Drive into the New Year with Harshil Mathur: Resilience, Tenet, and tennis top Razorpay founder’s to-do list for 2021
‘Any product that needs a manual to work is broken by default.’
On being asked about a quote to live by in 2021 and beyond, Co-founder and CEO of Razorpay, Harshil Mathur quotes Elon Musk. He says that this quote also happens to be his startup’s motto: “Our goal is to create usable products,” he adds.
Bengaluru-based Razorpay entered the unicorn club (startups valued at $1 billion), amidst the pandemic and for 2021, “Our priority is to maintain the growth that we saw this year, once the ecosystem goes back to pre-COVID levels,” Harshil tells YourStory, as a part of our Drive into the New Year series, powered by Mercedes Benz E Class.
Safety, productivity, and resilience made it to the fintech startup founder’s priority list of 2021.
Navigating the road ahead
“COVID-19 is far from over. Even when the vaccine comes out, it will take at least three to six months for it to be distributed far and wide. Safety continues to remain a strong priority,” Harshil says.
While Harshil is hopeful about the economy reviving and demand bouncing back to the pre-COVID-19 era, he believes a lot has to be learnt from the changes brought about by the pandemic. “A lot has changed during the pandemic, and we should carry forward these changes and not completely reverse to pre-COVID-19 era,” Harshil says.
Secondly, the unicorn founder says he would focus on being productive, and spend more time reading books. “I plan to grow a lot more this year,” he says.
He plans to focus on fitness. “I have lost touch with sports... As the world comes back to normal, I would like to give tennis a shot,” he says.
Harshil also wishes to go back to his habit of meditating, and the entrepreneur plans to splurge on a Euro-tour in 2021. “I do not believe in resolutions since most of us forget them after the first week into the new year,” Harshil jokes.
Professionally, he is mindful of the losses that some in his company had to sustain. And he wishes to keep those employees motivated and their morals high, the coming year.
Harshil’s story is that of patience, hard work and resilience. In an earlier conversation with YourStory, the founder had revealed that he was rejected by 100 banks during the initial days of starting Razorpay.
To this, he says that irrespective of the setbacks and challenges, entrepreneurs should not lose hope. “Focus on the problem at hand. Focus and hard work is the solution to every crisis,” he adds.
Harshil believes that companies should always solve customer problems. “Everything else — funding, hiring the right talent, and marketing, will take care of themselves. Focus on solving for the customer,” he adds.
He advises entrepreneurs to maintain a schedule, have strong priorities of what matters at what level, and keep oneself organised by taking notes. “Throwing things around in the calendar does not help...maintain a to-do list,” he adds.
2020 in the rearview mirror
For Harshil, 2020 was a mix of both highs and lows. From a business perspective, however, the pandemic was almost another demonetisation moment for fintech players. Digital payments saw rapid growth and Razorpay leveraged on this to attain the unicorn status.
The fintech startup raised $100 million in its Series D funding round, and announced that it will be hiring an additional 500 employees in 2021. With the fresh round of funds, Razorpay aims to build deeper tech products and solutions. “While that did not change much (for the company), it was a strong recognition of growth that we saw in the last five years,” he says.
However, social distancing made celebrating the company’s success, among other things, a challenge.
Taking a look back at his 2020 journey, as a part of YourStory’s Drive into the New Year series, powered by Mercedes Benz E Class, Harshil says his biggest learning was resilience.
Initially, when the pandemic began, everyone feared the economical and structural changes that it would bring along with it. “But our business did well because of our resilience — we were able to get our act together and focus, and were able to come out of it better than we had hoped for,” he says. And because of this, it is difficult for Harshil to recall a ‘failure’ from 2020.
Like celebrations, the unicorn founder had to let go of his business travels as well. “I used to travel at least two days a week...While it is saving a lot of time, it is a very different change,” he adds.
For all the time that Harshil saved for the lack of travel, he utilised it to try his hand at cooking, and reading more. Harshil regrets having spent the initial months of the lockdown on watching Netflix every time he was bored, “I am changing that and spending a lot more time on reading,” he adds.
Harshil’s top picks
Speaking on reading more, Harshil’s favourite book this year was Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It by Christopher Voss and Tahl Raz. And his favourite show was Scam 1992 - The Harshad Mehta Story.
“It was really interesting and I hope to read the book on Scam 1992 to know more about it,” he says.
The fintech guru plans to continue living by the Y Combinator motto: “Make something people want.”
He says that as long as an entrepreneur is building something that people need, there will always be a way to create business opportunities around the product.
Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta