24 Good Businesses 2012

The force is with you

Artoo’s software solution to speed up loan disbursals is a hit. Now it’s extending its expertise to other sectors 

NILOPTAL BARUAH

The force has always been with him. When Sameer Segal joined Ujjivan Financial Services as an intern in 2008, the electrical engineering student was given a vast brief: use technology to find ways in which the microfinance firm could improve engagement with borrowers. In his travel to villages in Tamil Nadu’s Hosur district, Segal found that Ujjivan offered closure of an existing loan before taking on a fresh debt, but the pre-closure took up to 15 days, delaying the disbursal of the new loan.

That’s because the application was sent to headquarters, which would in due course revert with the pending amount. Segal found a way to shorten this cycle from days (if not weeks) to just a few minutes — he created a software application through which the MFI representative would send the borrower’s details through SMS to Ujjivan’s back office and get the account summary almost instantaneously. 

Since the solution was created on Ujjivan’s time, Segal didn’t get any monetary reward for it. But the urge for entrepreneurship it created was bigger than even the Death Star. “When I was interning, I was told technology does not work at the bottom-of-the-pyramid. I was determined to prove that wasn’t true — and I did it,” says 26-year-old Segal.  He went back to college and graduated, raring to start something on his own.

But conventional wisdom prevailed and Segal joined HSBC as an analyst — for all of nine months. In 2010, the Star Wars fan quit and started Artoo (named after his favourite character in the epi

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