Building Trust in Digital Lending

Key insights from a series of user tests on a No-Code prototype for digital lending

From a momo-seller in Varanasi to a vegetable vendor in Nagpur, more than half of India's population still relies on unofficial sources like money-lenders for their lending needs. But as the country rapidly digitalises, digital lending can become the new norm - solving for the problems of easy accessibility, simple process, and rapid loan dispersals.
We built a digital lending app and took it to users in Banaras to know if it is something they can trust and use.

Key insights

Getting loan through an app looks easy

The user tests gave us some predictable outcomes, like users loving the anytime-anywhere flexibility of a loan app. But it also gave us some surprising insights, like the preference for 'Hinglish' instead of pure Hindi or English. Note user reactions to the app and the top findings,

How might we design digital financial services for the Bharat audience that builds a sense of trust?

Parallel together with TTC Labs,, DICE and D91 Labs took part in a year-long initiative to understand how to build a digital culture of trust among the Bharat audience especially around Digital Financial Services.

After months of research, user surveys and expert suggestions, Parallel hosted a Design Jam that brought together fintech experts, designers, and business managers. The aim was to co-create a product provocation around digital lending for users from low and middle income backgrounds.

During the final design showcase where different prototypes were shared, experts like Pawan Bakshi, India Lead, Financial Services for the Poor at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Sanjay Jain, Chief Innovation Officer at CIIE, gave their valuable feedback. They also suggested testing these ideas with real users.

Read all the ideas from the Design Jam

Finding the right users

  • 10 participants from lower and middle income groups were selected by Parallel's on-ground team at Banaras based on a well-researched persona profile.
  • Users included a set of nurses (5 users) and a set of vegetable vendors (5 users).
  • 40% had taken a loan previously. 70% knew basic English, while the rest knew only Hindi. 80% of them were looking at a digital-lending app for the first time.
  • Following the five-act interview process recommended by Google Ventures, we conducted the entire user tests with basic tools like a laptop and video conferencing - all remote.

Finding the right users to test out the idea

CredNow - a lending app made for Bharat

CredNow - a no-code lending prototype made for Bharat

CredNow was a fictional digital lending app that offered pre-approved loans based on the user's personal details, professional details, and prior credit history. Its main USP was quick turnaround time and convenient loan options.

We built upon the ideas from the Design Jam and polished them further to create a lending app centred around six key ideas that were tested with the users:

Bridging the literacy barrier

Using audio clues to aid with text when words and phrases are difficult or non-legible

Overcoming the language barrier

Using Hindi to increase explainability of difficult financial phrases

Improve Explainability

Giving clear, step-by-step information to make user feel at ease with lending process

User control over data

Giving information with minimal data input and freedom to share or delete data

Handling rejection better

Providing alternate options and ways to improve credit score to empathise and build trust

Right to be forgotten

Giving users the ability to remove private and personal information from the app