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Entrepreneurship dreams? Here is a door to knock for guidance

Entrepreneurship dreams? Here is a door to knock for guidance
Business4 min read
Harshil Mathur (CEO and Co-Founder) and Shashank Kumar (CTO and Co-Founder), Razorpay    Razorpay
  • After building a company designed to provide payment solutions to small businesses, Razorpay is spending dollars to help build a healthy startup ecosystem.
  • Programme called Razorpay Rize provides companies with mentorship, incorporation and fundraise activities.
  • Out of the 50 startups selected by YCombinator, those mentored by Razorpay Rize would account for 10%.
Chances are that you will never see an advertising campaign of the Aditya Birla Group or Reliance Industries featuring the head honcho of the Adani Group. But in the brave new world of startups, the ecosystem is everything. Founding a startup is almost everyone’s dream, but few are aware of the regulatory hurdles that they need to cross before they even can get their nameplate on their door. Only a founder who has gone through the drill can understand this pain, just as Razorpay’s Harshil Mathur learned back in 2014 and it is for this reason that his company has a full fledged division to help other founders. The programme is called Razorpay Rize.

A startup founder’s dream of building a company only starts with registering a company with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs. After registration comes the payroll, tax compliance and a host of other nitty-gritties. Most founders are unaware of these time-consuming processes. In fact, Mathur recalls his early days when he was vacationing at the end of the year and had to transfer salaries during New Year’s Eve festivities. Today, Razorpay has a payroll solution for early stage companies.

Solving problems of young companies is, in fact, the raison d’etre of Razorpay considering that his company provides online payment solutions to small businesses. Having attained unicorn status and established his place in the startup ecosystem, Mathur and his co-founder Shashank Kumar now devote their energy and resources to help other start-ups through a formal programme called Razorpay Rize. It is a programme that handholds startups in two key areas – incorporation and applying to the mentorship programme of YCombinator.

Razorpay Rize is like any incubator programme that seeks to resolve problems faced by founders in these two areas. The two biggest challenges that founders face pertain to incorporation and fund raise. The Rize programme helps in both these areas. On an average, about 100 startups apply to Razorpay’s Rize programme. The tagline of this programme is Let’s Rize Together. Explains Mathur, “The purpose of Razorpay Rize is to establish a community of like-minded founders. Over time it has emerged as a community of founders. There is no direct financial benefit to Razorpay. We do a lot of events around funding, processes and marketing. Today close to 500 startup founders are part of Razorpay Rize community.”

Explains Aman Singh, founder of SayF, a startup that helps people earn, save and invest on their everyday spends, “I got to know of Razorpay Rize after I graduated from IIT. We are trying to build a savings app and we have had several mentoring sessions with Shashank and the product team at Razorpay. I have been connected to a mentor too. They have regular meetups and I met other people from the ecosystem too there as we share experiences. These meetups are online and offline.”

While incorporation is the first step that a founder can take towards scaling his business, there are a host of options (private limited, limited liability partnership and a one-person company). Then comes the payroll and tax compliance issue. Razorpay runs mentorship programmes for newbie founders on marketing and even payroll management. It offers credits to startups of leading technology solutions providers – both Indian and global.

In addition, there are many start-ups that want to apply to the YCombinator programme. Razorpay Rize helps them with that process too. For this Mathur and his co-founder personally devote time to founders at their office through personal interactions. Razorpay has a full team that is dedicated to Rize. Rather than spend money on expensive brand campaigns using cricket or Bollywood stars, Mathur heroes other founders for his campaign.

Explains Mathur, “We have a programme that helps startups prepare for the YCombinator programme. And out of the 50 startups selected, those mentored by Razorpay Rize would account for 10% of them. It is a good number to start with. Some of the Rize startups have gone ahead and raised more capital from VCs. We don’t pick up stake in these startups and we do not ask them to buy our products.”

Recently, Razorpay ran a massive advertising campaign in media where it used AI tools to generate marketing material that starred other startup founders. Says Mathur: “We featured Shashank Mehta, the founder of Whole Truth Foods, who was also our customer. We made a brand ad with him talking about payroll. We have products to serve startup founders. We launched ImagineByAI and we wanted to do a print campaign. So we decided to do the campaign sharing image of startup founders and their journey. The success of Razorpay lies in the success of startups that we power.”

So where’s the catch? Why would any company invest precious management time and money celebrating other rivals if there is no benefit to the company? Conventional wisdom would call this stupidity, but in a brave new world, the ecosystem is your core business. Razorpay was not born to solve payment problems of mega corporations. It was born out of its own struggles. The more startups thrive, the better it is for Razorpay as it seeks to solve problems of startups and small companies. And by helping them at a very critical stage of their journey, Razorpay earns currency with these founders early on in their journey.

As a company, Razorpay believes that its success lies in the success of startups that it powers. The fintech unicorn will enable these founders even if there is no commercial advantage in the short-term. Add Mathur: “We are expanding Rize slowly and expanding the offerings without diluting the experience.”