Amit Agrawal - Build Your Network. Your Network Is Your Net Worth (Founding Director - Khalti Digital Wallet, Nepal)

Founding Director - Khalti Digital Wallet, Nepal


1. Tell us more about your company and your journey.

Our company, Janaki Technology Pvt. Ltd. Nepal was established in 2007, at Hostel Dorms of Institute of Engineering ( IOE ), Kathmandu Nepal. It started as web development and outsourcing company. 

While we were doing quite good, we were not happy with our work as we were not creating any impact in Nepal. We wanted to add meaning to our work and impact the lives of people in Nepal positively.

Hence we switched from a service company to a product company in 2010. The company is run by 4 engineering batchmates, the co-founders namely Amit Agrawal, Arvind Sah, Dhruba Adhikari and Manish Modi. We launched Sparrow SMS, a leading Bulk SMS & Telecom VAS provider in Nepal. 

We worked dedicatedly for Sparrow SMS for several years serving millions of people with “Access to Information”. It was a very needed service as many people didn't have smartphones, internet, data connectivity and Nepal used to have 14 hours of Power Cut daily during those days. 

SMS was one of the most used tools to collect info for many services like Daily Vegetables Prices, or Loadshedding Routine or Exam Results, Daily Gold Price, Horoscope, Migration Labor Permit Status, Bank balance and many more.

As time changed, it was time to find another gap and build another product. We saw a big gap in digital payments and financial services in the country. With the aim of changing the way people transact and then bringing access to finance to every household of Nepal, we launched Khalti Digital Wallet in 2017. 

Khalti is a licensed Payment Service Provider ( PSP ) and Domestic Remittance Service Provider in Nepal.

2. How did you come up with this idea and go about executing it?

Launching Khalti was not an easy decision. We knew startups like Digital Wallets require a lot of money, Good technology, network, time and lobbying network. We had nothing, but a good team. We betted on our team and the confidence that the cofounders showed upon each other.

We saw potential in the market. There were players but we believed that we could build a better product and server better. Our research showed that only 3% of the payments had been digitalized in Nepal. Also, internet penetration was increasing and the price of the internet was expected to come down with new telcos and competition in 4G. 

Also, Smartphone imports were increasing 25% Year on Year. We knew there was a need and “Access to finance” to its people is the backbone for any country’s economic revolution. We wanted to be a part of Nepal’s Digital & Economic Revolution. Hence, with that dream and confidence in our team, we launched Khalti Digital Wallet.

You can know more about our journey on our blog. Some of the links are below

3. What has been your biggest challenge that you faced and how did you overcome that?

There have been many challenges and every day is a challenge. Sometimes it's funding, sometimes team and sometimes Product-Market Fit. We just list everything and try to solve it one by one and now that's a way of life ;-). The head that wears the crown is heavy.

My biggest challenge has been Work-Life Balance. It still continues but I try to balance it these days by taking weekends off, doing digital dieting at times, and detoxing myself from time to time. Some of the ways I use to detox myself are as follows

Forgetting that I run a company, or manage a team. Forgetting that I am an entrepreneur for at least 1 hour every day.

  • Focusing on healthy food habits and Healthy Lifestyle
  • Spending time with kids, or elderly or pets
  • Calling an old friend at times
  • Doing some form of exercise or yoga or a normal walk.
  • Taking things easy

4. What do you think are the most important qualities of a successful entrepreneur?

Before I say any quality, I would like to say that entrepreneurship is like a chess game and every game is different. A fixed set of steps can not make you a winner. The only thing that can make you a winner is having your basics right and then practising. Until you dirty your own hand, you won't have the experience.

In my opinion, the most important quality in an entrepreneur is a strong mindset. All the constraints in this world lie nowhere, but in our head. Everything can be achieved with a strong “state of mind” and a strong mind can even carry a weak body while a weak mind can not carry a strong body.

Entrepreneurs are Problem Solvers and they try to do things in a smarter way than it has been done ever before. To be able to identify problems around you and fix them and if possible scale them to positively impact the lives of other people too is the main quality of an entrepreneur.

5. What are some of the most important factors for running a successful business?

I feel it is -

  • Running the basics right.
  • Having or Finding a strong & committed team. Grooming & building it right and adding meaning to their work.
  • Measure what you Treasure: what gets measured, managed and improved. Not only Set your KPIs right but also track them right.
  • Be user-centric. Your main competition is not outside. It's with the number of days that passed since you gave a last good experience to your customer. Don't leave any stones unturned to minimize Churn. Churn is the poison to the business
  • Predict the future and build what is missing.
  • Build your network. Your network is your net worth.

6. What are your tips for first time and aspiring entrepreneurs?

The basics should be right. We should not run about glamour or buzzwords like startups, entrepreneurship, or App. We should think like a traditional business person first. Find the problems, the scope, the scale and business sense. Be clear on your offering, pricing and who will be the paying customers. 

Do not jump into technology first; Look for problems, they should come first and possible solutions. All solutions do not require an app or technology necessarily. Also many times we fail as we keep comparing ourselves with others, instead of looking inside and improving. I would suggest, don't focus on competition, rather focus on innovation. You don't have to be like anyone. You just have to be better yourself, every day.

Do not try to copy others or the western world. Look around you, observe, explore. You will find many problems to fix and most of them can turn into a scalable business idea. Also, believe in our values, our culture and resources. Once we believe in ourselves, we will realize how we have been neglecting our wealth and giving unnecessary values to that of the developed countries.

7. How can one overcome a hurdle of lack of funds when starting up?

Smart Small. Use free tools and platforms. Narrow down your target customer base and offerings and validate your idea first. It is better to have 100 customers who will pay for your product now than to have 100,000 customers who might use your product later. 

If you validate your idea and are confident about it, I am sure you will find some way to fund it, either from your friends or family or some seed funds of the idea stage.

- Interviewed by - Pratika Dahal 

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