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BW Businessworld

Upasana Taku: Payments’ Leading Lady

‘Staying ahead of the curve is something we have always believed in as a company’

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MobiKwik is a full-stack financial services platform that offers payments, digital credit, digital insurance and wealth management services.

Right from inception MobiKwik’s mission was to build affordable and accessible financial services for a billion Indians. “We call this ‘Building for Bharat’, the vast masses that live outside the top five cities of India,” says Co-founder Upasana Taku, widely hailed as the first woman in India to lead a payments startup, and now a BW Businessworld 40 under 40 winner.

What began as a six-member team in August 2009 has now grown to 400 in the last ten years.

Taku joined MobiKwik after a successful career with PayPal US where she spearheaded a number of initiatives including the launch of PayPal in some key European markets.

“In the last 10 years, I have driven a number of strategic launches for MobiKwik such as the payment gateway business and the lending business that have transformed the brand from a mobile wallet to becoming one of India’s leading digital financial services platforms and a leading payment gateway. The company currently has a network of over 3 million direct merchants and over 107 million users,” says Taku in an interview with BW Businessworld.

She is currently leading the company’s evolution into a full-stack financial services company that caters to the financial needs and aspirations of a billion Indians and provides them access to all financial services on a single platform.

MobiKwik is the first financial services company in India to turn EBITDA positive in August 2019, and Taku says they hope that by FY21, MobiKwik will turn profitable on a full-year basis. This financial year, MobiKwik hopes to clock gross revenues of about Rs 500 crore.

Asked how she keeps pace with the changing tech and business needs, Taku says: “Around 25 years ago, Hindustan Unilever pioneered the use of low-cost, small-sized packets for consumers who shop daily. We see the future of financial services as no different. We enable payments between consumers and merchants, our bread-and-butter business in the smallest of transaction sizes. We are gearing up for more strategic partnerships to serve the underserved.”

Digital payments in India continue to grow every single month driven by strong tailwinds.

“The economy itself is growing and consumer payments grow in line with the economy. Secondly, there is a move to digital payments on account of convenience and cost, and as new services and transactions go digital. Then, there are the regulatory tailwinds from demonetization, which drove consumers toward digital payments, as well as the implementation of GST,” says Taku.

On how MobiKwik has managed to remain slowdown-proof, Taku says: “Staying ahead of the curve is something we’ve always believed in as a company. Our new fintech portfolio (insurance, digital credit, wealth management) opens up an additional revenue stream for us. We want 40-45% of our revenues to come from the financial services segment by early next year. We will be launching new products and make them available to more customers on our platform”.

Taku looks up to varied personalities for inspiration — from Sheryl Sandberg, Indra Nooyi, Steve Jobs, Rajan Anandan, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw to co-founder and husband, Bipin Preet Singh.

To future entrepreneurs, she says: “Tenacity is key. When you are new to the market, people may reject your idea, but it is important for you to keep going. Kick up a storm or die trying”.

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