The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted life, with many industries like travel and hospitality bearing the brunt of the impact. As companies cope with the challenges, new opportunities have also emerged, especially for players who have been able to leverage the power of technology to continue to serve customers.
The year 2021 has emerged as an inflection point for many new-age companies with the sharp tech underpinning, now leading to a flurry of proposed public offerings as well.
One such company is EbixCash, a challenger across various segments in the financial sector, both on the B2C as well as the B2B side. From payment solutions, prepaid cards, foreign exchange bill payments, lending wealth and asset management EbixCash has charted an aggressive M&A strategy, and is also gearing up for an IPO.
On COVID-19 impact, Robin Raina, President and CEO of EbixCash, said, “It has been a difficult time for us and for everybody. Travel and foreign exchange are directly related to COVID so they were severely impacted. We had a few 1,000 people, 3,000 people plus where we had all the expenses, but we didn't have the revenue. So it was that dramatic impact."
"But I am fairly proud of what we have done meaning while travel and forex got severely impacted, the diversity of our business showed, and even in a COVID period, in the midst of all of this happening, we kept ahead high, we continued to show consistent profitability, we actually showed our cumulative average growth rate is upward of 50 percent still. Right now we are on track to do 100 million EBITDA for EbixCash in 2021. So I feel, while it has been a tough period, and maybe it would have been a lot better if COVID wasn't there but look, it was a good test of our resilience.”
On technology, Raina said, “Technology is key to anything that you put together and we made a lot of acquisitions in India. Close to 26 acquisitions, put in a billion dollars into India. But we were able to kind of centralise all those operations, integrate them so tightly and technology becames the fulcrum of doing all of that. So if you can inculcate technology in the right way and centralise stuff, you can make build efficiency into it.”
“We also use the COVID time, in fact, to improve on our technology. Come in with stuff that would make life easier, for example, for our customers to work from home, and so on. So I would say technology has been key to our entire modus operandi in trying to grow the company.”
On future of work from home and the new normal, he said, “In my mind, the new normal has not yet been discovered. So I am actually looking forward to getting people back into their offices. I have close to 150 offices in India right now and most of them are empty. Most of them are working at 10 percent capacity with people working from home. I am actually looking forward to getting these people back into that office because how do you differentiate yourself. As a company, you differentiate yourself by inculcating your culture within each and every employee and that you can't just do remotely.”
Talking about recovery, Raina said, “So last three months have been phenomenal in terms of improvement. I think as India vaccinates itself, for me the inflection point was 40 percent of the country getting their first vaccination, which actually has happened already. We are pretty much at that level now so to me, this is an inflection point. In any economy, 40 percent has been an inflection point."
"So today, what is happening in travel is that domestic travel is starting to increase, people are not still travelling as much by airline, but they are using hotels, cars, and so on, and buses and trains; train travel has increased quite a bit. International travel is still non-existent because of quarantine reason, and so on. I do expect that this will gradually keep increasing.”
He added, “I feel that as we get into 2022, we will get back to 80 percent of our level by the end of 22, we are still not going to be at the 100 percent level, because there are issues with inter-country relationships in terms of how they quarantine or even once COVID to some extent goes away, countries are still going to be circumspect and they are going to come up with their own set of rules, which will impact visitors."
"So I do expect that ultimately, by 2023, we will get back to the normal, as what we call the normal. So I think it things are dramatically improving. I am one of those who feel that we are at that inflection point right now.”
For full interview, watch accompanying video...