In a distant part of Bengaluru, in a college with more than 5,000 students spread across various disciplines, the legend of Ram (name changed) has attained the status of folklore. Students point to him discreetly, whenever they see him around. They like to tell their friends about him. With every successive telling, the legend has grown.

So, once upon a time, a startup came to campus offering students credit. The criteria to avail it was simple. Download the mobile app, upload your student ID card supporting Aadhaar card or driving license along with PAN card and bank details. Several students applied, including Ram. Within hours, he got approved for the credit of Rs 6,000. Ram was thrilled. He started paying his equated monthly instalments (EMI) diligently. But as more and more students started using the app and enjoying the credit, Ram smelled an opportunity.

He started with an unsuspecting friend. Ram created his profile on the app, put up the necessary documents, got the credit, gave his friend a small cut and pocketed the rest of the amount. It worked. For good measure, he even put up money for a few installments for his friend.

But even as all this was going on, Ram figured a bigger hack. With several party-to-the-hack friends, he created close to 25 profiles within months. Of friends of friends of friends. Once their credit came through, Ram hit the jackpot. Legend has it that Ram made more than Rs 1,20,000 in cash and mobiles phones and parties and movies. Nobody knows for sure how Ram pocketed the cash but then that’s the stuff with legends and bare bone facts.

Fast forward, when the student’s EMIs stopped, the startup came calling. The friends of friends of friends said it wasn’t me who applied, it was Ram. Ram said it wasn’t him.

The startup didn’t know what to do. First, it pestered. Then it threatened. But nothing came of it. After chasing for a few months, tired and defeated, it let go.

That’s how the legend of Ram was born. And it continues to live on forever.

“More than 2,000 students apply to us for credit every day”

Nobody knows for sure who pioneered the idea of lending to college students in India, except that in the last one and a half years, the number of companies has steadily grown.

Some say KrazyBee came first. In mid of 2015, founded by two co-founders, Wan Hong and Madhusudhan E. Then, of course, there’s Slice Pay. Red Carpet Technologies in Delhi. Gyandhan, in Delhi again. Quicklo, which is in the process of shutting down. Finomena, which again shut down late last year. (We will get to why they shut down in a little while.) All, except one of these companies are venture-funded.

Late last year, KrazyBee raised $8 million from Chinese smartphone company Xiaomi Technologies and Shunwei Capital.

AUTHOR

Ashish K. Mishra

Ashish edits and writes stories at The Ken. Across subjects. In his last assignment, he was a Deputy Editor at Mint, a financial daily published by HT Media. At the paper, he wrote long, deeply reported feature stories. His earlier assignments: Forbes India magazine and The Economic Times. Born in Kolkata. Studied in New Delhi – B.Com from Shri Ram College of Commerce, Delhi University. Works out of anywhere, where there is a good story to be told.

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