Jaya Vaidhyanathan is currently the CEO of BCT Digital. BCT Digital is part of the Bahwan Group. BCT digital is a global technology company specializing in innovation in the predictive analytics and AI space with a focus on Financial Services. Her portfolio of skills includes driving product strategy in the Digital Transformation space, product innovation, risk management, M&A, technology delivery and execution. She has worked in US, UK and India extensively and is on many international boards.

Jaya is a three-time winner of the prestigious Stevie Award. In 2020, she was voted as India’s most trusted CEO and winner of the Databird Female Executive of the Year. Jaya has made prominent appearances in international events as keynote speaker, panellist and moderator. Her talks frequently draw on her experience in risk management, corporate governance, product innovation, and digital banking. 

Q: What inspired you to join Bahwan CyberTek and what were the main challenges you faced?

After longs stints across Wall Street, Accenture, HCL and Standard chartered, I wanted to start on my own combining my strength as a banker and technologist. This was the time when NPA’s around the globe were increasing and India witnessed the highest declaration of Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) in 2015, with an impact of 10 Trillion. Analysis showed that that the prime cause was an unwillingness to repay rather than the inability to repay.  In response, regulators came up with compliance mandates for reporting and wanted banks to classify their NPA portfolios as Red-Flag Accounts and Special Mention Accounts. 

The complexity at the Banks side was evident. The sheer number of their corporate & retail clients, volume of loans, and a minimum of 3000 data sources that need to combine with core-banking was a challenging task for the banks. 

I found a clear calling for my “intrapreneurial” venture and decided to build products to address the NPA Issue. I joined Bahwan CyberTek, to build and promote FinTech initiatives by driving product innovation around risk management for banks, targeting the financial services industry. 

Speaking of challenges, the greatest challenge for any entrepreneur is to convince people about your vision and have top class bankers and technologist to join you in that vision. Competing against global competitors was hard until we began to constantly brainstorm, strategize and challenge the outcomes. 

From a product engineering perspective, it was challenging to merge new with the old as it involved working with archaic systems to combine and deliver a robust mechanism of risk monitoring. 

As a company, we had to build it grounds up using disruptive technologies to handle the complexity, volumes of data and sources of data required to tackle risk related issues which apparently needed more investment of time.

Jaya Vaidhyanathan

Q: Did you start the venture alone?

Started in collaboration with Bahwan Cybertek. BCT Digital is the fintech initiative and is bootstrapped to Bahwan CyberTek.

Q: In your opinion, what are some key opportunities in the digital transformation space going forward?

Keeping the FinTech industry in mind, our customers from the banks & financial institutions demand niche methodologies as it is a highly interactive space. As the economy and the financial sector grows, it is foreseen that banks may put in place technology systems to effectively control risks related to credit, liquidity, market and operations. This is where opportunities in the digital transformation space arises, where it is imperative to have a risk-less banking experience and regulatory authorities, drawing on the strengths of game-changing technologies to redefine the playground.

The next five years is crucial in the digital transformation space with regards to banking. The emphasis will be on accelerating problem detection and taking pre-emptive actions as high-quality data, emerging technologies and a robust FinTech strategy will essentially assist bankers resolve bad loan scenarios and frauds. Use of analytics for predictive modeling of macro and microeconomic events, use of Artificial Intelligence to make unbiased decisions with thousands of data points will help implement this, taking the digital realm far beyond.

Q: What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?

We took the ‘Business First, Technology Agnostic’ approach, starting with having bankers on boarded first, and have them leading the way. We identified the opportunity to build products in the country rather than force-fit global products to tackle a mammoth macro and socio-economic problem such as the NPA. We are adapted to the Reverse Innovation model which revolves around our mantra ‘Build Local Go Global’. This model was engineered for a two-fold benefit;

  • To enable product engineering in India for the Indian market
  • The products built in India would also cater to global markets. 

We have had a 10X growth from where we began in the past three years with the highest implementation across Public Sector Banks. In India, we serve the top public sector banks alongside targeting private sector Banks, Foreign Banks, NBFCs, and HFCs. 

Q: Do you think luck played a role in the success of BCT DIGITAL?

Always, hard work precedes luck for success and sustainability. Our team has put in a great deal of hard work because of which we have achieved success in our endeavors. However, at some point luck is required too.  We have to set ourselves up to get lucky with hard work. 

Q: What are your goals for the future?

As a company, our goal is to grow 20X in the next couple of years with products for all the risk needs of the BFS vertical, including Operational Risk, Liquidity Risk, and Model Risk in the RegTech spectrum by adapting to local regulations and data privacy laws. 

Build local, take it local and global is our motto. We are proud of our contribution to build India as a product innovation hub and transform the underlying fabric of our banking system. It is about creating products in India for India, and taking them global – rather than the reverse dynamics that we have witnessed. We are expanding our market in India, the UAE, the US, Europe and Australia. Our focus will also be on using disruptive technologies, like, AI/ML, Predictive analytics and Block chain, to expedite India’s move to the next generation of banking. 

Q: If you had to start over, what would you do differently?

The banking industry is one of the custodians and measures of our country’s progress. It’s the pillar behind the fiscal economy that we portray to the international community. I’d like it to remain that way. However, I do want to change the black-box approach to macro-credit decisions made in the country. I want to bring in more transparency and trustworthiness, and restore the trust of my people in our country’s banking system.

Q: Can you talk about one woman who has impacted your life?

I do not believe that you can be inspired by one single person alone. I draw inspiration from different people around me. There are several global women leaders and their success stories inspire me to aim higher. Meanwhile, I also draw inspiration from her the person who brings me my tea at work, who is a single mother and has raised two kids on her own – with so little money to spare, daily sustenance aside. 

Q: What are your favourite books?

“Principles” by Ray Dalio is one of my favorites. His unconventional approach is inspiring. The progression of conventional thinking of “I am right” to “How to know if I am right” is a significant learning from the book. Reflection on pain or painful situations helps progress when we convert it as our core principle.

Q: What's your advice for female founders who are just starting out?

Being a woman entrepreneur myself, my advice to all the female founders is to first accept the fact that it is often difficult to stay the course with balancing priorities in our lives. It is time to drop the superwomen syndrome, and learn to prioritize and get away from the guilt complex. You are doing enough; by the fact that you want to do more.

In the world of entrepreneurs, networking is essential. You have to be out there, promoting your ventures. While the benefits to being a start-up entrepreneur are many; being your own boss, developing from ground zero and of course reaping the fruit of the efforts; it is also very important to have a ‘Never give up’ attitude in order to succeed. It is important to take rejections in your stride as well.

It’s a tough road ahead, so hold on to your dream and don’t give up. Competing against global competitors is hard unless you have unique strengths which you must capitalize. Dream big, stay focused on your priorities, network and be a go getter!  Most importantly, do take time off to focus on you – for a healthy body and mind.