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In this episode of Banking & Beyond at RBL Bank, catch Manish Patel, CEO & Founder, Mswipe in a candid conversation with Rajeev Ahuja, Executive Director, RBL Bank, as he takes us through his multifaceted entrepreneurial journey. Tune in to know, how Manish launched Mswipe on a service-based business model, how merchant behaviour is evolving over the past few years, impact of the pandemic, his recent industry-first launch enabling zero MDR & zero rentals to merchants and who does Manish look up to for inspiration.



Transcript:

Rajeev Ahuja

Hi, everyone, I have a really, really great pleasure in welcoming Manish Patel, Co-founder of one of India’s most exciting FinTech employees. And I don’t think Mswipe needs an introduction, but I’m sure as we do our conversation, you’ll figure out what Manish has been building and how he has evolved over the last, I’d say nine years since the founding of Mswipe. And it’s also a distinct personal pleasure because I’ve known Manish now for seven years. And both as a friend and as a business partner, and it’s been a very inspiring seven years for me just learning how dogged and focused He is and how M swipe has been, and we hope we can get some of those. Those insights into what drives Mswipe and Manish in the in the FinTech world, in the merchant acquiring world Manish first of all, welcome to power conversation RBL. This is a platform, as I said, where we, where we get founders of young companies and talk about their life journey, their business journey, with a view to sharing some of the learnings, ups and downs with a wider audience so that all of us can learn from your experiences and hope to build something of our own. Welcome Manish.

Manish Patel

Rajeev, thanks so much for the glowing and very generous introduction. Not sure I completely deserved but thank you.

Rajeev Ahuja 

Well, I’m sure the world will find out that you truly deserve this and more. But let me let me go back Manish. And you know, you had a very interesting, professional upbringing. And I say you’re a doctor by by, by your training and education. Yes. And, and then you went into several startups, and maybe just walk us briefly through them? And then what was the spark for Mswipe? I mean, usually, most of you have this one moment or a series of moments where you just believe that this is, why the hell isn’t it happening. And that probably leads to an idea. And obviously, all of us get that in a morning shower, but very few of us seldom take it to the next level. We would like to understand, what did you do to take it to the next level?

Manish Patel

Sure.  so, yes. Ready, this is this is my turn, I say fourth, nature. You know, I started out post my qualification as a physician, I just decided that, that that word wasn’t for me. Where I set up a distributorship for alcoholic beverages it started out with, with distributing draft beer, it’s just that it wasn’t available in the way most stores in the world would want it to be served, which is fresh draft beer. And I saw that as an opportunity and use that as a to establish a liquor distribution business, which I ran for almost about 18 years. And enroute, I also ventured into, into setting up medical claims processing business, for US based physicians, this is the closest I’ve come to, to, to my education, post graduate post graduating, you know, I set it up with with some of my med school buddies, who were themselves witnessing like midlife crisis and they said they wanted to do something else. And you know, that that that turned out to be moderately successful, we landed up you know, selling the business. I set up a you know, as downstream expansion for, for our alcohol distribution business, I set up a specialty wine and beer, retail business, you know, the objective there was to try and try and change how, you know, wine, especially was being retailed in, India at that time, you know, everything was typically your liquor shops that would sell wine across the counter. And, you know, while we took great care in terms of, producing or our partners to take care of producing great wine, and we took great care distributing it, the last mile was broken, and we thought the best way to bring about changes to spruce the competition and you know, so set up a, retail business. It was this retail business that actually led me to the, to the payment business Incidentally.  So, when I set up this retail business. Till then, you know, my, my business journey was, was largely dealing with businesses and, payments were oblivious, for me getting paid was getting a check from the people we supplied. And, you know, as, as a retailer, I first realised that, I needed to collect payments, besides cash from our customers, and, cards was the only prevalent other digital means for accepting payments as merchant. And I was, should I say, rudely surprised, or shocked when Union Bank, my banker for all my life simply said that, this is not a service that we even provide to our customers. Then it didn’t take really a shower or, or, you know, very long for me to figure out that, unfortunately, the banking community hadn’t done a very good job in enabling, a core tenant of the financial services ecosystem, which is, you know, payments for small merchants, especially small regions in this country, right. You know, the space that is that is essentially the acceptance that the merchant acceptance space was dominated by, by four large banks who can teach HDFC, AXIS, ICICI, SBI bank, and they will largely not selling acquiring service, they were selling a banking service, right there. They were, firmly focused on pushing merchants to a full fledged banking service using payments as a hook. And, you know, everything was wrong. You know, I’m talking about 2010 when I first looked at the space, you know, landline telephony was eclipsed by mobile telephony, right. So, I mean, clearly, you know, the last mile in terms of just connectivity wasn’t working, yet every single terminal in the country was a landline terminal. The terminals themselves were antiquated technology, right. and it was, it was quite bizarre, where, you know, I walked into a big bazaar at that time, and they had the the 250, dollar ingenico verifone machine to process card payments, but, you know, when when you go to a corner store, a small Kirana shop, they have the same machine, clearly the, the needs of this Kirana versus the need of Big Bazaar are very, very different.

It was just a trip to Nasik, where, where I think the deal was sealed, right. I mean, I just decided, during that trip to stop by at 8-10 different merchant locations. And then just ask them if they had, any means of accepting digital payments, and if not, why, right, and I came from a conventional belief, you know, everyone I spoke to, some banker friends, etc, they said, India is a cash economy, aise hi chalega. it’s not about anything, it’s just about how people want to be, and I said, I, as, as a, as a retailer, I want to get paid, right? I’m not worried about how the customer is paying you, in fact, you know, the logic was that, you know, ultimately as a retail, I want to sell goods, and I want to get paid, if the customer is saying, you know, come home deliver goods and pick up money, I will do that. So why would I not accept payments at my shop? Or digitally if that’s how the customer actually wanted to pay? And to test that I took this little trip and you know, met about 8-10 merchants? And the answer was very, very clear. It was fundamentally a technology and a cost problem. most of the merchants said a basic thing at that time, saying, it’s not about us not wanting to accept payments, we will definitely do it. First of all, connectivity sucks, right? So I mean, I don’t have a landline. or even if I have a landline, it’s, It doesn’t work for two months in a year when it rains or things like that, and I can’t have a tool that that I do business with, which is unreliable. And the second one was, simple things like electricity. We need something that runs 24 x 7, just because powers gone doesn’t mean my machine can’t work. And that’s when I decided, I said that is clearly a problem of, of this not being core to, anyone’s business, especially Banks and I decided to set up MSwipe,  So the core goal was to enable small and mid sized businesses in the country to be able to accept card payments, initially, and then of course, increasingly digital payments. And, you know, help them do this with innovative technology, where connectivity in the last mile was was wireless, you know, the terminals were small bit for India, cost effective, you know, had had long battery life, and all the things that are relevant for for India.

Rajeev Ahuja

It’s interesting, and I know that this is something, the first thing you mentioned, when we met seven years ago that I’m, I’m a partner for the merchants and merchants are my primary customers. And in your opening comments, you made a few references to banks, pushing their banking services Verifone, Ingenico building technology, which was going to be for the global audience, landline versus mobile, power, which was a big requirement for a landline driven PoS. And I think all of this, if you saw from the perspective of a bank, and you know, let me be honest, we tried doing merchant acquiring, when we started RBL, in 2011, we fell flat on our face. Because, you know, we were the 10th guy trying to do it. And frankly, you know, we didn’t have any axe to go and create a differentiation, but we didn’t think like you did that, look, there’s a big gap. And you know, I can attack it differently. And I think one of the things I’d like to understand is that when you looked at this and said, Wow, I mean, you know, these are big banks, who’ve been doing it for 15-20 years, they have the muscle, they have the money, they have the cross-sell of other services, how am I ever going to make money, just by focusing on a very simple, very small sliver of service. And, not being that way capitalised. And it’s a, young marketplace. Looking back eight, nine years, obviously, a lot of water has flown, this industry has grown, but I’m sure at that stage when you were, in spite of your entrepreneurship zeal, what were the issues which were going through your head in the first couple of years, because you know, digital and things were still very early in 2011 and 2012.

Manish Patel

Absolutely. Right. I mean, there were no smartphones, when we launched, right, I mean, our swiper so as it was called, essentially worked with, Symbian phones, I remember, our first application that we wrote was, was designed to work on the S 40 platform of Nokia, and worked only with Nokia phones. So you’re absolutely right. But, you know, at the end of the day, India, India is a pyramid? Yeah, I mean, look at the market, right, the market is essentially a pyramid with, three clear segments, right. And I think that’s even true today. I mean, I remember very clearly drawing this out a long time ago. And, and saying that, you know, on the top, at the top of the pyramid, you have, all the large, you know, offline retail stores, that these are essentially either national brands, regional brands, or just local city brands. So, they’ve been, they have a good business footprint, you know, they have a physical presence. And these guys never really faced with a problem, right. I mean, they were the prime audience for the banks to essentially go after. For the banks this was their target audience, so as to speak, that the next layer was, essentially and, you know, at that point in time, with this, there’s no way for us to triangulate the exact numbers, but we estimated that to about to be about a million or 1.2 billion, physical presence of physical stores. The next layer was, smaller shops like these are what we call as not the high street shops, but the, side street shops, they’re on the high street, but they’re in the side alley, you know, these are businesses that are absolutely just single shop single owner or at best to two shops owned by an owner and this form essentially a large part of The retail community or the retail business or the retail industry, in the country, these were physical shops, they were only driven shops. And, many years later, we ran a survey, and we’re shocked to find that almost 65% of these are owner owned shops. And this in our estimate formed about, you know, between eight to 10 million in the country, they were not large enough for banks to provide services, services that, that they wanted to provide free in order to get banking business, right. So that, that was that was that was the gap that we essentially saw and went after. And then, you know, there was this whole underbelly of, of what we call as micro businesses, and this is your, vendor on the street, a guy who’s, who generally did not have a permanent place of business or had a semi permanent place of business, something that, that we could not really ascertain, but he was there doing some commercial activity. And this, you know, in our estimates is anywhere from, you know, 25 to 30 million in country, it is this number that essentially stacks up to that, you know, 40 odd million, you know, retailers or, you know, businesses that that everyone talks about. And, you know, we were very clear that we didn’t really want to go off to the top and we couldn’t compete with the banks. You know, who offered, almost everything free, no, charges for use of the terminals. no MDR. And, the micro merchants made no sense for us to address anyway, we didn’t have a solution, or we couldn’t find a viable solution for us to, to commercially, provide them a service. And hence, decided to focus on the eight to 10 million merchants, which is a large enough market. And I think that remains true for the terminal business entity.

We made clear from day one, right, at the end of the day, we wanted to make money, like any commercial enterprise, and we just decided to charge our customers for services, which initially, people thought we were quite foolish. When banks were giving things away free, why should you be charging for it? But, the reality was that there was this whole segment of customers that nobody was addressing, nobody has ever asked whether they will be willing to pay for it. And I think that worked out well, for us, whichever way you do the math, right. I mean, at the end of the day, if you were to look trying to monetize on MDR, it’s, a tough battle, I mean, you will land up making 10 basis points on a transaction, if your merchant ends up doing even 30,000 transactions a month, you basically get 30 bucks, right? You can’t support a network, or a merchant, at that unit level, 30 bucks, it’s not even gonna pay for SMS fees. So there had to be alternate means for monetization. And we always decided to charge a platform usage fee. just flat fee that that merchants had to pay for, for using our platform and services. And, you know, we’ve stuck to that model, right from day one, right? We haven’t ever deviated from that, you know? Yes, it’s been tough when we started out. It was difficult, to convince customers. But over time, you know, we, found that there is a segment of customers who value services, and they will pay for it, because they actually need it.

Rajeev Ahuja

How has the segment which you’re dealing with, their behaviours changed over the last five years, and I’m talking about, one is the advent of the smartphone, a lot of e commerce around, a lot of increased usage of debit and credit cards, UPI, and then Demonetization, and so many, you know, environmental, changes, have these impacted the merchant positively confuse them, and where does your relationship with them stand now?

Manish Patel

You know, some of them have been, excellent tailwinds. You know, Demonetization for one was, just a very strong, uptake for us. UPI, which has been the second one, which has led to the third one, which is essentially everyone clamouring for zero MDR. have been, I’d say largely the, the two or three large events followed by COVID, which is not payment related, but still affects the payment business, especially. Now, so I mean, we’ve seen a lot of these, these events, this along with, a big shift in consumer behaviour, typically, you know, ultimately, at the end of the day, a god is nothing but a payment instrument, right, it’s, it’s an identifier as to who you are, and links back into your, your store or money or your store of credit. And, this is essentially been replaced by the smartphone, that’s exactly what what UPI has managed to everything that you don’t really need another piece of plastic to identify who you are, or tap into your store money. your smartphone will do it for you. And, you know, there’s always been these changes, but honestly, at the end of the day, the way I look at it is, technology will continue to change, what what doesn’t change is the merchants ability to understand, navigate and, get services for him to be able, to focus on what he does best, which is essentially sell goods, right? I mean, if you’re there as a partner to help him navigate all of these changes, and, and make sense of it, and at a cost and a price that that that works for him. You know, is essentially always been the primary business item. At the end of the day, when we started out when he had no terminal, we were providing him with a service which allowed him to, to accept payments, which he previously didn’t, which means we helped him further his business, you know, along comes UPI or contactless payments, or tap and pay or tomorrow Samsung Pay and Apple Pay and Google pay. Right? If we are going to eat, you know, be there by his side, help him navigate this chaos, right. And at an at a cost that that makes sense, is something that will win in the long run, always win. And if you were to look at, you know, all of this chaos, in fact, is is is an advantage because, you know, pretty much like, you know, when if you to trace back the evolution of the card payment industry, you actually had different card networks that that grew, you know, very rapidly as Visa, MasterCard, discover, American Express and, and, you know, JCB and you know, various various networks. In the good old days, you actually had a merchant problem, the merchant problem was, he had to have five machines on his on his desk, one for visa, one for MasterCard, one for American Express, etc. The industry realised because of merchant pressure that I can’t be, I can’t be handling this right at the end of the day, you need to give me a solution that’s viable, if you want me to accept your network out, you know, payment instruments on your network. And I believe the same thing is going to happen. Now, you know, yes, there isn’t there is a transient period of instability, right? Where things are new, you know, there are different players trying to solve that differently. But if you are, if you’re smart enough, and you’re able to, see the medium, don’t picture you, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that a merchant just wants to get paid. Now, if the same platform is going to help them accept everything, you know, at the most reasonable price. He’s definitely going to gravitate to that.

Rajeev Ahuja

So you know, I think these are very, interesting principles, because I agree with you that we get over-awed by the technology. And as, as founders or as bankers, we believe technology drives business, actually, it is what technology does, which helps us deliver a better value a better service, a deeper and faster service. And your north star has always been or your anchor has always been the merchant, and is whatever my merchant needs, I’m gonna solve it, solve for the merchant. And I think that’s clearly to me, more of a customer play than just I’m a technology company. How, has that core evolved for you in terms of expansion of your services? For much I know that almost 12-15 months ago, you launched a merchant app platform. And what was the trigger for that? And how’s that doing?

Manish Patel

You’re absolutely right. I mean, for for, for me, personally, is always been a focus. I mean, the merchants been the focus, right? I mean, technology is an enabler. For for me to provide a service to that merchant. Can the terminal which is essentially a piece of hardware on someone’s desk, do more than just accept payments? And the objective was that it was essentially the smart operating system that allowed mobile phones to do more. And if the same smart, smart operating system runs on a terminal, will it allow merchants to do more? And that is what prompted us to launch a smart POS terminals. We had a choice at that time whether we should essentially allow the Google Play Store to run on our terminals, or should we do something different? And, again, when we spoke to merchants? Yes. Did they know that there was a google play store? Yes. But the apps there were largely meant for consumers and not businesses. And if we were to make this relevant for our customers, what we need, what we needed to have was a platform that allowed access to our applications that allowed merchants to do more with the terminal. And hence, we decided to launch what we call the money store, is our own app store. That that runs on our terminals, we now have over 100 well curated Apps for Business, that that runs on our that run that run on our smart POS terminals. I got to kind of elaborate on that you imagine this every time I walk into see a small restaurant, do that before COVID start, but you know, what do you see at a typical typical shiv sagar in the corner, right? I mean, what you really saw on his desk was either a computer, or, or a register, which he used to generate an invoice, that’s all that it actually ended up doing. You know, and when when it was time to pay, it was either cash or, or a card machine that came to my, to my table. And you know, if you were to look at carefully what what also emerged was, was his other animal on that cashier’s desk, which was either a smartphone or, or a tablet that was dedicated for the business side, because ultimately, they needed to aggregate orders from from zomato and swiggy. And, you know, various other things that they landed up doing on that Android Android device. And, the thought process, again, was very clear. If we enabled the merchant do all of this, which is emulate a billing app that runs on the terminal payments, absolutely. Or also run all of those apps that he was running for his business need on a separate device on the terminal, the terminal then starts becoming the hub, or the central central hub for him to do a lot of these activities, and that is what we’ve tried to do with with the money store and our smartphones.

Rajeev Ahuja

I mean, you you’re chatting about COVID, and what has COVID done in initial period. And give the audience a sense, what are you seeing in terms of adoption by merchants across various segments, on on electronic payment products, which has been a really big change in COVID.

Manish Patel

COVID, you know, was kind of a rude shock, along with, with some relief, a large part of our merchants just stopped transacting the moment lockdown, was enforced. I think that was the shock. The, silver lining was that the internet was a go down, right. I mean, you still had Kiranas, and pharmacies and hospitals and doctors, clinics and path labs, that, that continue to use our platform, and products and services. And that’s where we essentially saw business increase. Of course, in the initial days, the challenges were How do you provide services to customers who are locked down, but I think that’s where we very rapidly evolved in terms of just, better platforms. And it was it was a one way street, it is always a two way street. earlier in India, you know, no matter what the size, they were just used to doorstep service, whether it’s someone selling them goods, you know, they have a distributor salesman that comes in sales and products, right at their doorstep, right could be the smallest of a small guy, even a pan wallah has a has a candy distributor that comes and delivers stuff doing and, you know, the same thing goes for for all of the services. But at least for the first time, you know, merchants will open to the idea of remote support. And that in a way over the medium term is a fantastic behavioural shift for us to to benefit from right because we practically we can solve a lot of problems on phone and and on our smartPoS, tablets, for example remotely. And and you know, why we we’d love to do that. You know, because it just helps us become more efficient. You know, we are able to better To control the quality of service that we deliver to our customers, because ultimately, you know, all of these are our electronic platforms that we will try these services through. So yeah, I mean, it was it was, it was a difficult time.

Because we had to make all of these transitions, we have to make them very, very fast, but also helped us be the most innovative, that we ever been, like we’ve launched, three very, very innovative products during this time, that we think, you know, are again, industry changing. The first one was, was our Pay by linkservice for small merchants that enabled merchants to use our terminal app, now to be able to send out a short link, by SMS or WhatsApp, the way the customer could then essentially pay them. This meant, of course, that wasn’t anything new. This was this was something that, a lot of other players were doing. But everyone was I mean, not anyone was not everyone was really doing it for small motors. And and this is what we essentially brought to market, we’ve seen tremendous success, and we continue to continue recall that. But I think whether the key differentiator is in the technology stack, I think, you know, we are the the most integrated technology stack in the payment industry. We believe in the country, I mean, everything from the terminals, we own the terminals, we design them, whether it’s the payment gateway, it’s the switch or going directly to network, right, I mean, we are we are a fully integrated versus a competitor that would essentially need to buy terminals from third parties, which are generic terminals, you know, yes, they’d have the gateway, but switching, which is which is extremely, expensive, is always outsourced. So I think we have, we had an integrated stack, which allowed us to quickly launch the pay by link service, we followed this up with, with what we call the money back card, you know, in digital times, or I mean, in COVID times, you know, as digital adoption, you know, has has rapidly increased. While we’ve always enabled merchants to accept payments. You know, we now had a product that enable merchants to to also make payments using using some of our products, which was, which is super simple. It’s, you know, we call it the money back card, you know, the money back card is, is given to all our merchants who have a terminal, and they can opt for, settlement of their, card transactions, or the terminal transactions, either into their bank account of their choice, which has always been the case, or, into the money back card, whatever they put in the money back card. And they spend that money, either online or offline, because it’s an open loop card. It’s powered by Rupee. we give them a cash back, you know, which is essentially some part of the, of the MDR that we receive as an issuer. Yeah. And I think what’s been most unique is we now for the first time taken in an acquiring platform and issuing platform and combined into a single product that we call The Bank Box, right? The bank box is, a neat little package that includes our terminal, a QR code, and, and a card, whereby a merchant can essentially achieve what we believe is Nirvana. Right? He doesn’t pay for anything, right? He doesn’t pay for, for our use of our platform on an ongoing basis. He doesn’t pay MDR, right. All he pays is a one time fee to sign up for the for the programme. And once he has that he can, he can, he essentially pays no rent, we managed to do that. because of the work that we put in two years before where we really managed to compress the cost of our terminals to ridiculous low levels. And we are now getting the benefit of that where, you know, by by payment of a very nominal one time fee, the merchant doesn’t have to pay for, for the terminal for life. And, if he opt for settlement into the card, now he doesn’t pay MDR. Right. So this is our way of, of essentially, should I say levelling, the playing field playing field for the merchant between cash and digital payments, right.

Rajeev Ahuja

I mean, it’s brought us at a very interesting juncture. COVID clearly has raised the inflexion point. But you have today, now, banks are no longer as formidable as they were maybe 10 years ago in the merchant business. I mean, they’re still important, but you have well funded, I wouldn’t call them startups but behemoths, you know, Paytm, phone pay, who is raring to go, you know, and then they’re probably a few more on the horizon. How do you hold yourself when you think about your journey the next 5-10 years and, and is still going to be, let me continue focusing on my merchant and his or her issues or problems and needs. And things will solve. Obviously, we have to be agile and we have to be tech focused. But yeah, it’s a very different world. From 10 years ago, when you were looking at a backup, a lot of gaps.

Manish Patel

Rajeev, it’s not that, HDFC has ever had a smaller balance sheet or aggression, in terms of going after, after any business. Now, the difference is, does it make economic sense, right. At the end of the day, I believe we operate in, a capitalist free markets. And the core tenet of that is, you have to make money, right, at the end of the day, it has to be for profit. The second one is, I don’t think India is a winner take all market. And that’s been proven time and time again, it’s not a winner take all market. And lastly, is the capital that drives all of these businesses comes from the mothership, right of all, capital markets, and there, its profit, that is the, the sole, the sole driver of, everything you give me sometimes you get blindsided by, events or, or periods of time where you lose focus on the core tenets, and that is you have to make money, at the end of the day, you know, we work very hard to ensure that we are the lowest cost player, and at the end of the day has to whatever we do has to make money if somebody else is doing the same thing. Either they’re far more efficient than us, all in all, then they just decided that they don’t want to make money, right? I mean, and I can’t base my business on, on whatever their guiding principles are. I mean, our business is good, it’s a large market, you know, ultimately, India, even today has $4 million versus 18 million China or, or, you know, about a similar number in the US. You know, there are there are about 3 million terminals in Turkey, you know, that, that itself shows that, you know, in a country like India at 4 million terminals is a lot of room to grow. This ultimately is physical businesses at street fight like, this is not a this is not a carpet bombing exercise where you can essentially take someone out, right, you have to walk the streets, you have to connect with the merchants, you have to provide them service, you can’t do this remotely no matter what you do. And that’s what we essentially end up doing. And we believe that we have to we have the best technology, we have the best cost structure. And there is a market right and be able to take a certain share of that market. and I believe we have all the tools and the determination and the grit and an adequate capital for us to to continue to grow our business with others do something bigger, better? Maybe what I guess time will tell at the end of the day, bigger, in my mind is you know commercial enterprises profit, right? It’s nothing. Yes. Is return on capital.

Rajeev Ahuja

So, Manish, you’ve said a few words, which I rarely hear from founders and entrepreneurs. And I guess that’s part of the way things have been built up. But you mentioned profit several times, would you care to share with us where you are in your profit making journey or loss minimization journey?

Manish Patel

Um, no, in fact, u know, one of the one of the nicest things that happened to us is during COVID, all these efficiencies then immediately merge, right? I mean, as, as our growth costs fell away, you know, we’ve become, we immediately broke even, in fact, we broke even in March, and we broke even on nearly broke even every single month since then, you know, during this COVID period, so, burns essentially stopped. You know, we have more cash in the bank today than we had before. Right. So when, so it’s just helped us remain focused on, on some of the things that that we did lose focus, to be very honest, 18 months before this, because sometimes, it’s just human for us to do, to lose track of, your core goal, when there is a lot of noise around you. Fortunately, for us, we didn’t get carried away that far that we couldn’t, recover. So yes, we’ve had some growth related costs, maybe some excessive growth related costs over the last 18 months before COVID. But, that I think, has been the biggest boon for us, it’s just helped us stop, reflect and say, Hey, guys, you know, what, what are we really doing? You know, and, and what is that we really want to achieve? And it clearly wasn’t, burning investors money, it is essentially building a business, that’s a solid business that is, going to deliver value and return.

Rajeev Ahuja

What has inspired you over the last 10 years of this journey who do you turn to when the chips are down, when things are frustrating. What would you say is your inspiration?

Manish Patel

Three sources of inspiration, the first one is my investors, at the end of the day, like I said they have a wider view of the world. We as entrepreneurs get channeled into a kind of narrow channel as we pr4ogress and without that obsession you can’t be the best. You do get narrowed vision, that is where I lean on my investors. Our investors are our partners than just investors. If someones being backing you for anything over three years, they tend to become partners. Right. They are there and they will give you the best advice, Some of it may not be what you like but it’s the truth. You have to, weigh it.

The second one is the customer, they never lie and in India the customer will be brutal. They will tell you what they don’t like. You have to listen to your customers. The last one is largely driven by what is happening globally, whether we like it or not in the tech biz we are essentially in India, the implementers of the technology and not the inventors of tech. Whatever core innovations that actually occur are happening in the valley and some parts of Europe, whether we like it or not these tech influence how we operate and run our businesses. And we, if we don’t really keep a close eye on what’s happening there, you can’t really be ahead of the game in India. These are the 2-3 things are my go to sounding boards so to speak.

Rajeev Ahuja

Any parting comments to the budding entrepreneurs, aspiring to build business. over and above what you said.

Manish Patel

When I started my biz there was no venture capital, lot of my early biz were funded by debt and borrowing from friends and family. Till you were able enough to prove to the bankers to be able to be given capital. I have been very lucky, I have been able to transition to running biz which are funded by risk capital and not debt. This is now become tsunami, this makes you forget the core principles of commerce and biz that at the end of the day, you have a Balance Sheet, you have the P&L and you have a cash flow. One is a vanity, which is your balance sheet, then is P&L which is the sanity and then you have the cash flows which is the reality. You can’t lose track of any of these, lot of people get carried away with B/S but like I said B/s is just vanity, you have to be firmly focusses on vanity and reality.

Rajeev Ahuja

Nobody knew you as Manish Patel of Mswipe, they will think you are a banker. The way you are talking about it. Hey, Manish thank you so much, this has been a wonderful conversation. I am learning a lot more. I hope people listening to this will also take some interesting insight from your career, from your journey of building MSwipe. The ups and downs you had and some core themes of India is large market and not of winner take all, focus on customer’s customer’s customer, bring total cost of ownership down where you can battle any downs in the market, ultimately have a return on capital and be focused on reality and sanity of the biz i.e P&L and cash flows. Thank you for sparing your time with us today.

Manish Patel

Thank you for having me over. Thank you!

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