In conversation with Bipin Preet Singh, Founder & CEO, MobiKwik
How and when did you feel the need to start MobiKwik? What makes MobiKwik different from the other mobile wallet companies in the market?
In 2009 I was bored with my corporate job as a chip architect. Hardware did not excite me and as a next-level I thought of pursuing an MBA degree. My GMAT score was great. But I felt I would learn a lot more by running a startup and hence decided to ditch the MBA idea. The money that I would have otherwise spent as MBA fees at a top university in the US became the initial capital for my business.
What makes MobiKwik different from other players is our complete focus on the wallet business. While other players are venturing off in different directions, including e-commerce marketplace, we have always been busy building on the wallet experience for both users and our retail partners. This has resulted in us launching many ‘first-of-its-kind’ payment experiences in India. We were the first to allow ‘money transfer’ from one wallet to another. We were also the first player in the market to activate offline retail shopping through our association with WH Smith India.
How much iteration did it take from the initial idea to the current product? How did you get your first few customers?
While we did start off with the mobile wallet as a product, we also did some early experiments in different directions before settling down on that one idea that would define our business. We ran a payment gateway, developed an app store, and also briefly sold dongles online. But we saw a lot of early traction with the wallet and continued to work on it and expanded the business.
The first few users came through word of mouth and we utilized social media extensively for that.
What were the early days at MobiKwik like?
The first MobiKwik office was a room in my 3-BHK flat, comprising one table and chair. We expanded quickly to accommodate another table and couple of more chairs to make space for the two early employees who joined the team- one to run the operations and another to manage technology. We have come a long way now and recently moved into a swanky office in Gurgaon bustling with the energy of a team of around 250.
Was there anyone/anything who inspired you to manage MobiKwik the way you do, and to define the culture it has?
None really- it’s been a unique experience for me. We have a very open culture at MobiKwik- any of my 250 team members can walk up to anybody within the company to have a quick productive chat. We have taken pains to nurture an open culture at MobiKwik and the results so far have been very satisfactory.
Who’s your biggest competitor? What’s your strategy for gaining market share?
Our biggest competitor is the physical wallet that users carry in their pocket. We want to make them redundant as they are grossly inefficient. There’s so much more you can do with MobiKwik wallet that I foresee users ditching their physical wallet in the near future. In fact, even today some MobiKwik users tell us stories on social media of how they sometimes forget to carry their wallet, but do not miss it because they can make payments using MobiKwik wallet. Based on these experiences we recently launched a massive advertising campaign across TV, Radio, OOH, and Digital showcasing how MobiKwik is quickly doing away with the user’s need to carry a physical wallet.
What strategies do you use to acquire customers?
Initially we relied on word of mouth to acquire users. Thanks to the superlative product experience that MobiKwik delivered to users, we saw a lot of organic growth. It was only in 2014 that we set up a marketing team, who amplified user growth using digital as the medium. In 2015 we kick-started mass media campaigns, tapping into mediums such as TV, Radio, and OOH.
What do you see as the next great innovation in mobile wallets? How do you see MobiKwik being positioned in the next 5 years?
We are already making that innovation happen- payments at brick and mortar stores using mobile wallet. You can walk into any Café Coffee Day or WH Smith store and make payments for your purchases using MobiKwik wallet. No cash or card is required! This year we are focused on enabling MobiKwik wallet as a payment option across more than 1,00,000 brick and mortar stores. Pretty soon even your local kirana store would start accepting payments made via MobiKwik wallet.
In 5 years’ time, we envision that MobiKwik would become the default payment instrument in India replacing not only credit or debit cards, but also cash.
What has been your single biggest challenge in sourcing and retaining talent? What are the key qualities you look out for in a potential hire?
The quality that I look for in a candidate is the ability and the will to stretch himself or herself with respect to skills and hard work. Once that fundamental quality is in place, everything else can be achieved. The challenge, of course, has been to discover individuals who possess that quality- they are in short supply!
When you were growing up, what did you want to be?
What has gotten you this far?
Persistence. Quick & sharp learning
A tech gadget you can’t live without?
iPhone 6 Plus
What advice would you have for someone starting their own company?
Have confidence in yourself and gain the ability to learn quickly
How do you unwind and relax?
Games- xBox, play on iPhone. Also listen to music on iTunes