Don't Know Where To Put Your Money?

Don't Know Where To Put Your Money?

He grew up in a middle-class household in Goa which invested in fixed deposits and real estate investments. Mr Bhaskar Prabhakara described them as the "bread and butter kind of investments for an average family". But after working in financial services for about 15 years, his experience and knowledge in investing grew.

As he was a consultant for banks, he discovered a few problems faced by investors. But he didn't do anything about it till he moved to Singapore and experienced more problems - this time as an investor.

When he came here with his wife in 2011, they looked for investment opportunities. But they were faced with a problem. "The investment information was fragmented over various sources. It was very cluttered, messy and confusing," said Mr Prabhakara, who holds a bachelor's degree from Indian Institute of Technology, Madras and a Master of Business Administration from Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.

After he completed his master's in 2002, he worked as a consultant providing banking technology solutions at ICICI Bank in Mumbai and other financial and IT firms such as Mphasis. During this period he travelled to Dubai and San Francisco and consulted with banks and brokerage firms. He then moved to IGATE in London before leaving for Headstrong Capital Markets, also in London.

He and his wife moved to Singapore in 2011, when he was asked to head the business for Headstrong Capital Markets in Asia. The following year, the company was acquired by Genpact, a multinational business process outsourcing and IT services company. He stayed with the firm for two more years before quitting in 2014.

Making investing easy

That year, he started WeInvest.net. The online platform brings together available investment opportunities, making them easy to understand and search for and allowing investors to compare them so that they can make better investment decisions.

"Lots of people don't have knowledge about how to invest. Most rely on bank advisers but they are driven to sell a product and are not necessarily looking out for what's best for the customer. So the investment the customer is making may not be the most ideal for him or her," said the 37-year-old Indian national.

He added that if people don't take time to do research, which is usually a tedious and complex process where investments are concerned, they will not know which bank will provide them with the best interest rates.

His portal has information on more than 20,000 products like properties, mutual funds, stocks and real estate investment trusts. The information is obtained from investment institutions. Said Mr Prabhakara: "The website has a simple fixed deposit comparison tool. So if someone wants to invest $20,000 for a year, it will automatically show him all the applicable banks and their rates so comparing rates and other information becomes easy."

Currently, the start-up offers free services to users. But it receives a referral fee from its bank partners when a user signs up for a fund product with them. Partners include Citibank, Standard Chartered, HSBC and small asset management firms.

New products in the works

The platform also offers users an investment portfolio tracker where they can track their investments and receive a comprehensive analysis of how these are growing. Currently, it's a free tracker where one has to key in their existing investments manually. But the start-up is launching a paid version soon. "This will sync all of the user's bank accounts and investments automatically instead of keying them in one by one. It will be a dashboard of what the user's entire financial statement looks like."

If someone is looking to invest but is clueless on how to start, WeInvest.net will help too. It will launch its investment platform by this year, where the user will answer seven questions that will assess his investment goals and personal financial situation. A quick assessment will be done and the user will get a portfolio of investments that is customised to his or her profile. "If you like the returns which the portfolio has generated, you can sign up online and have the particular portfolio set up.

"If you speak to a bank adviser, you end up paying more. With this, we'll charge less for our services. It's a fast, convenient and cheaper way of setting up an investment portfolio."

Mr Prabhakara started the platform using about $300,000 from his savings. In October last year, he raised a million dollars from angel investors. He is using the funds on marketing and developing products for the platform.

He shared with tabla! that getting the right investors is important for the business. "Some of them put in their money and just want a good return. But there are others who can introduce you to useful contacts and help in building the business.

"Our angel investors have a presence in the wealth management industry and they can help us in our journey and shape our products using their expertise."

While Mr Prabhakara and his team of eight - two are based here and six in an office in Chennai - are working towards making the start-up the leading financial technology platform for investors, he makes sure he doesn't neglect his wife and two daughters, aged one and three.

The avid photographer makes it a point to go on holidays with them at least thrice a year. He joked: "I used to take many photographs of landscapes and nature, but now I have started taking more portrait photos because of my three models at home."

amritak@sph.com.sg


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