How Apparent Financing by SAP Is Helping with US Disaster Relief

Vishal Shah and Thasin Jaigirdar joined SAP.iO’s Venture Studio in June 2017 to build a financial marketplace.

Recent natural disasters in the U.S. have pushed the government’s emergency management programs to their limits, opening the door for alternate means of assistance. SAP.iO’s Venture Studio team Apparent Financing has introduced a new financing program to help small businesses easily find alternative financing solutions and get back on their feet more quickly.

2017 was one of the worst years in recent memory for natural disasters in the United States, with hurricanes and wildfires both inflicting serious devastation. In total, the country has experienced 15 separate billion-dollar disasters this year:

  • The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) estimates that Hurricane Harvey completely destroyed 25 percent of homes in the Florida Keys, with another 65 percent sustaining major damage.
  • Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall in Texas, was the most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history, with projected costs up to $200 billion.
  • In Puerto Rico, Hurricane Maria killed 64 people and left the island’s residents without access to power or running water.
  • Meanwhile, wildfires in Southern California continue to rage as this article goes to print, burning down more than 1,000 buildings and forcing 50,000 people to evacuate.

Rebuilding after these disasters will take years, and it will require support from both the government and the private sector. At SAP, we recognize that we can play an instrumental role in helping communities recover from these and other catastrophic events.

Vishal Shah, the general manager of SAP.iO’s internal startup team Apparent Financing, and his colleague Thasin Jaigirdar are responsible for making this idea a reality. Apparent Financing is building a platform that connects SAP Ariba suppliers with lenders, making it easier for small businesses to obtain funding. Seeing that their work could be instrumental for philanthropic uses such as disaster recovery, Vishal and Thasin have introduced a new financial support program for eligible SAP Ariba suppliers in the affected regions.

Twelve years ago, Vishal saw how the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) benefited from the support of private technology companies to build a platform for low-interest loans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Compelled to act soon after the disastrous U.S. hurricane season, Vishal wanted to do more than share helpful information with his network — he wanted to take direct action himself.

“I thought that if that program had worked back then, maybe Apparent Financing could help now,” says Vishal.

Initiatives such as this one are important because the economies of the affected areas often experience a delayed “domino effect.” If a hurricane destroys one manufacturer’s factory, for example, the entire supply chain will be affected, creating additional disruptions.

“Whenever you have situations such as these, people need two things,” said Vishal. “First they need a lot of emotional support and care, and then they need the financial resources for them to rebuild their lives.”

In just a few months, the Apparent Financing team has created a network of 13 companies offering a variety of financial solutions across all 50 U.S. states. The program aims to provide financial support to hundreds of small and medium-size businesses affected by natural disasters, so that people can dust themselves off and rebuild their homes and companies.

There are an estimated 18,000 to 20,000 SAP Ariba suppliers in the affected regions, many of which need access to short-term business financing after weathering the storm. Using a specially-developed financial marketplace software platform, the Apparent Financing team can provide these suppliers with expedited access to credit facilities with flexible terms at competitive rates. In addition, SAP will cover fees up to $500, as necessary, for the company to secure a financial arrangement.

Although we know that these funds cannot rebuild homes and communities on their own, they can still do a great deal to help restore normalcy to the lives of those impacted by natural disasters. Initiatives like those from Apparent Financing are important first steps on the long road to recovery, and we’re proud to give back to the community during these difficult times.