Drive into the New Year with Nithin Kamath: Health, family, and climate change top Zerodha founder’s 2021 priority list

By Debolina Biswas & Tenzin Pema|16th Dec 2020
Drive into the New Year is a YourStory series featuring leaders as they rev into 2021. The series, powered by Mercedes Benz E Class, offers you a view into how Indian changemakers plan to navigate the road ahead. Today, we have Nithin Kamath, Co-founder and CEO of Zerodha, in the driver's seat.
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When it comes to being a class apart in the Indian entrepreneurial arena, Nithin Kamath checks all the right boxes. His journey as the Co-founder and CEO of Zerodha, India's largest stockbroker, has been nothing short of inspiring. Having started down the entrepreneurial road in 2010, Nithin and his team took the path less travelled –  choosing to bootstrap his startup to unicorn status while disrupting the Indian broking space.

In life – as in business – Nithin is crystal clear about his top priorities for the road ahead in 2021. They are “health, family, and climate change,” he tells YourStory, as part of our Drive into the New Year series, powered by Mercedes Benz E Class.

For the millions who closely track Zerodha and its 41-year-old co-founder, Nithin’s top three priorities may come as no surprise. 

Fighting climate change

For example, Zerodha’s commitment to fighting climate change came into focus with the recent launch of Rainmatter Climate fund, which provides funding to startups and grassroots organisations working on climate change. 


The climate fund, which took shape in 2020 as an offshoot of Zerodha’s fintech fund Rainmatter, recently funded Terra.do, an online climate school that trains aspiring climate entrepreneurs, and Blue Sky Analytics, a startup that crunches massive amounts of satellite and other data to provide high-quality, historical, real-time and predictive environmental intelligence.

“With the Rainmatter Climate initiative, we will be supporting climate change startups and grassroot organisations and individuals working on climate change. I am super excited about it,” Nithin tells YourStory

Through this initiative, Nithin will also be focusing on reforestation and sustainable living with agro-forestry models in the new year.

Zerodha Nithin Kamath

Nithin Kamath, Co-founder and CEO, Zerodha

Family and health

Family and health also top the 2021 priority list for the founder of the world’s largest broker by trading volumes. 


And rightly so. The year 2020 was a busy one for Nithin on the work front. This year alone, Zerodha added more than 1.5 million new customers on its broking platform to become India’s largest stockbroker by active customers (2.4 million-plus). 

“We have more business than we anticipated this year, and catching up to that was a challenge,” he acknowledges. For this reason, Nithin wants to be “less distracted at work” in 2021 and to hone his multitasking skills.
Nithin Kamath, Zerodha

Nithin Kamath, Zerodha CEO and Co-founder

Also among Nithin’s most important commitments for 2021 are: 


  • Health: maintaining a strict diet and bringing his body fat level to single-digit levels
  • Family: spending more time with his family.


On the latter, Nithin offered us a sneak peek recently into how he’s already started to do that with his five-year-old son.  He tweeted a picture of his daily calendar that listed “spend 1-hour with Kiaan daily” as his 8 AM ritual. 

Travel 

Another “silver lining of 2020” for Nithin – which he’s keen to do more of in 2021 –  is travel. 

His travels this year, Nithin revealed recently, have all been to Indian properties with “amazing locations and great hospitality” –  something Nithin may likely do more of in the year ahead.  

In these travels – the locales of which appear set to include the sun and the sea – Nithin is determined to pick up his surf-board and ride a big wave or two in the new year. 


Apart from surfing, Nithin’s to-do lists include more podcasts and essential reading; his favourites from 2020 include Joe Rogan’s podcast and Yuval Noah Harari’s book titled ‘Sapiens - A Brief History of Humankind.’ 


His top movie/series pick from 2020 is Scam 1992 - Harshad Mehta Story.

2020 in the rearview mirror

As part of YourStory’s Drive into the New Year series, powered by Mercedes Benz E Class, Nithin also took a moment to glance into the rearview to talk about his 2020 journey. 


For what was termed as an ‘unprecedented’ year, 2020 was a boon for Nithin and for the company he founded 10 years ago with his brother Nikhil Kamath. 


In 2020, Zerodha celebrated a decade in business, formally claimed unicorn status earlier in the year, ‘conservatively’ valuing itself at $1 billion, and announced an employee stock options buyback plan worth Rs. 65 crore for around 700 of its employees.


Zerodha Nithin Kamath

Zerodha Co-founder Nithin Kamath

Nithin says 2020 made him the “happiest” since he started the business. The reason: Zerodha provided liquidity in the hands of its employees. 

Speaking about the rationale for the ESOP buyback plan, Nithin told YourStory the move was aimed at rewarding its long-term employees, allaying liquidity concerns of the team amidst the COVID-19 crisis, and putting liquidity back into the economy in a bid to contribute towards reviving it.


Zerodha – which recorded a net profit of Rs 350 crore on revenue of Rs 850 crore in FY19 – has witnessed its total client base revving up to nearly 40X to 2.8 million over the past five years. 


This feat was achieved by doggedly building credibility and trust through knowledge sharing and superior customer service, rather than through marketing or customer acquisition costs.


Nithin, whose passion for trading is well-known, has a simple, yet powerful advice, straight from his own playbook, for other young and aspiring entrepreneurs:

“Build a business around what you love to do and it will not feel like business.”
Zerodha_Zen_Zone

Nithin Kamath at his 'Zen Zone' - where the CEO destresses after an action-packed day at Zerodha

Quotes and inspiration to live by

Moving into the new year, the same guiding principles that helped Nithin build a disruptive and enduring business will continue to be his compass. “Nothing changes because it’s a new year,” he says. 


The stockbroker lives his life by two quotes that attest to the way Nithin and his team continue to find innovative ways to disrupt and build strong competitive moats: 

“If you don’t bet, you can’t win”
“If you lose all your chips, you can’t take new bets.” 


Video producer: Aishik Purkait

Video editor: Nitin MJ


Edited by Ryan Frantz

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