Mobikwik goes to market.

Taku and Singh: the couple clicked as a team


Big BNPL play

MobiKwik is one of the leading companies in the fast growing BNPL business

By Ritwik Sinha. Consulting Editor, Business India

For the husband-wife duo of Bipin Preet Singh and Upasana Taku (in their early 40s), the co-founders of digital payment and mobile wallet firm Mobikwik, the next few months will certainly be anything but a regular spell. They will be waiting for their baptism moment at the bourses expected before the end of the current fiscal. The 12-year-old firm in the digital transaction space is seeking to commence a new chapter post-IPO with defining pillars in place.

Going by its portfolio of services, Mobikwik is today a full stack fintech firm comprising a strong online lending business. One of the first movers in the digital transaction space, the company, launched in 2009, graduated from just being a wallet to a payment gateway and now to a consumer credit lending agency aligning with more popularly known Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) segment.

Quite a known name for both digitally inclined consumers and a large network of merchant partners as well as business associates across the spectrum, it is now looking at BNPL as the next dynamo and its pre-IPO buzz creation is centred around it as noticed in its recently initiated television campaigns. 

In the marketplace, peers and experts look at the company in a different light. Many believe it somewhat lacked aggression in scale building and has not been able to make the most of the dollar floating opportunity which start-ups and new age technology firms have grabbed with both hands. But they also have people who defend them, asserting that its growth has been slow but steady and the management is more in control of things (the husband-wife duo has a cumulative stake of nearly 35 per cent after five rounds of funding).

More importantly, it operates in segments where companies like Paytm, PhonePe, Google Pay, Amazon Pay, Flipkart Pay, JioMoney, RazorPay, Pine Labs, Zest Money, etc are present. They are also in the same segments as BNPL. But there is unanimity in the marketplace that none of these domains are going to evolve with that typical ‘winner takes it all’ trait. In the multiple players scenario, Mobikwik has its own space and post-IPO it can take a shot at consolidating its position. 

Early mover

“As a company, we have matured and today we strictly adhere to the basic rules of financial prudence. That is why our fixed cost has been the same – in the vicinity of Rs120 crore and a larger chunk of it is the people cost,” says Upasana Taku, who was recently elevated as the chairperson of the firm before the formal initiation of the IPO process.

In a business where serious cash burn has been the defining strategy for most entities, somebody talking about financial prudence almost appears to be an exception. But as Taku emphasises, that is how things have been for Mobikwik. In an intensely competitive business where it was one of the first movers, it has followed its own instinct to make a mark rather than trying to emulate more opulent or flashy examples. 

The company was in a bootstrapped stage for more than four years and there is an interesting story of how two key co-founders got together. The genesis of the firm lies in the ideas of two engineers – Taku and Singh (MD & CEO) who had decided to tie the nuptial knot two years after kickstarting the venture. Taku, after her B-Tech from REC Jalandhar, had moved to the US and obtained a degree in MTech from Stanford. Then she had a short stint of three years at Silicon Valley where she worked with HSBC and PayPal as a product manager.

Singh, a product of IIT, Delhi, was primarily in mobile chip designing for firms like Intel but was looking for options to take his professional career to a new pitch. Taku, meanwhile, had similar callings, ie, doing something more impactful and had returned to India despite being a green card holder. “When I met Singh, he was toying with two options – either do a start-up here or go to the USA for his MBA. He wanted to do a start-up in the mobile space and I wanted to do it in the payment space. We got introduced through a common friend and we clicked as a team. So, we decided to launch a mobile wallet,” she recalls.


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