Entrepreneurship In Emerging Markets: Building Financial Identities

Entrepreneurship In Emerging Markets: Shivani Siroya, CEO, Tala

Tala Founder & CEO, Shivani Siroya.

Shivani Siroya is the founder and CEO of Tala, a mobile technology platform aiming to rebuild credit infrastructure from the ground up. Tala’s cutting-edge smartphone application instantly evaluates customers for credit using only the data on their devices, in turn delivering customized loans in minutes.

Prior to founding Tala, Siroya held a variety of positions in global health, microfinance and investment banking, with organizations including the United Nations Population Fund, Health Net, Citigroup and UBS. Shivani is a WEF Young Global Leader, Senior TED Fellow and Ashoka Fellow. She holds a M.P.H from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and a B.A. from Wesleyan University.

After closing on more than $30 million in new financing so far in 2017, there are plans to lead the company to the next stage of growth, including expansion. With teams based in Los Angeles, Manila and Nairobi, Siroya is running a global operation with what many say is limitless potential. “We just raised our Series B and are focused right now on entering new markets and adding more value to our product,” Siroya told Emerging Market Views.

Focused on the emerging economies, we kick off our Entrepreneurship series with Tala to learn more about its mission and what’s next.

It’s been a few years since you launched, what is Tala today?

Shivani Siroya: Tala builds financial identities for “credit invisible” people in emerging markets. Our Android app scores customers instantly using only the data on their devices and delivers customized financial services, including short-term loans, in minutes. Our mission is to really open up financial access, choice and more control for underserved people around the world so they can advance their lives and ultimately build their futures.

A user engages with Tala’s Android application.

What really led you to form Tala?

Through my work and travels in Sub-Saharan Africa and southeast Asia, I saw very clearly how lack of access to traditional financial services was preventing people from growing their businesses, supporting their families, and planning for the future. I wanted to solve this gap in access by working within the financial system at first, but I quickly realized that what I needed to do was start with people – and build a new kind of bridge between informal economies and the formal sector. I started from the idea of believing in people and wanting to prove their potential, which is something I learned from my parents, and have carried with me throughout my life.

As an entrepreneur, what drew you to the emerging markets?

Growing up in India and the United States, I’ve always been hyper aware that we don’t all start from the same place. The strength of our systems, and our access to those systems, impacts our ability to be successful. Tala was formed to open up financial access in emerging markets specifically, because that’s where my experience and interest was, but the reality is that gaps in financial access exist everywhere, even in established economies. Our ultimate mission is to serve as much as the financially underserved population as possible.

Tala in 5 years?

There are 2 billion people around the world who are financially underserved. We’re working to build financial identities and open up financial access, choice and control for as many of those people as possible. We’re trying to make financial services feel more like a relationship between two humans than a transaction with an indifferent system. In 5 years, my hope is that we’ve fundamentally changed the way credit scoring and financial services work across the globe.

Photos: Courtesy, Tala.

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