We want to become the platform that empowers employers to move their employees up the ladder

In an exclusive interaction with BW People, Priyanka Kanwar, founder Kite talked about the need for updated technology and software in the industry, employee policies at Kite and leadership.


Why do you think fintech platforms like Kite are the need of the hour in today's world?
India is formalizing faster than ever. The Indian government has shown great resolve in making this happen. Large-scale reforms such as the GST, new regulations banning cash usage for large businesses, and more stringent penalties for non-compliance show that the government is becoming serious about this.

The impact is palpable. There is a notable increase in tax returns for individuals and businesses—a 40% increase in e-filing of income tax returns, and a 71% general increase in income tax returns filed. Not to mention GST collections, hovering around INR 1 lakh crore per month. These figures point to the possibility that a significant percentage of more than 50 million SMBs will be included in the digital economy in the next 5 years.

It has been noticed that businesses of all sizes are looking to formally structure their relationships with stakeholders. This means employees, suppliers, distributors and everyone in the ecosystem needs to be paid in digital form. In addition to compliance, businesses want to eliminate inefficiencies that have dragged down profits for decades, like leakages, lost tax savings, and delays.

This is where fintech startups like Kite come into the picture. Some tools exist out there to solve this problem of automation and formalization, but they aren’t end-to-end, and they certainly aren’t accessible at SMB-friendly price points. Banks are not equipped to guide businesses toward formalization in the way that they need.

Innovative technology and product development are at the core of what we do, meaning the financial solutions our clients use will always be at the cutting-edge of what’s out there. In general, fintech startups work remarkably close the end user, meaning our products quickly reflect realities on the ground. The next 5 years hold a ton of promise in terms of how we, collectively, innovate and shape the Indian economy.

Do you think this software is essential for an easy employee-employer relationship? How?
Absolutely. At the core of a strong employee-employer relationship is trust. Software like this eliminates daily inefficiencies and informal interactions that may end up weakening the very foundation of an employee-employer relationship. Today, we're helping with important, tactical tasks like ensuring that: a company's money is spent in the right places; employees get paid in time; data sanctity and company records are maintained; and employees get the tax benefits they deserve.

Tomorrow, we want to become the platform that empowers employers to move their employees up the ladder. There's so much that employers should do for their employees, but either don't have the time or resources to do, or don't know how to. We want to make sure that, with highly scalable and impactful financial technology, every type of company; small or large can offer significant benefits to its employees, enabling everyone to access the standards of living we deserve in the 21st century.

What type of employee engagement policies do you engage in at Kite? Does it affect the work efficiency?
First, I’d emphasize that we follow a structure of both policies and guidelines. The idea there is to offer individual flexibility as much as possible through guidelines, and implement policies only where having a clear, strict definition is key—on critical workplace issues like sexual harassment, for example.

In general, we’ve consciously built a learning-oriented environment. I come from a liberal arts background, where I learned to appreciate how depth and breadth of expertise are equally important.

An employee should be a specialist in something, but they should feel encouraged to push their boundaries and move to other fields. We do this in every day, small ways: like talks, hackathons, and mentorship opportunities. This is what I believe will fuel true innovation at Kite, and reflects our view that real change has to come from the grassroots.

Finally, appreciation is important. We try to say thanks to our employees on a regular basis—for both their small and large wins. We want to celebrate the work that we accomplish both individually and collectively, and are unabashed in that pursuit.

We were very deliberate in how we shaped our employee experience and thought hard about what our values are as a company. Kite believes in innovation, independence, and inclusion—and our guidelines, love for learning, and celebration of work definitely reflect that.

According to you, what are the best three traits a leader should possess?
First and foremost trait a leader should possess is empathy. A leader should be fair to all and should listen before speaking. I try to practice this through frequent one-on-one conversations with people in our team, and through our guidelines and policies. On this front, we wanted our company’s structure to be empathetic to the needs of a wide range of employees—taking care of young children, or aging parents, or living far away from their communities.

Clarity of thought and vision is critical as well. As a leader, you obviously need to have your own set of skills but it is also important to inspire your staff and constantly move them in the right direction.

A leader should also be tenacious. Leadership, especially at an early-stage startup, involves constant firefighting and problem-solving. Leaders have to keep their head on their shoulders. This means persistence—even when other things might be on my mind, I have to be strong and unwavering for my team every morning when I walk into the office.

What are your future plans for KITE? Where do you see your company in 5 years?
Prabhtej (Kite’s co-founder) and I have always been clear that we want to build a legacy business. I know we’re still in our early days, but we see Kite shaping into a full-fledged financial company for the next generation of Indian businesses and workers. Kite will continue to launch a series of products that solve the most pressing and unserved needs of SMBs and their employees, at affordable price points. Through our partnerships, strong and rapidly growing distribution network, and emphasis on real impact and innovation, we look forward to serving over 1 million businesses and 10 million employees over the next 5 years.

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