The great Setu experiment

Neeti Bhatt image

Neeti Bhatt

Senior Research Fellow, D91 Labs

29 Oct 2021


The great Setu experiment title image

A huge-shout out to our in-house designer Geetika for making the thoughtful cover!

For most of my (short) career, I have worked in finance. Working in finance comes with a set of pre-conceived notions — the ruthless, unrealistic world where lakhs of rupees exchange hands (never literally, ok sometimes literally) but you know what I mean. It’s the kind of world where a 20-year starry eyed kid of middle-class upbringing feels lost at first and in just a little bit, heady with power. After all, money makes the world go round.

I can never be sure, but people working in tech might go through a similar flow of feelings, after all tech is also super transformative.

In contrast, working in public policy or research comes with its own set of pre-conceived notions — the altruism, the modesty, the scrappy can-do attitude and the boundless optimism. I have walked those halls too (for a short while) feeling just as lost, convinced, that I had misplaced the capacity for boundless optimism from my time in big finance.

At the risk of peddling in some stereotypes, I can confirm that there is some truth there. I was born to middle class parents that worked hard so I could experience prosperity. But in typical Indian parenting fashion, I had my fair share of family dinners hearing about a not so financially hot time in my family’s history. This, to routinely reminds me of the privilege so inherent in my existence and choices and to keep my feet firmly planted on the ground. Not quite fitting into the world of abundance but never really knowing what deprivation looks like.

Dedicating a part (or whole) of your life to working for those that do not have your access is a privilege and a supreme responsibility. One that many in my generation find fulfilling and daunting at the same time.

I started here at Setu a few months ago and I have been feeling this privilege and responsibility very starkly since. We discuss every single day, the benefits we can extract from technology and finance for the widest range of customers. It is an unnerving task, one that makes you question why sitting in our cushy lives do we get to take these calls? (If you do not think this, sorry this whole piece is just my internal dialogue on paper).

I still have training wheels on, but when I am feeling this dilemma, remembering the value of empathy in these situations is helpful. Also, it’s a core value here at Setu, how neat!

I have seen the varying shades of empathy in the care and concern for those that we serve at the heart of all discussions on products, design or research. It was in the outrage the lending team felt at the interest rates offered by a lender to its last mile and the steps they took to ask if they can slash their rates (that’s bold!). It is present in the interactions with the founders and in the ‘over-communication’ here which spills over to our non-Setu interactions.

So the next time, the faith seems a little shaky, we just take a breath, slack message any other Setuzen or observe one of their interactions — it's been working for me so far. I guess, that makes Setu a unique experiment in empathy at the intersection of tech and finance in practice.

All this to say, we are all right to work with!

Well, having said all of that — we extend a very warm invitation to you all. We’re hiring across the board, so do check out our careers page and apply away!

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