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The FinTech unicorn created by an old bank #SBI #YONO

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Someone rightly pointed out that I talk a lot about Ant Group but not enough about other major initiatives like YONO, the mobile wallet of India.

India is also a hotbed of innovation, with Google and Amazon fighting out the financial payments space alongside other players like PayTM and SBI, the State Bank of India.

SBI’s mobile wallet, YONO, has had little coverage. That’s a mistake. It’s a major success. In fact, according to the Chairman of SBI, it’s a $40 billion success.

YONO biggest start-up by legacy bank, valuation at $40 billion

SBI Chairman Rajnish Kumar added that SBI is adding over 70,000 customers per day to the platform, and has added 2.7 crore users (27 million) in the last six months due to the COVID-19 pandemic

That would make it bigger than Monzo, Revolut, Starling Bank, TransferWise and Klarna … combined. So, how come no-one talks about it? Because it’s India? Because it’s over there and not over here? Because it’s not relevant? Because it’s from a legacy bank?

Maybe a bit of all of those things but I am very conscious that, even in lockdown, my outlook is global. I love hearing innovation stories from NuBank in Brazil to Craft Silicon in Kenya to Ant Group in China to Chime in America to Ålandsbanken in the Baltics. My view is not parochial or national or jingoistic; it’s purposefully looking worldwide and global. That’s the value I bring to the debate, imho.

So, in the spirit of being global, here’s the lowdown on YONO.

State Bank of India launched YONO—an acronym for ‘You Only Need One’—in November 2017 to address its customers’ banking, investment and shopping needs. McKinsey and IBM helped SBI set up the platform. And in just three years of existence, YONO is also a profitable platform, Kumar said. According to the SBI chairman, YONO is adding more than 70,000 customers daily, and has onboarded 2.7 crore users (27 million) in the last six months. At present, it is giving loans of over Rs 70 crore per day (near USD$10m), including on weekends.

SBI is now planning to separate YONO from the legacy bank as a new business:

State Bank of India (SBI) is planning to make its digital platform You Only Need One or YONO an independent entity and allow other banks to use its services.

The country's largest bank is looking to employ the “pay per use” model to attract small financial institutions to use the platform. The model works best when the clients only want to pay for the services they use. According to the chairman, SBI's brand name would not be attached to the services rendered by other banks to their customers.

“Other banks can use YONO without using the brand,” he said. Banks would need to connect via the YONO API without going through SBI's core banking system. Once the integration is successful, other banks can connect the API with their backend and use it with their branding, he explained.

Subsequently, the bank will also use YONO as an outside application. Meaning, it will pay to use YONO's services. However, before taking this big step, they want to utilise its full potential and test its security aspects. “There is no point in bringing a half-baked product in the market,” Kumar pointed out.

SBI prepared a separate balance sheet for YONO for the June quarter, which showed a net profit of Rs 200 crore (USD$27m) with around 3,85,675 transactions taking place daily. The lender aims to increase the customer size by 50 percent to 4.2 crore (42m) by March 2021 from the current user base of 2.7 crores (27m), Financial Express reported.

The app has added 71 lakh new customers amid the pandemic, with the number of transactions rising from 66 lakh (6.6m) in March 2020 to 1.1 crore (11m) in August.

Although no independent agency has valued the app yet, according to [SBI’s] internal valuations it is worth $40 billion.

And, even though they used McKinsey and IBM, I love the fact that India is always, always, always leading the technology debate. The Indian Government’s technology stack is second-to-none, and the UPI and Aadhar programs may be criticised, but are leading-edge by any nation’s standards.

Therefore, a final note about SBI is their use of technology:

SBI has deployed open-source technologies across different layers of applications including front end, middle layer, database layer, OS layer, and the entire SDLC (Systems Development Lifecycle) management. For the front end, the bank uses python, Java, Angular JS, Core JS. For the database layer, it has MongoDB, MariaDB, MySQL, PostgreSQL. From the deployment standpoint, SBI is using Docker, Eclipse, Jenkins, Git.


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Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog,, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal's Financial News. To learn more click here...

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