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Lizzie Chapman: Pioneering Buy Now Pay Later in India’s Fintech Revolution

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Lizzie Chapman‘s journey from a childhood filled with Hindi movies in London to becoming the CEO of ZestMoney, a Bengaluru-based startup pioneering Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) in India, is an inspiring tale of perseverance and seizing opportunities. Growing up in London to working-class parents, Chapman was captivated by Indian culture, thanks to her mother’s association with the Red Cross in India. Weekends in her South Asian-dense neighborhood were often spent watching back-to-back Hindi movies, a passion that even her husband, a South Mumbai native, hadn’t matched. Her deep-rooted connection with India and belief in its potential led her to take a bold step.

Chapman’s remarkable journey began a decade ago when she decided to move to India, even though many of her colleagues weren’t ready to take the leap into the budding Indian fintech landscape. Her fascination with India’s potential as it stood on the brink of a significant economic explosion was her driving force. “I was really fascinated and excited about the potential for what could happen in India,” Chapman says. “Many of my friends say that I took one of the biggest macro bets of all of us. While many were only talking, I packed my bags and came here.”

Chapman’s path to the world of finance and money was born out of her personal struggles with financial constraints. “I grew up with no money, I got quite fascinated by money at university and particularly trading,” she recalls. Despite coming from a family with no stock ownership experience, she recognized the potential of money and investment even with small amounts. This fascination with trading led her to Goldman Sachs, where she started as an associate. Afterward, she joined the Wellcome Trust, a charitable organization, before taking the leap to move to India. In 2011, she joined Wonga, a British digital lending company, and relocated to India. At that time, fintech in India was still in its nascent stage, and many didn’t take it seriously. However, it was a pivotal move as it set the stage for her future endeavors.

Despite the eventual closure of Wonga, Chapman’s fintech journey was far from over. In 2015, Chapman co-founded ZestMoney, recognizing the credit gap in the Indian market. The company aimed to provide access to funds to individuals without credit cards or formal financing options due to limited credit history. This was the time when fintech in India was just starting to gain traction. Chapman and her team identified the pressing issue of limited access to credit for many individuals. They recognized the potential in the BNPL market and decided to focus 99 percent of their efforts on this segment. The demonetization of high-value currency in India, along with the government’s push for digitization, created a favorable environment for ZestMoney’s expansion. The company has raised approximately $120 million from investors, including notable names like Goldman Sachs, Omidyar Network, and Naspers.

ZestMoney allows customers to defer payments for products ranging from ₹50 to ₹5 lakh, covering around 10,000 online sites and 75,000 physical stores across India. While the BNPL segment in India is becoming increasingly crowded, ZestMoney’s focus on customer acquisition through merchants has given them a competitive edge. This approach ensures that ZestMoney understands its customers and their purchasing behaviours. As per Redseer, India’s BNPL market is projected to grow to $45-50 billion by 2026, up from $3-3.5 billion currently. The number of users is expected to surge to 80-100 million customers by 2026, from the current 10-15 million.

While ZestMoney has successfully entered the BNPL segment in India, Chapman anticipates intensified competition as more players venture into this space. However, her unique perspective and understanding of the Indian market have allowed her to make a significant impact, especially among millennial and Gen-Z consumers. Srinath Sridharan, an expert in the banking and financial services industry, acknowledges Lizzie’s achievements and ability to build a distinct product that appeals to the younger demographic. He believes that Lizzie’s foreign perspective has enabled her to successfully crack the market.

Entrepreneurs

Harsha Majety: Architect of Swiggy’s Culinary Empire

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In the dynamic world of food delivery, Harsha Majety stands out as the visionary founder and CEO of Swiggy, the platform that has redefined the way India dines. With an unwavering commitment to customer satisfaction and a keen understanding of the evolving market, Majety has propelled Swiggy to the forefront of the food delivery revolution.

Harsha Majety, a BITS Pilani alumnus, embarked on his entrepreneurial journey with a clear vision — to address a fundamental challenge faced by consumers: reliable and efficient food delivery. Born out of the desire to eliminate the frustrations associated with late or cold food deliveries, Swiggy was conceptualized as a solution to redefine the food delivery landscape.

The Swiggy Saga: From Conception to Culinary Dominance

1. Identifying a Gap in the Market:

In 2014, along with co-founders Nandan Reddy and Sriharsha Majety, Harsha identified a significant gap in the food delivery segment. Existing options were plagued by delays and inconsistencies, laying the foundation for Swiggy’s disruptive entry.

2. Focus on Customer Experience:

From the outset, Majety emphasized a customer-centric approach. Swiggy wasn’t merely a food delivery service; it was a commitment to providing a seamless and delightful experience for every customer, ensuring that their culinary cravings were met promptly.

3. Technology as the Enabler:

Under Majety’s leadership, Swiggy leveraged technology to streamline the entire process, from order placement to delivery. The robust tech infrastructure not only facilitated real-time tracking but also optimized delivery routes, ensuring that food reached customers in the best possible condition.

4. Diversification Beyond Food:

Learning from the challenges faced by early hyperlocal startups, Majety and his team strategically diversified Swiggy’s offerings. Beyond being a food delivery giant, Swiggy expanded into groceries, medicines, and essentials, transforming into a comprehensive hyperlocal platform.

5. Weathering Challenges and Emerging Stronger:

The hyper-competitive nature of the food delivery industry posed challenges, but Swiggy, under Majety’s guidance, navigated through them successfully. The company not only survived but thrived, becoming a unicorn and synonymous with efficient food delivery.

Harsha Majety’s leadership style is characterized by a relentless pursuit of excellence and an emphasis on innovation. His ability to foresee market trends and adapt Swiggy’s strategy accordingly has been instrumental in the company’s success. Looking ahead, Majety envisions Swiggy as more than just a food delivery platform. The goal is to make Swiggy a ubiquitous presence in the daily lives of consumers, offering a wide array of services beyond culinary delights. The strategic diversification into groceries, medicine, and essentials aligns with this vision of becoming a one-stop solution for every hyperlocal need.

As Swiggy continues to shape the future of hyperlocal services, Harsha Majety’s legacy as a pioneer in the food delivery industry solidifies. His entrepreneurial journey, marked by resilience, innovation, and a commitment to customer satisfaction, serves as an inspiration for aspiring founders in the startup ecosystem. Harsha Majety’s Swiggy isn’t just delivering food; it’s delivering on the promise of a revolutionary hyperlocal experience.

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Entrepreneurs

Deepak Sahni: Revolutionizing Diagnostics with Healthians

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In the realm of healthcare, Deepak Sahni, the visionary founder and CEO of Healthians, is leading a transformation in the diagnostics sector. Healthians, a home diagnostics service provider, has emerged as a trailblazer in an industry that has traditionally grappled with issues of regulation and unorganized players.

The Delhi High Court’s interim order seeking a ban on the ‘illegal’ sale of medicines online served as a catalyst for Sahni. While Healthians isn’t directly involved in offline retailing of medicines, Sahni resonated with the court’s concern about the risks associated with unregulated practices. He is eagerly awaiting a ‘regulatory moment’ for the diagnostic segment, emphasizing the potential dangers to public health posed by unregulated and unlicensed diagnostic labs.

Founded in 2015, Healthians has experienced rapid growth under Sahni’s leadership. The company’s revenue journey is emblematic of its success — from a modest ₹1.1 crore in its first year to an impressive run rate of ₹80 crore. With operations spanning 30 cities in North India and a recent foray into Bengaluru, Healthians is making significant strides toward becoming a pan-India player.

What sets Healthians apart is its contrarian approach to building a brand directly with consumers. While many diagnostic labs rely on referrals from doctors and hospitals, Sahni opted for a direct-to-consumer strategy. This decision was bold and unconventional, considering the prevalent industry norms. “People thought we have gone insane by not taking the doctor route,” Sahni recalls. Despite facing initial rejection from investors, he persisted in building consumer loyalty rather than relying on franchises.

Healthians employs an asset-light model, strategically partnering with standalone pathology labs equipped with high-quality equipment. The brand has positioned itself as ‘different’ by offering a range of free services, including home sample collection, doctor and diet consultation, and vital health checks for family members. This consumer-centric approach has proven to be a winning strategy, with Healthians collecting around 3,000 samples daily and completing 10 million tests to date.

Choosing the National Capital Region (NCR) — India’s most competitive diagnostic market — for its initial operations, Healthians embraced a ‘Red Ocean’ strategy, directly competing with market leaders and rivals. Today, 90 percent of the company’s revenue is generated from this region, showcasing the success of this strategic decision. Healthians navigated challenges through strategic pivots since its inception. Starting as an aggregator of diagnostic labs, the company transitioned to a logistics model and eventually took control of lab operations to ensure both timely sample collection and test quality. The unique challenges of each pivot underscore the company’s agility and commitment to delivering accurate and reliable diagnostic services.

Looking ahead, Healthians aims to deepen its presence in South India, with planned investments of ₹50 crore to expand into Bengaluru, Hyderabad, and Chennai. The company anticipates adding over 200 labs and 3,000 phlebotomists across 30 cities in the next 18 months. However, the challenge persists in smaller cities, where unorganized players dominate the diagnostic market.

While online penetration of diagnostic tests in India is currently under 1 percent, Sahni sees this as an opportunity for significant growth. A potential game-changer could be government intervention to regulate the industry, standardizing equipment use and calibration. Sahni believes that building a business around consumers will naturally thrive once regulatory measures ensure industry standards. In conclusion, Deepak Sahni’s journey with Healthians exemplifies a commitment to innovation, consumer-centricity, and overcoming challenges in a complex sector. As Healthians continues to redefine the diagnostics landscape, Sahni’s vision for a regulated and consumer-focused industry might well be on the horizon.

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Entrepreneurs

Aravind Sanka, Pavan Guntupalli, and Rishikesh SR

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In the bustling landscape of India’s transportation industry, where giants like Ola and Uber have long dominated the ride-hailing sector, a unique and dynamic start-up is making waves. Rapido, the two-wheeler taxi service, has not only captured the attention of commuters but has also attracted significant funding from prominent investors. At the helm of this innovative venture are the visionaries Aravind Sanka, Pavan Guntupalli, and Rishikesh SR.

Aravind Sanka, one of the co-founders of Rapido, is a visionary leader with a passion for transforming urban commuting. Armed with a degree in Computer Science from the National Institute of Technology, Warangal, Aravind brings a strong technical background to the table. Before co-founding Rapido, he gained valuable experience working at companies like Microsoft and Tally Solutions. Aravind’s vision for Rapido goes beyond just creating a successful business; it’s about revolutionizing the way people commute, especially for short distances. He believes that two-wheelers can play a crucial role in easing traffic congestion and providing a cost-effective solution for daily commuting needs.

Pavan Guntupalli, another key figure behind Rapido, is a seasoned entrepreneur with a knack for navigating challenges. With a background in Computer Science and Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras, Pavan embarked on a journey that led him to co-found Rapido. Pavan’s expertise lies in understanding the complexities of the Indian market and devising strategies to overcome obstacles. His commitment to building a sustainable and user-friendly platform has been instrumental in Rapido’s success. Pavan envisions Rapido not just as a service but as a solution to the daily commuting woes of millions.

Completing the trio of visionaries is Rishikesh SR, who brings a unique perspective to the table, especially in shaping user experiences. Rishikesh is an alumnus of the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Indore, with a background in Computer Science and Engineering from the National Institute of Technology (NIT) Calicut. Rishikesh’s role in Rapido extends beyond the technical aspects; he focuses on ensuring that users have a seamless and enjoyable experience when using the platform. His understanding of consumer behaviour and market trends has contributed significantly to Rapido’s growth. Rishikesh is committed to making Rapido the go-to choice for daily commuting needs.

The journey of Rapido hasn’t been without its fair share of challenges. In the initial years, convincing both consumers and investors about the viability of a two-wheeler taxi service posed a significant hurdle. However, the founders’ determination and belief in the potential of their idea propelled Rapido forward. The company’s commitment to safety, affordability, and efficiency has resonated with commuters, leading to a steady increase in its user base. Rapido has not only transformed the daily commute for millions but has also become an attractive investment opportunity for venture capitalists.

Rapido’s success can be attributed to the innovative mindset and strategic thinking of its founders. In a market where four-wheeler ride-hailing services dominate, Rapido found its niche by offering a faster and more cost-effective solution for short-distance travel. As Rapido continues to expand its footprint across cities in India, the founders remain focused on enhancing the platform, exploring new technologies, and addressing the evolving needs of their users. The recent funding rounds indicate a growing interest from investors who see the potential of Rapido to revolutionize the urban commute landscape further.

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