[TechSparks 2020] If there was a book on my journey, I would name it ‘Zero to Zerodha’, says Nithin Kamath
India’s largest brokeragejourney is awe-inspiring and different in every way. Valued at over a billion dollars today, the decade old fintech unicorn has always bootstrapped and never raised capital.
In a virtual live fireside chat with Shradha Sharma, Founder and CEO, YourStory, at TechSparks 2020, Nithin Kamath, Co-founder and CEO, Zerodha, said:
“I like the freedom that bootstrapping gives me. There are many variables in the trading business which are not in my control, and to give a projection to that is completely impossible. With bootstrapping the business, I have the freedom to focus on what I can control and what I can build in the business. I don’t need to chase growth.”
The online brokerage platform was started in 2010 when Nithin, who had been trading in stock markets since he was 17-years-old, felt the need for such a platform. Nithin and his brother, Nikhil Kamath, started Zerodha operations by focusing on day traders. Today, the stock brokerage platform has evolved to include long-term investors and millennials.
A strong customer obsession
Over the years, the brothers have taken the bootstrapped company to a massive scale with zero external funding. Nithin added that one of the main reasons he was able to build and scale the business was by focusing on customers.
Citing an example, Nithin said, “On our platform Kite, we have built a feature called ‘Nudge’. This feature stops customers when they are making a mistake, and generally that is not good for a business. If I were to equate this to an ecommerce business, it is like telling a customer please don’t buy the phone worth Rs 1 lakh, your finances can’t handle it, and instead buy one of Rs 40,000. You are not making the customer spend less, because we want to build that trust with the customer. We constantly think of them.”
He said, in a world where everyone is trying to make a buck, if you help others, you stand out.
Nithin Kamath at his 'Zen Zone' - where the CEO destresses after an action-packed day at Zerodha.
A journey focussed on doing what you love
Nithin said while everyone can see Zerodha’s 10-year journey, not many know it has been a journey of 23 years. He has always been a broker, and trading and the stock business is what he understands best, he said.
While he started trading when he was 15, by the time he completed his engineering, he accumulated quite a lot of money, only to lose it all. Between 2001 and 2002, Nithin lost close to Rs 5 lakh. While it was a big sum of money for a teenager, it didn’t stop him from trading. “There is a science to it. I knew I would make up the money,” he said.
Many would have stopped or given up, but for Nithin it was different. He explained the 23-year survival is about doing what one loves.
“The outcomes can be different for different people. You can’t control the outcome. But doing what you love helps you get success,” said Nithin.
Nithin said he then started working at a call centre during the night and continued to trade in stocks during the day to build his trading capital. This went on for a couple of years until he met an American HNI, who gave him a cheque and asked him to manage his money.
“The more you chase a money goal, the more the goal post keeps shifting. You are always in an unsatisfied zone. It is about not bothering about money, and focus on what I love to do. And bootstrapping gives me that freedom,” said Nithin.
Answering a question on what he would name the book on his journey, Nithin immediately said he would call it - Zero to Zerodha.
TechSparks - YourStory's annual flagship event - has been India's largest and most important technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship summit for over a decade, bringing together entrepreneurs, policymakers, technologists, investors, mentors, and business leaders for stories, conversations, collaborations, and connections that matter. As TechSparks 2020 goes all virtual and global in its 11th edition, we want to thank you for the tremendous support we've received from all of you throughout our journey and give a huge shoutout to our sponsors of TechSparks 2020.