Our core is to offer premium services for free, says CEO Shlomi Biger

Our core is to offer premium services for free, says CEO Shlomi Biger

"As a company, we believe in free financial data and information and content flow for people. We believe it is a basic right for people to have a free financial education," said Biger.

Shlomi Biger Shlomi Biger

Financial website launched its India edition in 2015, followed by a Hindi edition just last year. In a short span, the company managed to attract 1.5 million unique visitors each month. As it looks to enhance its current operation within the region, CEO  Shlomi Biger, in his recent visit to India, talked about why India is key to the company's ongoing global growth, and what all it plans to do next.

Business Today: What makes India an important market for you?

Shlomi Biger: We came to India to find the best local partners for us and to understand the local market. We have a great product, but the product can take you to a certain level of growth and you must understand local markets. We found out local challenges in India are very similar to what we have as an organisation. is truly a global player, and we have to adjust to so many countries. Similarly, in India, different states have different needs. People in Gujarat are not the same as those in Karnataka or Maharashtra. As a company, we believe in free financial data and information and content flow for people. We believe it is a basic right for people to have a free financial education. We have been doing it for the last 11 years. We are investing a lot of money in democratising data i.e. to offer premium services for free. I believe that India is the right country for these values. In India, people will not pay $100 dollar just for data. I am a big believer in data and numbers. Now is the time for us in India.

BT: How many users do you have in India and globally?

Biger: We have over 1.5 million monthly unique users and around 50 million monthly page views alone in India. Moneycontrol is just 10-20 times bigger than us in India in the financial market. On our app, we have more than half a million downloads per month. We have been seeing consistent growth here. Audience engagement in India is higher as compared to other markets in the world where we operate. Three months ago, we launched a Hindi edition of our website, and are looking to launch more regional languages. We are here for the long-term. We have distributed employees in India. We are looking to open an office in Mumbai and have an India face soon.

Globally, we have over 20 million monthly users and over 1 billion monthly page views.

BT: What sort of partnerships are you exploring in India?

Biger: We are looking for big media partners. Recently, we successfully launched a TV show being telecast in South Korea. It is about entertainment based on financial knowledge. We have some ambitions there, but we can't talk about it much.

BT: You compete with the likes of Yahoo Finance, Google Finance, Seeking Alpha and many more. What is it that you believe gives you an edge? What differentiates you with peers?

Biger: We are truly a global player. Our users are diversified across countries that we operate in. Google Finance, Yahoo Finance are largely focused on one place. Secondly and most importantly, we just have a better product. It's all about the product. We provide a unique and comprehensive offering for free. We source data from over 300 exchanges and our interface is such that traders and investors find it convenient to navigate across the website.

Now, we are focusing on building an engaged community that has influencers. Customisation and personalisation are our key focus area. We also produce news, but the publishing part is small. However, we invest in building a sophisticated system, which aggregates news from other sites in such a way that investors get everything they want in one place.

BT: What is your revenue model? How much revenues did you earn this year?

Biger: Our revenue model is mainly made up of financial brokerage firms, banks, ad-networks, and luxury brands, among others. Technology and financial data are our biggest investments. We have been seeing 15-30 per cent average year-on-year growth revenue-wise. We clocked $50 million in FY18 and expect FY19 to settle at $60 million. Interestingly, started out with small investments from founders and very quickly became profitable at the beginning itself.

BT: Services are free for now. Could there be a premium or freemium model going forward?

Biger: The core of our business is free and will remain free.

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BT: Your expansion plans?

Biger: With our 42 language editions, we have a reach in 196 countries around the world. Our expansion plans are currently focussed on the most populated region in the world: South East Asia and India.

BT: Any plans to launch IPO? Are you also looking for acquisitions apart from partnerships? If yes, what sort of acquisitions?

Biger: We don't have any plans to launch an IPO, but acquisitions are always a possibility, especially when entering new markets and verticals, but there's nothing on that front we can announce at this point.

BT: How does contribute to financial awareness?

Biger: Financial awareness is our key focus area now. We have launched a separate product Investing Money in the US and Europe. We hope to launch it in India as well. We believe people should not be afraid of money. We want to empower people and take our users on a journey, which educates them on money, helps them gain a better financial understanding and enables individuals or families to properly plan their financial future.

BT: What role AI and machine learning is playing in stock market data mining and data interpretation?

Biger: Algos and automated trading are growing rapidly and dominating trading in most financial markets. For, levelling out the playing field between the advanced, sophisticated algos and the individual investors is high in our agenda and key to our philosophy. Protecting the markets from algo failures resulting in flash crashes is one of the biggest challenges that machines create.

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