networks that have allowed them to develop their businesses whereas traditionally it would have taken many years to access such opportunities.
At the end of the program, HatchX collaborated with 19 outreach partners locally and internationally to highlight these seven startups by hosting HatchX Demo Day. The event shed light on these startups, while also spreading awareness of the initiative among the Sri Lankan community.
This year, in order to further strengthen the fintech ecosystem through HatchX, Hatch led an industrywide partnership between the Fintech Association of Sri Lanka, Council For Startups Of The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, Sri Lanka-Singapore Business Council, and Lanka Angel Network. The partnership was cemented on 27th July, with the signing of an MoU, held at Hatch.
The 2021 cohort of HatchX is set to expand on last year by graduating 10 fintech startups, exploring InsureTech based startups, enabling financial inclusion, enabling wider use of online payments, strengthening capabilities and utilization of the CBSL Sandbox, curated programme curriculum, mentoring and coaching startups to compete with international startups using a phased approach.
Moreover, the program will work towards further digitizing Sri Lanka, by enabling economic access and participation to both rural businesses and consumers and offering a choice to consumers.