Meet Vikas Jain, the multifaceted leader steering Funding Societies | Modalku’s (FSMK) growth as Chief Operating Officer (COO) for Thailand, while also championing Debt Fundraising and ESG and impact initiatives. Vikas, FSMK’s first employee and founding team member, stands as a driving force behind FSMK’s success story, pioneering innovation and propelling the company to new heights. His career spans both traditional banking and financial technology (FinTech), showcasing his adaptability and unwavering commitment to excellence, and setting a strong foundation for future leaders.
In the words of our CEO and Co-Founder, Kelvin Teo, “Since joining as a founding team member in 2015, Vikas has been the epitome of our core values ‘Focus on Impact’ and ‘Grow Relentlessly’. He has faithfully gone through the typical but humble ‘Nike-shaped’ growth curve, leading multiple functions as a generalist in the early stages, then handing over some functions as we specialise.Today, he plays a big role leading Thailand to become a top performing country, champions ESG initiatives, and has become a major force in our debt raising. Vikas always puts the company first and does all these things while growing himself. He’s been instrumental to the founding and scaling up of Funding Societies | Modalku, and we believe he’ll continue onwards and upwards!”
Join us as we explore Vikas’ journey, his vision for FSMK, and the impact he envisions for both the company and the broader financial landscape.
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Tell us about the intriguing, unexpected moments that have shaped your professional journey. What standout experiences and accomplishments have contributed to your career growth and led you where you are today?
My background is in financial services, focusing on lending and investments. I initially worked in major banks before making the move to FinTech, starting with Singtel and then, my first startup Funding Societies.
Even within larger organisations, I thrived on driving new initiatives and launching new products. This often meant starting from scratch with limited resources and tackling unfamiliar challenges head-on. In my first role as a Management Trainee, I pioneered a new business vertical, collaborating closely with the Country Head to expand into 20 cities within a year.
Later, at ING, I led a groundbreaking tech implementation spanning more than 10 products and involving the migration of 2 million customers. This was an unprecedented move within the bank, going beyond my role as Financial Product Head where I introduced five new products across more than 50 cities in just four years. These experiences primed me for the agile and fast paced startup environment at FSMK.
You were FSMK’s first ever employee. What inspired you to transition from banking and embrace this role within a FinTech startup?
The idea of starting something of my own intrigued me, yet I wanted more experience and knowledge of how to build something from scratch. I crossed paths with Kelvin and Reynold in 2015 when they posted a job for a FinTech lending platform they were planning to launch in Southeast Asia (SEA). They were in their final year at Harvard Business School and although I was initially worried about joining while they were still studying, I was struck by how smart and dedicated they were.
The decision to make this huge leap was rooted in trust – they spent hours on the phone with me, often late into their nights, discussing the business plan. There was a huge opportunity in the Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) and Peer-to-Peer (P2P) lending space in SEA, and they approached this with data-driven insights, tech-enabled mindset, a profound passion, and the drive to solve problems.
My confidence was solidified by their own decision to take this significant step. As soon-to-be Harvard graduates, they could have easily opted for the many lucrative job prospects lined up for them. Instead, they chose to take a risk and turn their dream into reality. These were exactly the kind of people I was looking to collaborate with. Their clarity and sense of purpose was contagious, and our shared passion to create impact has kept us together.
What is your favourite memory and most challenging moment?
The most challenging moment was when early in our journey we were suddenly asked by the regulator to stop business and apply for the licence based on new regulations. The expected time for application and issuance of this licence was close to six months. Our revenues were low and we were in the middle of fundraising when this happened, so the stakes were high. Thankfully, venture capital firm Sequoia did not back out and funded us, making it the largest Series A round for a FinTech lender in SEA at that time. We subsequently applied and got the licence, and the rest is history. Having said that, the pandemic and the interest rate hikes over the last 12 months have brought unprecedented challenges. Our proactive and quick decision making coupled with our strengths in tech, data, and risk have ensured that we have coped well despite the macro environment.
We have achieved a lot in a short span of eight years, and have created many pivotal moments in a fast paced environment. It’s difficult to say which one is my most favourite, but a few stand out. Among the unforgettable firsts, I’ll never forget when we acquired our first borrower, when we raised our first big round of funding, when we crossed our first $100 million, our first $1 billion in disbursals and first month turning profitable in Thailand.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my time bonding with colleagues (many of them are now friends) over games, drinks, offsite trips and regular lunch and coffee conversations. I am privileged to have had the support of great managers and team members who have made even challenging moments enjoyable. One of the moments close to my heart is when my team coined the term WWVD. It stands for ‘What Would Vikas Do’ which came from them putting themselves in my shoes when faced with a problem and wondering how I would solve it.
What notable contrasts and challenges did you encounter when shifting from corporate to a startup?
My initial experience was notably different due to limited resources and budget. I was working out of my home (remote working was not as common pre-Covid), instead of fully functional corporate offices that I was used to, Kelvin and Reynold still had one year of studies before returning to SEA, and everything had to be built from scratch.
Additionally, I needed to be extremely hands-on, as well as unlearn some corporate habits. In startups, there’s no luxury of time; you can’t wait for perfection or seek opinions from all corners. It’s okay to launch something when it’s at 80%, see what works and what doesn’t, and improve as you go. It boils down to relying on your instincts, trusting yourself, and getting your hands dirty.
What is the one most important career lesson or advice you would pass down to your team or the next batch of leaders?
Beyond money, which is important to meet your needs, one should strive for roles that can offer lasting advantages. When you perform well in whatever you do, money will naturally follow. People who switch jobs frequently only for money may be better off in the short term, but in the long run they miss out on building and being part of success stories.
What do you love most about FSMK?
Apart from the fast pace, I love the opportunity to make an impact. Our mission is to support SMEs in SEA. Many of these SMEs lack access to financing to grow their business, even though they play a vital role in job creation and boosting the economy. In a way, we are giving back to society by financing these underserved businesses.
I also have the honour to work with exceptionally intelligent, talented, and collaborative people who are constantly looking to solve problems. The approach here is more technology and data driven, compared to the old school way of doing things.
How do you envision FSMK’s role within the industry evolving over the next five years, and what impact do you hope the organisation will make?
With more than a US$350 billion financing gap and limited access to financial products and tools, small businesses need all the help they can get. We are already considered a leader in SME digital financing in SEA, but we are still scratching the surface. There is a lot more that needs to be done. With the planned launch of new innovative products and solutions transcending across financing, payments, collections, as well as expansion into new geographies, FSMK is poised to be the largest unified financing partner to SMEs in SEA.
What are some of the values that you hold dear, both personally and professionally?
Integrity and ownership are highly important towards every action I take, whether personal or professional. Giving my best in my role, and taking responsibility for the outcomes, whether successful or not, are key for me.
What do you think it takes to do well here at FSMK? How do you hope to be remembered?
It’s straightforward: embrace our GETFS values, and you’re on the right track. Among these values, ‘Focus on Impact’ stands out. In everything we do, we must ask ourselves if it’s a game-changer; if it doesn’t move the needle, we’re simply going around in circles.
As for my legacy, I aim to be the problem-solver who fuels FSMK’s growth. I want to be remembered as someone who not only made an impact but redefined what’s possible in our journey of making a difference.
“We’re grateful to have Vikas as the first ever team member of FSMK. What makes him special is his drive to progress, to always be better, to always be more. Vikas’ contribution to Thailand is a testament to that desire, and he repaid the faith superbly. It’s an honour, and seeing his progression makes me proud”. — Reynold Wijaya, Co-Founder
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