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Women Who Inspire: Lizzie Chapman

Lizzie Chapman is the co-founder of ZestMoney, India’s first portal that enables shoppers to pay for online purchases via EMI. You don’t need a credit card or any credit history to shop online, thereby increasing the spending power of so many Indians who have previously been unable to shop online. We catch up with Lizzie and talk about her experience in India, her work and much more.

How did you end up in India and what’s your story here been like?

So in 2011, I was living in London and quite bored with my life…I slightly randomly accepted a job that required me to move to Bombay for one year to set up the Indian office for a UK based fintech start-up. I had actually spent quite a bit of time in India over my life on holidays and work so it wasn’t completely mad. But I think it shocked a lot of my friends and family in London.

I immediately fell in love…with a city, I had a beautiful apartment, fun job and I built a really awesome life, plus formed some amazing friendships that made it really easy to imagine spending more time in India. I also found the work easier than I had imagined and found I was good at navigating complicated things like setting up companies, opening bank accounts and working with regulators.

I spent 2 years working for the UK fintech company and then when they put their India plans on hold – I decided to stay on in Mumbai. I had started working on a project to start a Boutique hotel (Abode) with a good friend. Then another exciting project came my way (DBS Digibank) and soon thereafter, I met my husband and I suppose it was around the time I got married that I finally realised I would now live in India for most of my life. In 2015 I moved from Bombay to Bangalore to start ZestMoney. It was really hard at first because I missed my network and the buzz of my favourite city but I’ve adapted well now.

How did the idea of Zest come to you?

The idea actually originally came to me in 2011 when I was working for the UK fintech company. I was spending lots of time with the founders of e-commerce companies (like Flipkart or MakeMyTrip) – they were all betting on having hundreds of millions of customers shopping on-line but they also knew that only 10 million people had a credit card. Companies like Apple were getting excited about India – but at the same time – an iPhone would cost six month’s salary for the average customer and with no financing options available on-line, it felt like something needed to be built!

I was actually one of the first customers of ZestMoney because I also do not have a credit card. No bank will give me one because I am considered risky by being foreign – this made me realise how bad the problem was, so many types of people cannot get credit cards or financing options and yet have just the same aspiration levels as you or me. I knew this could be solved with technology and data!

How does this help women when it comes to their purchasing power, what has their response been like?

 Some of our happiest and most passionate customers are female and that makes me very proud. In India it’s statistically much harder for a woman to get a loan or credit card than a man. This is because they are less likely to have credit history.

We deliberately create products that work well for women who are working from home or have irregular income and are partnering with companies that employ women in low paid work such as beauticians, to help them get affordable financing options.

The response has been really good – and interestingly (although not surprisingly) women are much more likely to pay their EMIs on time – making life easier for us as well!

What are the kinds of purchases people are using Zest for most often?

The exciting thing is that we now have other 500 partners – websites or shops where customers can redeem ZestMoney. This ranges from Amazon to Cleartrip so people are buying holidays, furniture, televisions, even health insurance on EMI. Recently we also launched a product for education so we now help people up-skill themselves (for example by studying data science or graphic design) – helping them improve their employability and future prospects.

 How has your experience of living in India been? What is your favourite part about it?

It’s been amazing! I could not be more grateful to the country and people who have accepted me so warmly. I love so many things – it’s hard to pick one.

I would probably highlight the diversity – you can never ever be bored in India because of the sheer diversity of geography, cultures, music and of course most importantly, food. I sometimes feel like India is a hundred countries in one. It also means that you can never make generalisation or feel that you really understand India – it will always surprise you. Plus things are changing so fast, especially people’s attitudes and tastes, so you can never this is a “typical” Indian thing or person.

I also think India is a great place to be a working woman. Sure there are some challenges, as there are everywhere, but on the whole, the family structure and wide availability of childcare (plus the fact that you can outsource a lot more boring chores) makes it much easier to combine work and children in a way that I see my UK friends really struggling with. Sweeping generalisation, I know, but I have really been so grateful that I could manage a baby and a business, and I am not sure I could have done that if I didn’t live in India (and of course have an amazing family and family who support me).

Rapid Fire Questions

Bikini or one piece?

Bikini

First thing you do in the morning?

Go and get my baby Sid and have a cuddle

The last great book you read?

Delusions of Gender – will blow your mind

Sweet or savoury?

Sweet (especially Haribo)

Favourite restaurant in Bombay?

Soam for the ragi dosa

Dream travel destination?

Himalayas

Shop online or in store?

Online (only!)

Favourite snack

Haribo

 

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