How Refyne is harnessing emerging tech to drive payroll innovation

Refyne, which claims to be India’s first and Asia’s largest earned wage or on-demand-pay platform, says it plans to use deep-tech capabilities to scale, develop more products and make its solution available to a larger pool of salaried people.

The Bengaluru-based startup allows businesses to give their employees access to their unpaid wages at any time before payday, providing them more financial flexibility. By leveraging its analytics-based AI engines, employers can get real-time insights into employee usage of their earned salary and operate and monitor workforce financial offerings.

According to the fintech solution provider, pay-on-demand helps enhance employee productivity, retain talent, and reduce absenteeism. Because Earned Wage Access (EWA) is not a loan, it does not require the employee to borrow money and bears no cost to the employers.

“Compared to the traditional pay cycle, employees can access their earned salaries at any time before payday at a nominal transaction fee. This gives greater financial flexibility to employees, enabling them to meet their expenses and attend to medical and other emergencies, but it also helps enterprises offer a stress-free work environment,” says Apoorv Kumar, CTO & Co-Founder, Refyne.

Leveraging AI, ML, and DevOps

Refyne is exploring the potential of AI, machine learning, and DevOps to grow its user base from 1 million to over 3 million in the next twelve to eighteen months and aims to play a pivotal role in driving the financial-wellness initiatives of organizations.

“We have been using deep-tech capabilities such as AI & ML to enhance the Optical character recognition (OCR) to categorize and identify data type and correctness while capturing data from photographs of documents such as Aadhar, DL, PAN, and Voter ID. This eases the process of signing up for KYC for users. It also enables us to build technology that helps partner firms not tech-savvy optimize processing structures,” says Kumar.

The fintech solution provider says it has built a real-time KYC system and AI-driven underwriting algorithms. “At Refyne, we are also building a new layer on top of AI and ML capabilities commoditized by Google and Amazon to help us capture revealing data on user behavior that we can use to optimize our technology further,” Kumar adds.

It’s platform can automatically track real-time salary updates that enable employees to access their earned salary any time before payday. The company relies on a super lean team and extensive automation with DevOps.

But does it impact the enterprise payroll management system? “No, our plug-and-play solution works in tandem with the employer’s attendance and payroll management system, allowing employees to view their earned salaries in real-time. The employer’s working capital situation remains unchanged. Refyne fronts the withdrawal and credits the money to the employees’ salary accounts without affecting the organization’s payment process,” Kumar updates.

The big challenge

According to a research study by EY, employee liquidity crisis has far-reaching effects. It says that 81% of Indian employees have faced a financial shortfall between pay periods, and 72% resorted to alternate finance options to access liquid cash, while 42% expect their employers to secure their financial well being  

“Due to various macroeconomic changes, employees’ worklife is challenged by increasing job insecurity. There are several instances where employees are unable to fund emergencies, creating a stressful financial situation for themselves. In such a scenario, employers can ease their employees’ financial stress by helping them manage their personal financial obligations better. This can be achieved if employers increase liquidity for employees and facilitate access to continuous cash flow to meet unexpected expenses. EWA is one such benefit that addresses these financial problems,” the study notes.

Even though the EWA concept has seen widespread adoption in the United States and many areas of Europe, few employees and organizations in India are aware of the full range of benefits.

“There are some initial challenges in creating awareness about this progressive concept amongst organizations. People are usually set in their ways when managing finances and may shy away from trying new things, especially a new financial tool like EWA. Our efforts are channeled towards educating organizations and people about the benefits of employee financial well-being and benefits associated with earned wage access,” explicates Kumar.

Protecting data is key

Refyne’s core model for Earned Wage Access (EWA) has been designed to collect data in a consent-oriented way. It says that when it integrates with employers to extend EWA to their employees, data only on those who have agreed and consented to be users of Refyne is collected and not the entire employee base.

“We have been supremely vigilant about data security since day one. Refyne’s systems are ISO-27001 certified for information security. We’ve conducted and completed vulnerability testing by top VAPT firms in India, including WeSecureApp, and all employee data is managed as per strong data privacy laws,” says Kumar.

“We have built a real-time KYC system along with AI-driven underwriting algorithms. Our novel plug-and-play integration infrastructure allows us to integrate with our enterprise client systems with no effort on their part to allow the seamless flow of data required to serve their employees. All this allows us to serve our customers exactly when they need us,” adds Kumar.

Refyne is working to provide the ability for individuals to serve their needs by spending directly through the app and introducing features that allow the unbanked to come into the formal banking system.

What’s ahead

The Tiger Global and QED Investors-backed firm launched in December 2020, claims to have worked with over 200 companies and served over 1 million employees. The clientele brands include Rebel foods, Acko, Practo, Café Coffee Day, Cars24, Epigamia, and Car Dekho, among several others.

In the coming months, Refyne will be focusing on extensively leveraging tech to empower more and more employees with its offering designed to curb their dependence on costly credit schemes and, therefore, any debt traps.

The company is also working towards developing analytics-based intelligent proprietary products such as Refyne Score and its proprietary integration framework that works across ERPs, HRMs, and accounting systems.

“Refyne Score is a proprietary scoring for users based on their career progression and diligence at work. It looks beyond their financial history and is more inclusive. Refyne Score, an alternative to credit score, helps employees who are new to credit start their journey in the formal financial system on a positive step, making financial products more accessible to them. We plan to integrate a financial well-being coach program into the platform that helps guide employees on better managing their funds and ensure healthy financial well-being,” Kumar says.

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