[The Turning Point] How fintech unicorn MobiKwik was started to help mobile phone users make payments on-the-go

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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 IPO-bound digital payment startup MobiKwik.
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Gurugram-based fintech startup MobiKwik, which is planning to launch its initial public offering (IPO) this year, was started by husband-wife-duo Upasana Taku and Bipin Preet Singh in 2009. 

The couple decided to start up as they were not satisfied in their corporate career. What started as One MobiKwik Systems to offer small-ticket mobile recharges is now one of the largest IPO-bound digital payments companies in the country. 

MobiKwik claims to be having one million daily transactions across its network, which include digital wallets and services like mobile phone top-ups and utility bill payments. Over three million merchants are on its network and it serves over 107 million users.

The turning point

After finishing schooling from Surat, Upasana went to Punjab for her BTech and then flew to the US to pursue Management Science & Engineering from Stanford University. After her master’s, she donned many hats, ranging from marketing and outreach, to forecast and market research and worked in companies like PayPal and HSBC.

However, by 2008, she realised she no longer wanted to work in the corporate sector. In an earlier conversation with YourStory, she said the satisfaction was not there.

“I wanted to come back to India and contribute to the ecosystem back home,” she said.

Upasana returned to India by early 2009 and started networking. She learnt that a wallet like PayPal was unheard of in India as users couldn’t imagine a cashless world then. 

Serendipitously, during this time, she happened to meet Bipin Preet Singh through a mutual friend. An IIT Delhi graduate, Bipin had previously worked in companies like Intel, Nvidia, and Freescale. He was eager to startup in the same space too. 

Upasana Taku and Bipin Preet Singh, Co-founders, MobiKwik

While working at Freescale, he felt impatient and restless, he had shared in an earlier conversation with YourStory.

“I realised the job was not challenging enough, even though it paid well. Also, the idea of a gradual rise to managerial job did not appeal to me. I had two options - either do an MBA or start something on my own. I figured that starting up is cheaper and more fun,” he said.

Bipin Singh foresaw a future where people would start making use of their mobile phones to make their payments and started “One MobiKwik Systems” with the vision to create an online store where all the needs of mobile owners can be satisfied. These include three major verticals: Voice, Data and Applications. 

While Bipin had already taken the plunge with MobiKwik, Upasana was testing the waters and helping him with certain aspects of the business. Six months down, her confidence in the idea grew and MobiKwik had started gaining traction. So she joined MobiKwik full-time as its co-founder. 

No looking back

By late 2011, they were renting their first office in Dwarka, Delhi, that had five rooms. In September 2012, the company applied for RBI’s PPI licence and received it in July 2013.

The investor community didn’t fail to notice its growth. In 2014, their first round of funding was worth $5 million, which helped them move to a much larger office in Udyog Vihar, Gurugram, with over 50 employees. By then, they had expanded their payments network to many offline and online merchants, and the funding rounds kept going, and there has been no looking back. 

Taking the IPO route

The digital payments startup filed for an initial public offering in July to raise Rs 1,900 crore, its draft red herring prospectus (DRHP) showed. The IPO will reportedly launch in September this year.

The Gurugram-based startup had told YourStory in February that it was gearing up for an IPO this year, after clocking its highest-ever revenue in March 2020. But the pandemic pressured its bottomline, and the startup had to lower its revenue expectations to around Rs 400 crore, and a loss between Rs 40 crore and Rs 50 crore, Upasana told YourStory in the video interview.

Edited by Megha Reddy

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