EduFi, a fintech startup that enables financially strapped students to secure loans for their education, has raised $6.1 million in a pre-seed round led by Zayn VC with participation from Palm Drive Capital, Deem Ventures, Q Business and angel investors.
The Singapore-based startup has launched an artificial intelligence-powered study now, pay later (SNPL) lending platform and its mobile app in Pakistan, a country that does not have student loan products as a category; instead, users take personal loans with high interest and lengthy process, Aleena Nadeem, founder and CEO of EduFi, told TechCrunch.
EduFi wants to address the country’s two issues — high poverty levels and low literacy rates — via its fintech platform. In Pakistan, about 40% of students attend private schools due to public schools’ poor quality, resulting in spending more than $14 billion on their education every year. Moreover, over 50% of the adult population in Pakistan does not have access to financial services such as bank accounts and insurance.
Nadeem, an MIT graduate who previously worked at Goldman Sachs and Ventura Capital, had seen first-hand many children struggle with financial obstacles to get a quality education while working at Progressive Education Network (PEN) in Pakistan. PEN is a nonprofit organization that gives free and quality education to children who can’t afford it.
“Many children in Pakistan make it to high school, but there is a sharp drop in those who are able to achieve a higher college education,” Nadeem said. “This drop is where EduFi is trying to inject capital into the gap between high school graduation and first-year university admission.”
The two-year-old company has already had partnerships with 15 universities, allowing the app to be available to about 200,000 students who must pay their fees for undergrad, Master’s and PhD across Pakistan.
When a student (or a parent) applies for loans via the app, EduFi requires the applicant’s (student or parent) financial status. For example, the previous 12 months’ bank statements or a source of income that can support their loan repayments, such as a salaried job, a small business, or freelance work. Once a student loan facility is approved, EduFi sends the money directly to the college’s bank.
During its beta phase for the last 18 months, EduFi tested its credit model against 80,000 consumer finance loans banks had made. The startup claims that its credit scoring system allows for the dispersal of student loans within 48 hours of application and the quick disbursal of the loan. EduFi, which has received approval for a license to make loans from the Securities and Exchange Commission Pakistan (SECP), is waiting for the license to be granted, which is expected in November. Nadeem said it is currently validating its product and service with potential customers and collecting feedback and data to improve its service.
The company says it upended the traditional bank approach, which involves high-interest rates and a complicated application process, as well as takes at least three to four weeks to approve. EduFi’s digital lending app offers users a convenient, straightforward process and flexible loan terms and conditions.
“Education offers hope and can change the lives of people. I am one example of millions out there. EduFi offers this hope and will be a trigger for change in the lives of people as we lift one of the biggest burdens on aspiring families,” Nadeem said. “For example, students in dental or medical schools have to pay upwards of $8,000 upfront, which is not sustainable for many in Pakistan. Every student we’ve helped is a testament to the ambition, opportunity and empowerment we are striving for at EduFi.”
The company will use the pre-seed capital to reach more customers, optimize its platform, expand to neighboring countries and launch other fintech products, including student credit cards.
“This is a significant step towards achieving financial inclusion for middle and low-income families. In Pakistan, families spend more than 50% of their income on their children’s education, which has become increasingly challenging due to inflationary pressures. EduFi’s innovative approach will help alleviate this burden and empower families to invest in their children’s future,” Faisal Aftab, general partner and founder at Zayn VC, said in a statement.