MobiKwik's Bipin Preet Singh on starting a mobile recharge platform to reaching over a 100M users as a digital wallet

In this week’s 100X Entrepreneur Podcast, Bipin Preet Singh, Co-founder and CEO of MobiKwik, recounts his journey of building MobiKwik, its growth and challenges as it emerges as a steady fintech startup eyeing the public markets.
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Fintech unicorn MobiKwik has been on the fringes of becoming a public company since it filed the Draft Red Herring Prospectus (DRHP) for the initial public offering (IPO) with Sebi in July last year. 

The startup has been operating in India’s fintech space for more than a decade now where co-founder Bipin Preet Singh feels that the fintech sector’s continuously evolving space keeps it going. India has produced the second-highest fintech startups in the last three years.

In a conversation with Siddhartha Ahluwalia, founder and host of 100x Entrepreneur, Bipin said that the tailwinds for such growth include the demographics of the young population, fast-growing economy, and technology where digitisation has become a strong mantra from top to bottom.

Start specific and narrow

How MobiKwik came to be a platform is a seemingly insignificant but amusing family story. The eldest of three children, Bipin never had to bother himself with household chores or running errands. 

However, after his two younger siblings went away for higher education and jobs, Bipin would be asked to recharge the household’s mobile numbers the old school way: run to nearby recharge shops and get top-ups of Rs 200 done.

“You go and give cash to the recharge shopkeeper and it takes 15 minutes of your time and energy. I thought, why can't this be done online? So that's the problem statement which transformed into a startup idea,” he recalls.  

While he soon developed a website that would allow people to recharge online via a desktop wallet, Bipin had the foresight that recharging was just a single use case. The platform added other kinds of bill payment services like satellite television recharge, electricity and landline bills, among others. Bipin regularly tracked TRAI data and had the early insight that mobile internet will transform India.

MobiKwik remained largely a bill aggregation platform till the mobile app was launched around 2013. In the startup’s second phase, it began adding online merchants that allowed users to pay on BookMyShow, MakeMyTrip, eBay, etc. and focused on making online payments easier for consumers. 

Over time, significant events such as demonetisation and the introduction of UPI led to stiff competition in the payments sector. 

Founded in 2009, MobiKwik now claims to be one of the largest mobile wallets and the largest Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) platform in India, boasting a network of more than 120  million registered users, 25.3 million pre-approved BNPL users and more than 3.4 million merchant partners.

In FY19, MobiKwik reported revenue of less than Rs 150 crore, which doubled to reach Rs 360 crore in FY20. 

The second wave of COVID-19 turned out to be a dampener, and Bipin says the following year became a balancing act with revenue shooting down in the first six months eventually reviving to Rs 300 crore in FY21. In FY22, the company clocked revenues of about INR 540 crore, recording 80 percent growth year over year. 

The lessons

To aspiring and young entrepreneurs in the current startup ecosystem where funding is more abundant, he advises that while it is good to be ambitious and think big, starting a company, and making it successful is full of risks where 98 to 99 percent do not survive. 

“Even after a seed round, there is a high fatality rate, in terms of who is going to get to Series A, and Series B, C, etc. Personally, I believe that it's better to have strong business traction at each stage,” Bipin added. 

Bipin notes that the first step towards profit was that one doesn’t get to profit directly until they fix unit economics. 

“I learnt a little bit from what's happening in the public markets and US-based tech startups. The idea is to grow without burning a lot of cash,” he said, adding that MobiKwik is now poised for further growth, upwards of 50 percent from last year.

While it will soon find the right time to go public, he remarks, “I think we've gotten the company to a scale and to a model where we know what works and where the margins are that we can continue to grow profitably.”

To know more, listen to the entire podcast here:

02:21 - What led him to founding MobiKwik?

09:00 - “You can’t build the platform on Day 1, the platform has to evolve.”

11:58 - Advice for early-stage entrepreneurs pitching to build a platform

14:27 - How did MobiKwik evolve as a platform? 

27:23 - What has transformed significantly in the last 1-2 years?

30:33 - Current revenue, profits, and scale 

36:25 - Is the economy currently going into recession?

38:11 - What kept him going for 13+ years?

40:33 - Tailwinds which are supporting Fintech in India

44:52 - Creating a mental model to build in markets with already existing large players

Edited by Anju Narayanan

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