The Turning Point: Founder Sampad Swain reveals how Instamojo went from a side project to a full-fledged payment platform
The Turning Point is a series of short articles that focuses on the moment when an entrepreneur hit upon their winning idea. Today, we look at payment platform Instamojo, an active financial services provider that is into logistics and lending, and enables MSMEs to build online stores.
Sampad Swain worked with ITC and Godrej before he began his entrepreneurial journey. After his stint at WanaMo.com, as Cofounder, Sampad took to blogging.
In 2010, the graduate from ISB, Hyderabad, started a private video newsletter as a part of his blog, InStartup.com. He would travel to various cities and interview entrepreneurs there.
“After the first four times, I realised it was an extremely difficult job. I wasn't getting paid!” Sampad says.
To keep himself motivated to do more, he decided to accept contributions from people. “I thought it would be cool even if people could contribute Rs 5 or Rs 10,” he says.
Determined to set up a system for his side project, Sampad was forced to do a reality check when he started speaking to other service providers. Accepting payments meant setting up a website, registering the company, and integrating with a payment gateway.
“Doing so much for a side project didn't make sense then,” he recalls.
He abandoned the project and moved into the founding team of DealsandYou, to work on the mobile ads network for SMBs.
Another door opens
In 2012, when the idea didn't fly as they had thought, Sampad discussed his side project with the co-founders of DealsandYou.
“My idea was to enable people to collect money from their friends and families by creating a short link and sharing it with them,” Sampad recalls. “It was simple and a lot of interesting things could be done on top of it,” he adds.
It is at that moment that what was essentially a side project became a full-fledged business.
In September 2012, Sampad, along with Akash Gehani and Aditya Sengupta, co-founded Instamojo, a payment platform for MSMEs to accept all kinds of payments and transfers.
The word Instamojo, meaning “instant magic”, was derived from Sampad's first project Instartup.com (which also has an “insta” in it). His love for Harry Potter was the source of magic or mojo here.
“We also went on to raise money and the rest, as they say, is history,” Sampad says.
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A touch of magic
While a payment gateway is a fantastic product for organisations and tech companies, India is a land of small businesses that are not technical.
“Our eureka moment was when we realised that this could potentially be a game changer for non-technical people who want to accept online payments without integration and website building,” he says.
In August last year, the startup revamped into an active financial services player, diversifying into providing logistics and lending products for MSMEs, MojoXpress and MojoCapital, respectively.
Instamojo now also enables MSMEs to build online stores, helping them to go digital. Till now, they have helped create more than 11,000 online stores.
Never a dull day
Recalling an interesting incident, Sampad says in late 2013, a teacher from Mysore wanted to sell UPSC tutorials or notes online. A known personality in his field, the educator wanted his notes to be accessible to students across the country and joined Instamojo.
"Whatever sales we were doing on a monthly basis, he did that the day he joined. And we thought he was a scamster!" Sampad says.
“He explained his model to us and did crores of businessin the first year itself. We were mind-blown,” he recalls.
Sampad says it is “for these moments” that the team continues to work on this venture.
This article is part of a series that highlights the turning point in a startup founder’s entrepreneurial journey.
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)
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