Founder and Managing Director of The Mobile Wallet, Vinay Kalantri explains why India has witnessed a successful start-up revolution, and why switching to digital economy does not mean having to end the physical component of currency.
Historically speaking, India has never had a dearth of entrepreneurial spirit. But, what do you think was the reason behind India’s start-up revolution?
As a country, India has never lacked for great business minds, and India has always had a business community not averse to risk-taking. Not just within India, you will also see people immigrating to different countries and starting new ventures, seizing new opportunities. Risk averseness is not in our blood. As a people, Indians like working for themselves, and that’s one thing you cannot take away from them. I think this is amazing because it translates to a driving force for greater creativity, innovation, and higher standards. Indians understand one of the most important principles in life and business: if you don’t build your ideas, someone will hire you to build it. So they chose to build it for themselves instead.
You walked away from one of India's most successful family businesses to pursue your own dreams as an entrepreneur. How has the journey been like?
It has been an amazing journey and I’ve enjoyed every part of it. The Mobile Wallet (TMW) started in a 150-200 sq-ft office, and today we've moved on to a 16,000 sq-ft office. To have built something from scratch, yourself, gives you a rush that few things in life can match. I love every minute of my journey and am very passionate about what I am doing. That gives me the motivation to work 24-7 for what I’ve built.
TMW is expected to be amongst the top two companies it the sector. For me, it's about building a legacy—for creating success in the industry and creating something for the country. That’s my key goal. I don’t want to be known as the creator of something that has simply brought me wealth—I want to be known as the creator of a home-grown product that is appreciated by people around the world.
Indian consumers, outside a minority in urban areas, aren’t exactly known for being early adopters. How has this affected the fintech sector? And how has TMW tried to get around this issue?
It is true that Indian consumers on the urban side are very literate and early adopters of technology, which reduces when you venture into rural India and is something that fintech in India has to get a handle on. What we have built at TMW is a platform that is not built solely as an app—it retains the physical aspect of fintech via the card. We introduced the card system so that people can adapt to it with much more ease than trying to learn on an app. It still successfully converts physical cash into digital currency. Users can go to any outlet and handover physical currency that is converted into in real time, even when offline.
Fintech was perhaps the hottest segment in India’s start-up boom (along with e-commerce), but is that market saturated now?
Not at all; I think the sector has only just started booming, not only in India but all over the world. There is a lot happening in the fintech space, and there is still so much left to be explored. For example, consumer lending is one area that I can picture switching over to digital platforms completely, leaving banks and traditional financial institutions to deal more in B2B services.
What do you feel has the government done right in order to promote entrepreneurship in the country?
I think the government has taken all necessary initiatives to push transparency in India, which is extremely important. They are also working very hard on relaxing regulations for start-ups, allowing them to thrive in the crucial growth periods. There is a lot going on in terms of flexibility. Interactive sessions between the government and the new generation of Indian entrepreneurs and start-ups are giving the government an idea of the existing entrepreneurial mindset, and lets them determine how start-up culture can be used to building a new, better India. I think that although the government is already doing a lot, we can expect to see them do even more! The beauty of India is that we have an enormous talent pool of people with big dreams—we need to use it to take the country to the next level. TMW will begin initiatives in conjunction with the government in the near future.