SG Finserve Ltd - Does it has a scalable business?

About the Company Past - Management change

SG Finserve Limited (SG Finserve), originally established in 1994, has an NBFC license and is also registered as a SEBI broker. Earlier, SG Finserve provided a wide range of services associated with Broking, Distribution, Investment Research, Online Trading, Wealth management, Investment Banking and Insurance. However, the company had ceased to do any business in the recent past. The promoters, Mr. Rahul Gupta and Mr. Rohan Gupta acquired 56.25% stake in SG Finserve on August 20, 2021, post which an open offer was made which concluded on July 22, 2022.

Company Present

  • SG Finserve, an NBFC, was started to cater to the funding requirements of the dealers of APL Apollo Tubes and vendors of APL Apollo Tubes in its first phase of growth plans.

  • In the next phase of growth, SG Finserve intends to cater to the distributor network of the dealers.

  • In Q1 of fiscal 2024, the company has disbursed Rs 4207.6 crores and collected Rs 2964.9 crores in the same period. The AUM as on June 30, 2023 was Rs 1242.7 crores.

  • The APL group will extend support to SG Finserve in terms of details around the dealer network which would form a critical component of the underwriting process as well as enforce stop supply in the event of any delay from the network of APL Apollo.

Risk mitigation Techniques in lending
Typical lending companies take collateral to reduce risks.

Let us understand its risks

Screenshot 2023-11-05 at 3.48.50 PM

558 borrowers and 3807 Cr disbursements in a quarter. Definitely, it is huge concentration risk.

One way how they seem to be managing risk, is through reducing the duration of loan. As even after lending so much, there AUM is still near to 1000 Cr.
Screenshot 2023-11-05 at 3.53.38 PM

Other risk managing techniques taken by SG Finance →

Vendor financing - the NBFC will also provide bill discounting facilities to the creditors of APL Apollo Tubes Limited (AATL). The facilities offered will be for a tenor of upto maximum 90 days with an ROI of 11% to 15%. Here the risk mitigation resolves around the health of the AATL and no drastic increase in its payable days. Anyways, there is huge concentration risk on one company that is APL Apollo from vendor financing side but obviously they seem to be confident of their APL Apollo tubes business.

Dealer financing - AATL has a vintage of these dealers of over 3 decades and for the last decade the bad debts within AATL have remained within 0.2%(Source: Crisil credit report). Hence they seem confident of dealer financing.
Considering AATL(APL Apollo Tubes Limited) has the market dominance with 50 percent market share and is only manufacturer of certain tubes in the world(Source: Q4FY23 investor presentation). They have planned to use their dominance for recovery by stopping new supply of materials to the dealers.(Source: Crisil credit report)

Retailer financing(Not yet started it seems as per Q1FY24) - Here will be system integration and stop supply arrangements with the dealers wherein the dealers will also provide an FLDG of upto 20% for the loans given by SG Finserve. First Loss Default Guarantee(FLDG) means that initial upto 20 percent loss in loan needs to be taken by dealers who are giving the loans to the retailers.

Real Industry TAM And Growth
MSME lending is TAM is obviously huge but will they be able to manage risk same way as they are doing in case of dealers and vendors of the APL Apollo.

Total AUM potential in case of APL Apollo vendors and dealers -
Vendors -
Considering 40 payable days, payable turns = 365/40 ~ 9
Average Payable Amount = COGS/9 = 16000/9 ~ 1700
Annual AUM from the vendor invoice discounting = 1700 Cr

Considering the dealers and retailers also take the loans for similar period, hence total AUM potential = 1700*3 = 5400Cr.
Considering 1000 Cr current AUM through financing to dealers and vendors of APL Apollo, potential of 5400Cr AUM does not look big enough.

Though if it expands its business to vendors, dealers and retailers of other companies, its TAM might increase but will it be able to employ same risk mitigating techniques as it has now for its current customers?

Financial Metrics

ROA Tree from Q4FY23

Current ROA(Annualised) as per Q2FY24 = 4%
They seem to be have very low gearing ratio which is understandable considering they are still testing their business which has led to low ROE.
Its current Equity is 759 Cr.
Here though again, we need to think, will it be able to scale its AUM maintaining similar risk profile to increase its ROE.
They have a good ROE potential if the scalability of the business considering the risk mitigation metrics can be ascertained as to increase the ROE they need to increase the leverage ratio(also called gearing ratio).

Source of Funds
Equity and some from banks under group entities corporate guarantee.

One interesting thing to research.
In their investor presentation they seem to show below page.

Where does these non group companies comes in the lending value chain?
Am I missing something?

I have not done the management analysis(though can be seen from APL Apollo Tubes thread). I have assumed the management is good considering APL Apollo parentage.
MOAT, Competitive analysis and Valuation comes after we can ascertain if their business is scalable which is still doubtful.

Disclosure - Not invested and please verify from your end.
Have not analysed many financial companies and hence the fundamental errors can there. Please correct if it is there.
Based majorly on CRISIL ratings.

1 Like

Already there is thread for this stock. SG Finserve - is this birth of another Bajaj finance?

1 Like

I think, SG finserv is good proxy to Manufacturing capex.

Major issue with major companies is funding at Working capital shortage in Retail sellers. SG finserv is targeting only working capital loans which are backed by anchor companies. This itself is major Moat.

Disc : Invested

Can you explain this?
I am under assumption that they are currently targeting the supply chain members of apl apollo. Has they started targeting other companies creditors and dealers?


In attached pic, all companies are anchor customers. Yes, currently they are 18-20 anchor customers.

Is there any concall or something where they have declared it?
As I can see from recent crisil credit report(Rating Rationale), they only talk about apl apollo value chains.




As per Dec 2023 shareholding info, Ashish Kacholia has entered the stock holding 6,28,366 shares or 1.14%. I could not see his name in the previous quarter.


As per this bulk deal Promoters (RAHUL GUPTA + ROHAN GUPTA) have sold some share. But it is not reported in the Insider Trade disclosures below. Any reason why this can happen?

I guess Ashish Kacholia has entered this stock even before this quarter. In the previous quarter i.e., in June 2023 his shareholding is less than 1%, because of all the preferential issue and warrants conversion.
Below is June’23 Shareholding

Below is the Preferential allotment happened in Sep’22

Having anchor companies / early adopters doesn’t in itself seem to be a moat. It may give them a head-start in building and testing their business model but what will prevent any other entrant to offer the same service better to the same anchor companies?

I am unable to figure out what could be their actual moat -

  1. Technology but with a finite set of data points to analyze and monitor, is it really that difficult to replicate this?
  2. Network effect but I am unable to see how are they ensuring stickiness and preventing switching?
  3. Early starter as they don’t seem to be the first starter, there are others also who are into this supply-chain financing space.

So I am still confused as to what exactly is their moat. They are definitely filling a structural void and do seem to be doing well as yet but what will ensure that they can really continue to do well consistently?

In the absence of concalls, a lot of questions remain unanswered. Anyone having crucial insights about this sector and this company’s modus operandi that may be lending them a true moat, please do share herein.

1 Like

my 2 paise. Companies are not born with moat. Moats take time to develop and mature over a period of time. As you said, there is a structural void in the ecosystem and they are filling it. At the current stage its more about taking a bet on the jokey rather than the horse. The only comfort factor could be the APL group, which has demonstrated execution skills in the past. D - invested.

@sougataG Agreed that they have the backing of an excellent group but I am still unable to figure out what will / may help them build the moat. I think that mere pedigree or ancestry doesn’t guarantee success. I have enlisted three possibilities above - technology, network effect, early starter in the supply chain financing space. Are there any other or are any or all of those not valid?

D - Evaluating

1 Like

As such will come down to execution and risk management as in any lending business. By virtue of APL group business they have a clear idea of risks involved in the partner / vendor eco system. Only time will tell whether they are able to effectively use that experience in their risk management framework. Entry is easy ( talking of moats ) but execution is difficult - one needs agility / flexibility in enabling business while taking minimal risk ( you cannot have zero risk ) . Differentiation will happen basis above.


Reproducing my blog post below

Business Model

SG Finserve is a lender. They give working capital finance to MSMEs and earn interest in return.

Founder and Management

This is the biggest selling point of the company for now. It is backed by APL Apollo group. The two promoters are sons of Mr.Sanjay Gupta (who is the promoter of APL Apollo). However, I do not think that the two sons understand the lending business very well. They do not have enough experience in the industry. Also, I am not sure how involved they are in the day to day running of the business. One of the sons was not even present for the AGM. Instead the promoters have hired people with around 15 years of experience in the lending business to run the company. Both the CEO and the CFO come from Aditya Birla Finance and have worked extensively on giving out loans which meet the cash flow requirement of the business. Other people in the team including the Head of Underwriting also come from lending background. It seems that the promoters are completely trusting this team of professionals to run the business. To still keep a tight leash on the running of the business, the promoters have ensured that technology is being used from day one in giving out loans and then in managing the repayment of the loans. Also, the Chief HR person was earlier working with APL Apollo itself and therefore is the loyal trusted hand keeping a tab on what is going on.


They give our working capital loans to small businesses which either supply to a big company or which help distribute the products of a big company (or an anchor company). They do not ask for a collateral. Instead they have a charge on the inventory that is purchased using their loan. For example if a distributor wants to buy steel worth 1 crore from APL Apollo Tubes, and then pass on this inventory to retailers. Now the retailers would pay the distributor in some time. On the other hand before picking the inventory from the APL Apollo factory, the distributor has to make the payment to APL Apollo. And therefore the distributor needs a working capital loan to make this transaction happen. This is what SG Finserve enables. They also have some sort of arrangement with the anchor company. Under this arrangement if the distributor does not pay back the loan to SG Finserve, then SG Finserve can ask the anchor company to stop supplying further inventory to the distributor. And therefore the distributor would be completely cut off from generating any future revenue. Therefore it makes it very difficult for a borrower to become delinquent. Till date in the roughly 18 months of operations we have not seen any NPA in the business.


Basically SG Finserve uses the anchor companies to spread the word about its services to potential borrowers. So SG Finserve first gets into an agreement with an anchor company. The anchor company then informs its whole ecosystem about how quick collateral free loans can be taken from SG Finserve. The anchor company has its own selfish interest in doing so. If its distributors get quick financing easily, then the receivables of the anchor company itself should come down. And this can help the anchor company in optimising how much inventory does it need to carry. For example right now the distributor is not sure exactly when will he have access to financing. And therefore the anchor company produces some excess inventory which stays in its warehouse and is liquidated as and when the distributor is able to arrange financing. But with the help of SG Finserve financing is always available for the distributor. Therefore the distributor can plan his buying decision better and the anchor company can therefore plan its production of inventory better.


This is a B2B operation. It does not require a lot of brand building to grow for now. That is because the MSME market is underserved by banks and big NBFCs. Money is a commodity. All lenders lend the same quality of money. You can’t charge a brand premium. So the rate that you charge the borrower depends on your own cost of funding. And your own cost of funding does not depend on your brand but on your assets and track record. Actually let me say this another way. As the company grows they would need more and more source of capital. At that time they may even have to issue bonds and debentures to HNIs. At that time, we should see the value of the brand play a role. After all buying bonds of Govt of India seems much safer than buying bonds of Bajaj Finance. For now, the company is not doing much brand building. May be they will devote more resources to it later.


The company has about 780 crores of equity. Most of it has been contributed by the promoters. A small portion is profits earned and redeployed in the past 18 months. There are some notable small investors too who have put in equity into the company. For example Ashish Kacholia, CSL Finance, Gaurav Sud. Right now the size of the book is 2,000 crores which means that the debt to equity ratio is very comfortable. Profitability is high right now because the mix of equity in the capital available is high. As debt to equity ratio goes up unit level profitability should take some hit even though in absolute numbers it should keep going up. The company does not charge usurious rates especially considering that they are doing collateral free lending. Their lending rates vary between 11-15%. The kicker is that they churn 9 times a year. This is because the average loan gets churned every 40 days. Because of this they end up earning (in my opinion) 14% of blended return on their capital. And I am guessing here that they raise money at a blender rate of about 9% and therefore they should make about a 5% spread on their lending. I think a good MSME should be able to raise at 12% from banks directly, but the problem is that banks move slowly and also ask for collateral. Therefore it may be more profitable for the MSME to borrow from SG Finserve.

The company has good operating profitability today and will have tremendous operating leverage since they are using tech from day one to keep their operating expenses limited. I don’t think they have brick and mortar expensive offices in each city that they operate in.

Bull case

The company will keep growing at a breakneck speed without any NPAs or with extremely low NPAs as the anchor companies will wield the stick against any defaulters. The promoters would be smart enough to only raise equity money when the price to book is completely in their favour (may be when it is 6 or more). The management has ESOPs. So their interests are aligned with a long term increase in the share price of the stock. The management would ensure that they continue to capture more market share in the collateral free lending available for MSMEs. Also, as more and more manufacturing starts to happen in India, we will see more and more anchor companies wanting similar services. So there is a tailwind that the company gets without doing much to create it.

Hopefully, the young promoters would keep learning the ropes of the business and partner with the professional management in a respectful way instead of throwing their weight around. Later the company may discover some other adjacencies. For example lending to the consumer also. Also, the company may do deeper in the ecosystem of the anchor company. For example lending to the supplier of the supplier to the anchor company. Or Indian manufacturers may establish overseas operations and then SG Finserve may get a chance to expand with them.

Also, the company may be able to reduce its cost of financing drastically if it is able to raise private debt from rich HNIs. All this will lead to huge margin expansion as the interest rate of lending is unlikely to go down drastically.

Bear case

The promoters fire the management and start to manage the company on their own. This is just speculation. I have seen no interest from the promoters to indicate this for now. Or the competition suddenly goes up. If the rupee becomes fully convertible in the future then foreign investors would rush in. This would suddenly drastically increase the quantity of money available. And this would mean that lenders will mushroom. And the biggest untapped potential source of lending is to MSMEs. Others might try to copy the same model. Think about someone like a HUL trying to do the same model by forming a separate NBFC.

One more bear case scenario is lenders getting extremely good at cash flow based lending. You then dont need an anchor to give comfort to a lender. One company which is trying to do something like this at scale is Paytm. Although the jury is out whether they can keep the NPAs under control while trying to do it. If a borrower does not need to put up collateral and does not need someone else to stand as guarantor, then he would like to borrow based on his cash flow provided the lender can underwrite on the same.

Corporate governance is also a perennial worry when it comes to lenders. There are inter corporate loans being given out today from this entity. This can baloon. So we will have to keep monitoring the company and its risk management going ahead.

P.S. My internal blogs/drafts for this post are below.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog are personal. I may or may not hold investments in the stocks mentioned.

Friday, 5 April 2024 at 8:54:33 AM

So I started studying SG Finserve because I got to know from valuepickr that this is a company with parentage from APL Apollo Tubes. A few years back I had purchased APL shares and then sold out at a neat profit. The purchase was on the advice of a registered SEBI adviser. He mentioned in his note how the promoter is using the best-in-class technology and trying to open up new niches in the steel business. This was late 2019. The steel tubes business has continued to do well since then. And therefore I was intrigued that why is the same promoter now trying to do something in the lending space. And more importantly what exactly is he trying to do.

Actually I read about a company called Veefin Solutions a few months back. They are into deep-tier supply chain financing. They build the software to enable it. SG Finserve (SGF) also is into deep-tier supply chain financing. But they are a lender which is building a book on its own. But let’s take a step back and first try and understand what is the fundamental human need for borrowing.

The short and cynical answer can be that greed drives us to borrow. The quickest way to get rich is by borrowing and then using that money to generate more money. For example assume you borrow 1,000 rupees at 10% annual rate of interest and then keep that money with yourself for one year. Now at the end of 1 year, you would have paid an interest of 100 rupees on this borrowing. But what if you are able to use this 1,000 rupees during that one year to generate a profit of 200 rupees. This means that at the end of the year you have 100 rupees extra. Your lender would be happy because you have paid him 100 rupees on the money borrowed. And you would be happy as the borrower because you have kept 100 rupees for yourself from the profit of 200 that you made. This is the best case scenario that I have laid out. Borrowing can also be a double edged sword. Assume that in the same year we are hit with another pandemic. Now the 1,000 that you borrowed and invested in some business is reduced to 800 rupees at the end of the year. The lender would still want his 100 rupees of interest. So at the end of the year, you would be in a loss of 300 rupees. First you would have to pay the principal of 1,000 rupees back to the lender. On top of that you would also have to pay back the 100 rupees of interest which is due on the borrowing. In the Indian context, when we talk to our elders we are repeatedly told that the downside is what is most likely to happen. No one knows for sure what would happen in the future, but to safeguard you your elders would always ask you to play it safe and just shun debt.

So as an individual or as a business you need to always first deeply understand why are you borrowing. What is the maximum downside you are taking on? Isn’t there an alternative available to debt? After you have done all this analysis you can finally then start to figure out which type of borrowing would you like to do. Once you have decided the amount you want to borrow you would start approaching lenders. But that is when you run into the problem of collateral. Let’s investigate this problem a bit more.

What is collateral? It is basically something which the lender wants to hold on to for risk management. In case you act as an unreliable borrower and don’t pay back in time, the lender would sell your collateral and recover his principal and interest. In older Hindi movies it was maa ke kangan. The lender would seize them when the borrower could not pay back the loan. In our everyday lives also we borrow against a collateral. For example when you take a home loan, your home is not yours truly till the time you pay back the loan amount to the bank. In fact the property documents are physically kept by the bank within its premises till the time all the loan comes back to the bank. This is usually how loans work for individuals. Individual goes to the lender and asks for a loan and promises to buy something with that money and the ownership on paper of that something remains with the bank till the end of the loan.

But with businesses it’s different. Let me illustrate how. Suppose you run a hardware shop. In your shop you sell cement, you sell steel tubes, taps, lights, hammers, nails, extension cords, etc. Whenever someone is getting their home renovated, they come to your shop and buy whatever it is that they want. Now if your customer comes to your shop and asks for cement, the expectation is that the customer would pay you money and you will hand over the cement immediately. Let us assume that instead you told the customer that first you will accept the money from the customer and then you would go to the cement manufacturer and then you would buy the cement and then you would come back to your shop and then you would ask the customer to come back again to pick up the cement. Will this customer ever come back to you? Think of all the time he wasted because the shopkeeper did not have the cement available immediately to hand over. And to add salt to your wound, what if I have a shop right next to you where I also sell the same hardware items and I have the cement available on premises. How hard would it be for me to attract the same customer to my shop instead? All I need to do is just raise my voice and inform the customer that I have the cement physically available with me right now. So let’s pause once. What have we established? We have till now established that businesses want to increase the convenience of their customers. One way of increasing that convenience is quick fulfilment of the order of the customer. And a great way to quickly fulfil the order of the customer is to physically have the inventory asked for by the customer.

So about 150 years back, shopkeepers did not have formal bank accounts. They did not have access to debt. The only debt they could borrow was from the local moneylender and this guy usually charged a very high rate of interest. And the shopkeeper typically did not have great math skills. So he never truly understood the underlying terms and conditions of the loan that he was taking from the moneylender. And this meant that the shopkeeper usually kept very limited inventory. For example he may only have one brand of bricks.

But then something changed in 1974. The US dropped the gold standard. Post world war 2, the world had decided that in order to avoid hyper inflation (as was seen in Germany post world war 1), the best way to control money supply by the government was to make sure that you only print as much money as the quantity of physical gold that you have. And many countries including the US followed this. But then something changed in 1974. The US said that from now on we will print as much money as we want and we will not adhere to this arbitrary rule of restricting the supply of money to the physical quantity of gold that you have. Now when this happened, this opened a new door for businesses in the world. I am talking about businesses which manufacture stuff. Let’s investigate this further.

Suppose you are a new cement manufacturer. You go to a shopkeeper and then ask the shopkeeper to add your brand of cement to their inventory. The shopkeeper says he does not have idle cash lying around to buy your new cement brand. So now as a manufacturer you are stuck. Customers will not buy your cement till the time they see that your cement is available with the local hardware shopkeeper. You somehow manage to convince the shopkeeper to borrow from the bank and then use the borrowed cash to buy your new cement brand. The shopkeeper goes to the bank and the bank tells the shopkeeper that they don’t have any depositor cash left over to lend. And the bank assures the shopkeeper that they will go to the central bank of the country and ask for some cash which the bank can then lend to the shopkeeper. So let’s look at this chain again. The new cement manufacturer asks the shopkeeper for cash who then asks the bank for cash and the bank itself then asks the central bank for cash. At this time we are stuck. The central bank says that it does not have enough gold reserves to print some money which can then be handed over to the bank. And this communication is then passed on down the chain and ultimately you are back to the problem of the shopkeeper not having cash to buy your new cement brand. This was how the world was pre 1974. This is a rough approximation. But you get the idea. Money was in short supply simply because it could not be printed at will.

Once the gold standard was abolished the situation changed. The central bank now could print money and then pass it over to the bank and then the bank gave it to the shopkeeper and the shopkeeper gave it to the new cement manufacturer. This made the economy move faster. And this is broadly the world we live in today. But there is one part of it we have not covered. And that is the collateral. Because ultimately money has to be paid back. So the shopkeeper also needs to put up some collateral. Now ideally the shopkeeper would tell the bank that since he was borrowing to purchase inventory, he can only offer cement as collateral. But think of this as a bank manager. If the shopkeeper does not pay back in time, what would you do? Would you physically go to his shop, pick up the cement and then try to sell that cement to someone else to recover your loan? A lot of things can go wrong with this plan. The shopkeeper can sell the cement and shut shop and abscond. Or the prices of cement as a commodity can crash because of which as a bank you will only be able to recover a part of the loan that you gave. Or the brand name of the cement has taken a hit because a building collapsed which was using that cement. In that case your inventory is at a complete loss now. Or the shop can catch fire because of which all the inventory can get destroyed. You get the point. So usually banks demand a type of collateral which they can resell easily. For example maa ke kangan. On a side note. Do you know why does gold hold its value? It is because it does not chemically react with air. For example iron gets rusted. Nothing happens to gold. It will look the same even 2,000 years from now. Anyways coming back to our collateral requirement. The bank needs a collateral which is easy to collect, easy to sell. And therefore the shopkeeper is again stuck. After all how much inventory can he buy by keeping his family jewellery as collateral? So the shopkeeper started pushing back. He told the new cement manufacturer that he needs credit from the cement manufacturer himself. And this starts the story of giving credit to participants in the supply chain.

Basically, the shopkeeper started telling the new cement manufacturer that from now on he will only stock his cement, if the cement is provided to the shopkeeper on credit. And when the shopkeeper will sell the inventory to the customer, the credit will be repaid to the new cement manufacturer. So basically the shopkeeper pushed his problem of borrowing on to the new cement manufacturer. Now our new cement manufacturer faces a new problem. Not only does he have to manage manufacturing of cement, he also needs to take the inventory risk on behalf of the shopkeeper. The manufacturer has to pay his employees on time every month, but he will only be able to collect money from the shopkeeper every 45 days or 60 days or 90 days. So again there is a demand for a loan. This time the loan is being asked for by the manufacturer so that he can pay his staff on time. But again the bank will ask for a collateral. So this time, the manufacturer offers his land and machinery as collateral to the bank. The bank gives a loan against the land. The bank knows that if the manufacturer does not pay on time, then the bank can seize his land and sell that land and recover the money.

And this arrangement started working. Now over a period of time the cement manufacturer kept doing well. His brand grew and grew. Everyone started appreciating how good the quality of his cement was. There were homes and buildings 20 years old which stood really strong due to his cement. Even during earthquakes when other buildings got damaged, the ones made with his cement stood strong. As a result the stock price of his company grew. It reached a market cap of 1 lakh crores. The banks kept lending to the cement manufacturer. But after a point of time, the bank started having other priorities also. The bank got so much demand for home loans that the bank did not feel the need to fund the supply chain of the cement manufacturer as much. So the bank started charging a higher rate of interest to the cement manufacturer for supply chain finance. Or the bank took too much time to disburse the loans. Sometimes the bank took a week for handing out the loans.

So now the cement manufacturer is again stuck. And this time he is a bit irritated. He can’t understand what is he doing wrong. He is making strong cement. He is building more and more manufacturing plants all over the country. He has never defaulted on any of his loans to the bank. Why is the bank still not being sensitive to his need for capital? So the cement manufacturer takes a drastic call. He decides to build his own bank. He asks his sons to buy out a company which already has a banking license. And then they start their own bank.

This is the oversimplified story of SG Finserve. Instead of being a cement company they run a steel tubes company called APL Apollo Tubes. The holding company APL Infrastructure Private Limited (AIPL) holds about 30% stake in APL Apollo Tubes. That stake is valued today at roughly 12,000 crores. AIPL is the guarantor of all the debt that SG Finserve is taking from banks. Banks believe AIPL as the guarantor because AIPL has a stake worth 12,000 crores in APL Apollo Tubes. And then SG Finserve as an NBFC is lending that debt to the dealers, distributors, retailers, suppliers of APL Apollo Tubes.

Actually now let’s investigate the credit requirement of small businesses which act as distributors, retailers, suppliers, transporters of big anchor companies like APL Apollo Tubes. Typically these small businesses don’t have the kind of collateral that banks want. They don’t have a lot of jewellery. They do not have big fixed deposits as all their capital is in the form of working capital and is therefore always stuck in their business as inventory. Ideally they should ask banks for cash flow based lending. They should share their bank statement with the lender and then the lender should offer them credit because the bank statement would show that they are an active business with frequent inflow and outflow of cash. But cash flow based lending is always tricky. After all as a bank how will you recover against a default? Therefore banks or NBFCs are very reluctant to fund such small businesses. Now the anchor business or the main business which is dependent on such small players will always be unable to grow at the pace at which it wants to if these ancillary businesses are not able to peacefully run their own business. Think about the steering wheel in your car. If Maruti wants to manufacture 50 lakh cars every year going ahead, then does it not want its suppliers to be ready to supply 50 lakh steering wheels next year too. And then does the steering wheel supplier not require working capital finance to fund its own requirement of raw materials? Similarly it is in the interest of every anchor business to ensure that its suppliers or dealers always have access to working capital finance which is available quickly and at affordable rates.

So the anchor business sort of uses its own credibility in front of banks and sort of offers to stand as guarantor of any debt being extended directly to the ecosystem around the anchor business. Now the anchor business also needs to do some sort of due diligence of its own. You can’t treat a new distributor just like you would treat a distributor who has worked with you for 20 years. Also, you need to really understand what is the kind of risk you are underwriting. For example let’s say I supply coal to APL Apollo Tubes. Now if I supply 1 tonne of coal on 1st January, then APL Apollo Tubes is supposed to pay me after 45 days i.e. by 15th February. Let’s assume those are the credit terms I have given to APL Apollo Tubes. Now let’s say on 2nd January, the internal QC team at APL Apollo Tubes has given its confirmation that the coal is as per the required standards. As a supplier of coal, I should then be able to take my invoice to a bank and ask the bank to pay me today against that invoice. Let’s say the invoice is for 10 lakh rupees. The bank would ask APL Apollo Tubes if they guarantee that they would pay for the coal by 15th February. In case the confirmation comes in, the bank pays me 9,90,000. As a supplier I receive the money and I can then carry on with my business. The bank would wait for 45 days and then recover the money from APL Apollo and make a profit of 10,000 rupees. APL Apollo is also happy because they were always going to make the payment on 15th February. And the depositor of the bank is also happy because he would receive his savings or FD interest as promised by the bank every month. So this is the kind of cycle that SG Finserve is trying to achieve. Depositor lends money to bank, bank then lends money to coal supplier, coal supplier lends that money to APL Apollo Tubes. On the way back APL Apollo gives the money back to the bank, bank gives the depositor interest on his deposit.

And this works in a similar manner also with the distribution network of APL Apollo Tubes. APL Apollo Tubes gives inventory to its distributor. The distributor borrows from the bank and pays APL Apollo Tubes at this time itself. Now the distributor passes on the inventory to a retailer. The retailer again borrows from the bank and pays to the distributor. So the distributor is now safe as he will use the cash received to pay off the bank. The retailer will then take a few days to sell the inventory to the final consumer. And then the retailer will return the borrowings of the bank. So understand all the players. There is the anchor company. There are its suppliers. And then there is the other side where you have distributors and retailers of the anchor company. Whom amongst these will take on borrowing from the bank? This depends on who needs whom more. If there is a new territory that the distributor is trying to open then for that territory the distributor may offer credit to the retailer. After all the distributor wants the retailer more right now in that new territory. However if it is an established territory, then any new retailer joining in may need the distributor more. In that case the distributor may not give any credit to the retailer and the retailer may borrow from the bank to buy inventory from the distributor. In some of these cases where APL Apollo Tubes has sufficient power and control, it may agree to stand as guarantor in front of the bank. Digital technology will help them figure out without much effort how to avoid defaults. Let us take one example of this.

Suppose there is a distributor for APL Apollo Tubes. Let’s say he has submitted a refundable fee of 50 lakhs with APL Apollo Tubes to get the distributorship rights for a particular territory. Now, let’s say APL gives him inventory worth 30 lakhs. And APL lays down the condition that they will only release the inventory when the distributor gives them 30 lakhs immediately. Please note this is on top of the 50 lakhs that the distributor already has submitted as refundable fee. Now to make life easier for the distributor, APL Apollo Tubes lets him know that he can borrow 30 lakhs at 13% annual rate of interest from SG Finserve for a period of 90 days. After all the distributor will further give a credit of 60 days to retailers. So ideally he should get the money due to him from the retailer within 60 days and then repay SG Finserve. Now if on the 90th day, the distributor does not return the money to SG Finserve then he is defaulting. In this case APL Apollo Tubes may step in and repay the 30 lakhs to SG Finserve on behalf of the distributor along with the interest due. And APL may deduce the same amount from the refundable fee that the distributor had earlier submitted. Also, APL’s ERP will automatically block any further inventory being released to this distributor and he may also be blacklisted. This way all parties get what they deserve. This is the kind of model that SG Finserve is trying to create. And all of these parties can keep up to date in real time using API calls between different software systems. The software that APL Apollo Tubes is using can talk to the software that SG Finserve is using and automatically such kind of checks and balances can be implemented.

Now till now SGF has mostly been doing this for APL Apollo Tubes. But recently they have also started replicating this for other anchor companies like Vedanta and Bombay Shaving Company. I am still trying to figure out how much of the AUM is coming from these other anchor companies. After all you need a lot of trust to make this system work. This kind of trust is easy to establish when the promoters of both the anchor company and the lender are the same. That is the case for SG Finserve and APL Apollo Tubes. But that is not the case for SGF and Bombay Shaving Company for example.

Also, I need to understand how much of their technology stack is being built in-house. Or do they not think that is relevant? May be they can buy off the shelf software which can help them drive this business. Basically they have grown their book very quickly since they started in September 2022. But that was primarily because they were lending to trusted ecosystem partners. After all if APL Apollo Tubes had been working with a distributor for 20 years, then SG Finserve could trust him with working capital lending quite easily. But how will they replicate the same when it comes to another anchor company and its ecosystem?

The promoters have infused about 650 crores of equity in SGF. And their current book is about 1700 crores. This means that the NBFC has about 1100 crores of debt which means a debt to equity ratio of about 1.5. I am researching what would be a comfortable debt to equity ratio for the company. May be 3? After that if you want to continue to grow fast, you would have to dilute equity. So I want to observe how so the founders do that.

Also, when the promoters first completed the open offer for the company they held about 73% of the company. Right now they hold about 48% of the company. If the company is growing so quickly, why are the founders so quick to dilute? Why not put all the additional equity into the company themselves instead of letting people like Ashish Kacholia also invest in the company?

Let me write back on this thread as I get more answers.


Another blog entry is below

Saturday, 6 April 2024 at 5:27:52 PM

Ok. Now that I have finished reading all the official documentation released by the company, I am ready to write a bit more. So the company continues to grow very fast. They right now have an AUM of approximately 1800 crores with equity of 780 crores. I believe they will keep adding at least 25 crores to their equity every month. This would not require any dilution. Basically this is the profit that the company is making every quarter. And since the company does not have any huge operational expense so all the profit becomes a part of the overall equity and can then be lent to borrowers. So let’s assume that the company will have no option but to dilute when it reaches a debt to equity ratio of 3. This means that when the overall asset book reaches 3,500 crores they will have to dilute. At that time they will hit the debt to equity ratio of 3 and will have an equity base of around 1,100 crores. This still seems a bit far off right now.

Actually the lowest hanging fruit has already been picked up the company. This is my opinion. I think in their first phase of growth they have gone after the supply chain of APL Apollo Tubes. They have ramped up lending to the most trusted dealers and suppliers. And that is why they were able to build a book of 2000 crores within 1 year from commencing operations. I think going ahead they will do a few things to continue growth. First is they will go deeper into the supply chain of APL Apollo. For example right now they are majorly financing the suppliers of APL Apollo. In the near future I think they will also try to start financing the suppliers of these suppliers. That would be the first way to bring in growth.

Second way to bring in growth would be to sign up more anchors and start financing their suppliers and dealers. The company has done a pretty good job of signing up more than 20 such anchors. What is not known is how much of the overall book is being dedicated to the supply chains of these other anchors. SGF does not disclose it in either their Annual report or in their quarterly disclosures. And therefore it is very difficult to quantitatively determine how much is the company dependent on their parent company of APL Apollo Tubes.

Third factor behind growth would be just the nominal growth in the economy. So lending business has this advantage. Suppose you are lending Rs.100 to a distributor. Now one year from now, there would be some inflation. Let’s assume there to be 5% inflation. Therefore for the same quantity of inventory the distributor would have to pay 105 rupees to the anchor company. Therefore automatically the lender would have to give out a loan of 105 to the distributor. But in addition to this there would be another major component of this natural growth. And that would be the volume growth. Suppose this distributor sells 100 steel tubes in 1 month. Now next year, as more people come to know about him being a distributor, there will be some volume growth too. Let’s assume he starts pushing 5% extra quantity of steel tubes 1 year from now. This should mean that in addition to the inflation he would also benefit by moving more volume. Together let’s assume this would mean that one year from now the same distributor would need 110 rupees of borrowing a year from now.

Actually while I was listening to the AGM on YouTube, I heard something interesting. The CEO of SGF was mentioning the difference between a lender who gives our working capital finance versus a lender who gives out a term loan. The term loan gets paid off every year by the borrower. So let’s take an example. Suppose you take a loan of 1 crore to buy a home. This is a term loan. Let’s say you borrow this from HDFC bank. Now HDFC starts expecting a monthly EMI of 40,000 rupees from you. Some of the component of this 40,000 would be the interest due on the loan, while the remaining component of the EMI would be the principal on the loan. So every month you would keep paying this 40,000 rupees to HDFC. Now what will HDFC do with the 40,000 rupees once they receive it from you at the end of the month? They can’t sit idle on it. After all HDFC itself collected that money from a depositor. And then gave it out to you as a loan. The depositor will expect HDFC to keep paying out some interest to him. So HDFC starts losing money on that 40,000 if it keeps it idle. So HDFC bank now has a headache. They need to find another borrower for that money and lend to him. Only then can HDFC relax. So someone who provides term loan finance always is on the lookout for the next borrower so that the money keeps churning and keeps making a return for HDFC Bank.

But now see how different it is from the life of the CEO of SGF. He finds a borrower and lends him 1 crore. Now why is this borrower asking for money? He is asking for money because his own money is stuck with his customer. In our case this would be an anchor company like APL Apollo Tubes. APL Apollo Tubes will pay him the money but it will take 40 days. So in the interim the supplier (who is also the borrower for SGF), seeks a working capital loan. The important part is the word ‘working’. This is the capital which is helping the supplier carry on with his regular business. So at the end of 40 days APL pays him and he repays the loan that he took to SGF. But then what happens? Will the supplier now stop his business and just go home? Or would he again start supplying to APL Apollo and again the 40 day cycle would start and therefore would he again need working capital for 40 days? The answer is yes. He would need a lender again. So therefore a customer once acquired will remain a lifelong customer for the lender. Therefore working capital lenders are able to churn their money so quickly. Because they don’t have to look for a new borrower each month. Most of their fresh lending is also going to fulfil the needs of their existing customer base only.

One thing I am still unable to answer is why did the promoters dilute their equity to less than 50%? They brought in a bunch of experienced equity investors like Ashish Kacholia and Samit Vartak and Gaurav Sud in an equity round that they did. But I do not get the rationale for it. The promoter family surely did not need their money. They have enough capital of their own.

Ok. Now I am going to write about a few more things. In no particular order.

The company seems set to practice only one underwriting practice. And that is complete dependence on the anchor company. The AGM also mentioned that there are watertight stop supply agreements with the anchor companies. What are these agreements? Basically they are a structure wherein SGF can instruct an anchor company to not supply any more inventory to a particular dealer. This would happen if such a dealer has not repaid the earlier money which SGF would have lent to him. Thus the dealer will not be able to carry on with his business till the time he repays SGF and then is eligible to receive fresh inventory from the anchor company. But I am unable to figure out why is such a fool proof mechanism not being built by banks? Why are banks letting an NBFC take away this market? This seems so simple to do. The only risk seems to be if the anchor company does not honour its word. But isn’t that too much of a reputational risk for the anchor company? Could it be because banks already have so much demand for secured credit, that they dont have the time and managerial bandwidth to look at this market right now? For example is the bank just happy giving out home loans for long tenures? I am going to keep searching for this answer.

SGF is also itself borrowing money from banks and other NBFCs. In fact they also declare in their investor presentations about which are the new lenders that have started giving out money to SGF. I am happy that they are rapidly diversifying here and not just depending on 2-3 banks for all their debt needs. In the future I would like SGF to borrow more money from the private debt market by issuing long term bonds. After all why do you need the middleman called the bank? They are also charging a margin which hopefully you can avoid when you go directly to the capital owner. The only problem with that right now seems to be the excessive taxation on the return that you get from private debt. If I buy a debenture which pays out 9% annual interest to me and then I end up paying 30% tax on that return, then this does not become a very attractive proposition. Maybe in the future can also sell rupee denominated bonds to foreign investors. Especially with India’s current account deficit coming down, I see reduced pressure on the rupee which should make foreign investors more comfortable in holding rupee denominated bonds.

One red flag to me right now is the concentration on the top 20 borrowers. In the annual report it is mentioned that 58% of all lending is to the top 20 borrowers. I understand it might be due to the early stage of the business. I would like to see the progress on this quarter on quarter but I dont think the company releases it with that frequency. Another concern is inter-corporate loans. The annual reports shows that money has been lent to APL Infrastructure Private Limiter at 8.25% per annum. I would really like us to move away from such arrangements.

Ok now let’s talk a little bit about operating leverage. The company has 33 employees as per the annual report. I suspect that they will hire more people for now since they are still setting up the business. And therefore the true operating leverage may take some time to play out. Actually the thing which I cant answer is how many employees do they have in the field. In the AGM they mentioned that they do not do faceless lending. Now they are present in 14 cities. This means there must be employees on the ground all over the country. I am unable to figure out the efficiency of such customer handling employees. How much AUM is handled by each such employee? What is the total number of such employees? How useful is such an employee when it comes to giving out the 3rd or 4th loan to the same borrower. What is the incentive structure for such an employee? Why are they needed at all when we already have such deep data sharing between SGF and the anchor company? As AUM goes up how many such on field employees would we need per rupee of AUM? This would help me truly figure out the kind of operating leverage at play here.

Another strange thing which I saw in one of the investor presentations was that the company has been awarded ‘Best Technology Adoption’ and ‘ Best Corporate Cash Management Services’ by HDFC bank. I dont know what kind of awards these are and why is SGF finance participating in it. In fact how exactly are we doing corporate cash management? Still searching for this answer too. Because my understanding is that all of our collection is completely digitised today and is done via IMPS or NEFT.

In terms of technology I am assuming they are using off the shelf Loan Origination System (LOS) and Loan Management System (LMS). I suspect this because none of the slides which mention about their top management, mentions any CTO.

Let’s now talk a little about Asset Liability Mismatch. Basically the company has not raised any long term debt. They have only raised short term debt and they keep renewing it. And yes this is currently working for the company because the money that they have lent also keeps churning very quickly. I am still studying this. Would it not make more sense for a NBFC to get a long term loan from banks? And then give out short tenure working capital loans to its own borrowers? But why is SGF not doing this then? Is it because banks would ask for harder collateral when giving out long term loans like this? Remember right now the only collateral that banks have is the guarantee given by promoters personally as well as by AIPL which holds shares worth 15,000 crores in APL Apollo Tubes.

Let’s talk about one more thing. Can we consider this company as a proxy for manufacturing in India? If you run a company which offers digital services then usually you dont need a dealer or retailer. You yourself are the manufacturer as well as the retailer. Think about Paytm. But if you are a company which manufactures a physical product then you need to figure out how will your product reach the consumer. Who will explain to the consumer the benefits of your product? Who will help your consumer discover the product? Usually the retailer comes into the picture here. Now the retailer also has a physical constraint. He can only service a limited geographical area around him. Therefore you need hundreds, thousands and sometimes millions of retailers. And again how do you manage so many retailers? So that is why you need a middle man in between which is what the dealer or distributor is. Now this holds true for all kinds of manufacturing operations. Whether you make paint or cars. Therefore would it be correct to assume that as more manufacturing starts to happen in India (and why won’t it when we have so much land, power and labour), then would this also mean that there would be a mushrooming of SMEs across the country? And as MSME’s increase in number would they continue to need working capital financing? Is that the reason that you are now seeing a burst of interest from financiers to service SMEs? Paytm does it with retailer working capital loans, Ugro Capital and SG Finserve are doing this with dealers and distributors. I am thinking about this. Will banks suddenly get more interested in doing collateral free working capital financing? Basically I think this market will continue to demand collateral free lending. Paytm is trying to use cash flow information as the underwriting tool. SG Finserve is trying to use the stop supply agreement with the anchor as the underwriting tool. Will banks show interest in going big on collateral free financing? Will the RBI be happy that banks are doing this? Will banks have enough capital available to even show interest? After all isn’t MF AUM today 26% of overall bank deposits. It was 10% about a decade ago. Does this mean people are finally realising it’s not worthwhile to keep your money in FD and savings account and instead put your money in equity? I will keep monitoring all this.

Now let’s talk about the spend on sales and marketing that the company has to do in order to grow fast. Actually, on the face of it the company should not have spend a lot of money on marketing. After all India is a capital starved country. The biggest source of debt capital for businesses is banks and banks themselves make MSMEs go through hoops to access debt capital. Here is a company which is offering unsecured credit and the only condition being that you must be connected as a vendor or dealer to a big anchor company. Shouldn’t the anchor company just inform its whole network that there is a pool of debt capital available which is being provided by SG Finserve and shouldn’t that be enough for the borrowers to start filing an application with SG Finserve? This is what my thesis is for now. Therefore I don’t see the company spending a lot on marketing for now. I don’t think the company will also be spending a lot on salesmen for now too. Reasons are pretty much the same as above. What would be the salesperson do? After all the anchor company would have already communicated to its vendors and dealers.

I think the only source of manpower which would go up is the number of people needed to make physical visits to the office of the borrower. The company does not do faceless lending and therefore a human being needs to go and visit the physical office of the borrower before the first loan is given out by the company. I am not sure what would be the salary bracket and experience of such employees. I also don’t know how their productivity can be improved by using tech. May be instead of physical visits they can do zoom calls? But then would it not lead to worse underwriting? I dont know. Let us monitor this too going ahead.

So that is pretty much it about the company. There is only one annual report and a few investor presentations which are available to go through. I would keep watching out. The company does not do concalls right now. Let us see if they soon start doing that especially if they want to reduce their cost of borrowing further by issuing NCDs to private investors. For now they just seem to be adding new institutional debt investors like banks and other NBFCs.


I see that in the Q4 results, the AUM has actually reduced on a QoQ basis. Does this raise a question on the scalability of this business model?


Scalability might be a question, that we will have to see, but i don’t think the market of supply chain financing can get saturated as early as 2000 crore, isse jyada to bahut saari nbfcs ka quarterly profit hota h, unfortunately there is no concall, so specific question related to this cannot be raised with the management. And it seems a bit tough to digest to me that given the experience of the team, saturation can come this easily.