I started life as a sales guy. As a sales guy going through durables to sodas, I accidentally landed a job at Amex. It’s just another sales job.
Amex was a unique place; they ran a closed-loop network, which means you get to see the transaction end to end. And that’s got some fascinating data insights from understanding the customer underwriting her, giving her a card, tracking her spending behavior, and then mapping it to your merchant coverage. No other card network uses that kind of visibility—a seven-year, eight-year learning experience.
Then, eventually, I got bored of a corporate career. So back in the day, I found a techy through a mutual introduction, and his idea was simple – “Can you install a 64 KB app on a Nokia feature phone, and people transact on that”?
And as audacious as it sounds today, in hindsight, we were able to pull off an app, and we called it NGP or Next-generation payment.
We were able to aggregate a bunch of merchants, over 50 merchants, who had stuff to sell. We started offering plane tickets and flight tickets. For train tickets, IRCTC was a major merchant on board.
And then we found in those days that the distribution was a big problem because you didn’t have app stores; you didn’t have anybody but a carrier who was a gatekeeper. So, we instead went to the merchant and said, “Help me distribute this app, and I can help you reduce the distribution costs for your profit.“
It started taking off; we were that hockey stick started in about early 2008. We got a term sheet from a storied Silicon Valley investor.
As fate would have it, we eventually had to shut down and did a fire sale to Flipkart. But then, moving on, I had to find my way back to a corporate career.
Fortunately, at that point, we had a good partnership going with Nokia, and they were setting up mobile money. So, the story continued, and many of us set up mobile money at the time at Nokia.
So, one thing led to another, and eventually, I found my way to Amazon, where they were starting their India journey. I joined Amazon when the website was five weeks old. We were selling books and CDs.
So those were, again, the early days of e-commerce payments and success rates. And the quality of service you would find from banks was just not up to the mark. We had a big role in collectively working with financial institutions, card networks, and the regulator and improving the customer experience for people checking out with a genuine intent to buy but being held up by a poor purchase experience.
We started with about 85% cash on delivery just because of friction. They did the opposite today, with about 10% cash on delivery.
So, along the way, then, UPI came about. All that we’re doing is federate ID and Authentication. That’s it. That’s the most friction-full part but the least value-added part. We’re taking the pain away from here.
The journey with Amazon continued. Then, I got introduced to Govi, a founder of Perfios.
Perfios was about a tenth of our size today. We started going from 0 to 1 to 1 to 100 company. That journey started in 2019. Very quickly along the way, we found that this whole account aggregation piece, if we did it well and if you strategize well, could be a game-changer and a scale mechanism for our business.