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Razorpay Was Initially Supposed To Be A Social Crowdsourcing Project — Founder Harshil Mathur Reveals

Razorpay Was Initially Supposed To Be A Social Crowdsourcing Project — Founder Harshil Mathur Reveals

Harshil Mathur spoke to Ajey Gore, operating partner (technology) at Sequoia India & SEA, during a fireside chat at The Makers Summit 2022

We were building a crowdfunding platform in the beginning, said Mathur

Out of the 42 startups that became unicorns last year, around 35 companies used Razorpay’s services, according to Mathur

Bengaluru-headquartered Razorpay, the most-valued fintech powerhouse in India, might have been working in a different space instead of developing digital payment solutions for internet-first businesses. Speaking at The Makers Summit 2022 by Inc42, the fintech unicorn’s cofounder and CEO, Harshil Mathur, revealed that he and Shashank Kumar were building a social crowdfunding project in 2014. But their focus shifted when the duo found that integrating payments with online platforms was a huge issue, and most companies struggled to cope with it at the time.

In a fireside chat with Ajey Gore, operating partner (technology) at Sequoia India & SEA, Mathur spoke candidly about the company’s journey, operations and winning culture.

“We wanted to build something that would enable people to fund and help others in distress. And when we started building it, we had to integrate payments there. That was when we realised how complicated it was for a startup, a young company, to accept online payments,” recalled Mathur.

“We approached a lot of institutions, banks and others, but they had too many requirements. For example, they wanted to visit our office. However, no startup has an office on Day 1. Many of them operate from a startup garage in the beginning. As for us, we were not even in India while building this side project. But we started digging it further.”

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The cofounders discussed the payments issues on Facebook groups like Bengaluru Startups and Pune Startups. Soon they realised that digital payment was a critical issue for most startups.

“You can’t have a video conference or interact on social media without the internet. Similarly, you can’t have commerce on the internet without payment integration. Payment is the backbone of commerce.”

Mathur and Kumar were batchmates at IIT-Roorkee. After graduation, Kumar started working for Microsoft in Seattle while Harshil Mathur worked for Schlumberger, Mumbai. However, both kept tinkering with various ideas to build upon. This led to their initial project of building a crowdfunding platform that later evolved into Razorpay.

“Out of the 42 startups that became unicorns last year, around 35 companies used our services,” said Mathur.

It is worth noting that the company turned profitable in FY21 and clocked a net profit of INR 7 Cr on a standalone basis.

Although Razorpay was started as a payment gateway platform, it has branched out into SME payroll management, banking, lending, insurance and more. The startup claims to have onboarded more than 8 Mn businesses across its platforms, including Indian startup giants such as Ola, CRED, Swiggy and Zomato. It also counts Facebook India as a client and recently collaborated with Twitter to add a tipping feature for Indian users.

Asked what led to the fintech behemoth’s quick rise and success, Harshil Mathur said it all depended on “trust and transparency” and the company’s impeccable culture and core values.

Last year, Razorpay bagged $375 Mn in a Series F round from Lone Pine Capital, Alkeon Capital and TCV, among others, at a valuation of $7.5 Bn, making it the highest valued fintech startup. It entered the unicorn club in 2020 after raising $100 Mn from Singapore’s GIC and Sequoia Capital, among others.

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