Achieve better financial goals with actionable financial advice in a transparent way is made possible via Planto.
“Planto is here to give you confidence about your finances and make trusted financial advice accessible to everyone. We want you to be in a position where you’re going to say that Planto has got me,” says Ankit Suri, co-founder and CEO of Planto. “Planto wants to help you achieve financial greatness seamlessly. That’s where we envision to be in the future. Planto is a digital, data driven financial advisor that lives right in your phone.”
Prior to launching the financial planning app, Suri worked at a banking institution. He says one reason why he initially worked at such institution was to figure out why banks didn’t solve the problems that millennials — like himself — were facing such as the need to be served better.
And even after graduating from university, he says he still made financial mistakes and he was unsure why he was doing them.
It was also during this time where he met his co-founders. “We, as young millennials, wanted to make decisions for our future financially. But with all the financial jargon around the Internet and advices we got from friends and family, we were not quite sure how to navigate all these. We just knew there should be a better way to solve this,” Suri says.
In 2017, after saving enough money that would last them a year, the trio decided to quit their corporate jobs. They made sure that they would do a checkpoint every three months leading to the launch of their company. By 2018, Planto officially became available to the market.
Yet finding a workspace to prosper was difficult for Planto unlike in other countries where space is readily available at an affordable price.
Suri says it was also at this time that Hong Kong University (HK) created iDendron, the HKU Innovation and Entrepreneurship Hub, which aims at nurturing an entrepreneurial and innovative spirit on campus.
As an alumnus of HKU, the hub became the space that Planto needed. And since iDendron was also a startup in itself, it convinced the university that the space was worthwhile.
Another challenge that Planto initially faced was whether or not they needed the capital to start. Suri and his co-founders did approach a couple of investors. But they soon learned that it was too early for everyone.
“We had to prove that we can execute and it’s not all talk. It’s really tough being a young group of first time founders especially in Fintech. Fintech, in general, is considered tough because it takes a certain degree of trust from consumers to use your solution,” says Suri.
Knowing that raising capital would be difficult at the beginning, the founders focused primarily on what they knew best: building their product with their computer science background.
A month after quitting their corporate jobs, a prototype was released to 20 people.
“I still say that was the best moment that I had in my life because when I gave Planto’s first prototype to somebody and the individual said ‘I like it!,’ it gave me so much motivation. Such positive feedback keeps us going,” Suri says.
By February 2018, Planto saw 300 people having downloaded the app, resulting in receiving feedbacks regarding what they wanted Planto to do more.
Language barrier was another challenge that the founders faced. Suri is from India while his co-founders are from Pakistan. Since none of them spoke Cantonese, they needed to understand what the locals wanted. Suri says the founders approached their university friends who spoke Cantonese and English.
For one Cantonese-speaking Planto team member, she conducted interviews at cafés with people whom she met at networking events and had asked them about their finances and their future.
Her findings did support Planto’s hypothesis: people do think about their future. “But actually they don’t know how to navigate that particular future, so they’re kind of going on-the-go and just taking steps themselves,” say Suri.
While the app had primarily targeted millennials, according to Suri, about 15 percent of their users today are non-millennials — users that have different financial goals.
These types of feedbacks received are handled by Planto staff of which in turn transforms into coffee meetings with users to keep their conversations going. This allows better understanding of their challenges from these age groups that overtime Planto can expand on in the near future.
Asked whether Planto is a competitor with other financial institutions, especially in the Fintech industry, Suri says it’s not.
“Our business model lies in working with financial institutions and helping them to acquire and serve customers who have a particular financial need. We are building an eco-system that is a win-win for both financial institutions and customers. Planto positions itself as a digital financial advisor that will partner with financial institutions to help users get better with their finances,” Suri says.
But for now, Planto is after the 800-million millennials in Asia, according to Suri. And the company is just at a fraction of where they are at in the future.
In the long run, Planto wants to be the financial advisor for their consumers — advice that actually works. “And more importantly, finance advice that they can trust,” says Suri.