How Raj N is Revolutionizing Payment and Expense Management with Zaggle?

Interview with Raj N, Founder and Chairman of Zaggle, a leading FinTech firm
Raj N, Founder and Chairman, Zaggle

Upon realizing the problems businesses have to face in managing their financial requirements and expense management, serial entrepreneur and active angel investor Raj N decided to start an innovative fintech revolution that could resolve the pain points of broken conventional payments and accounting for businesses. This is how Zaggle was born in 2011 with a vision to become a Global Digital Bank.

Today, Zaggle is a leading fintech firm with State-of-Art Financial Solutions and products which automate and empower numerous businesses by making expenses management hassle-free and streamlined. The company witnessed a 100% growth during the pandemic wherein they have hired additional employees to keep the momentum going. Zaggle’s two products- Zaggle SAVE and Zaggle PROPEL are used by 4000 + corporates today. 

Raj N, Founder and Chairman of Zaggle, holds an MBA degree from New York University’s Stern School of Management, and is a graduate in Economics from Delhi University. Having accumulated almost 24 years of experience working in India and the US, he is a Serial Entrepreneur and has built and sold businesses in areas such as Financial Services, Prepaid Internet Retail, Loyalty, Merchandising, Reward and Recognition, Open Banking, and Expense Management.

As a testament to Zaggle’s success, he has been named as one of the Top 30 Indian FinTech Influencers in 2021 by The Digital Fifth along with being named as one of The Most Promising Business Person in Asia by Economic Times 2020.

In an exclusive interaction with MotivergeRaj N, Founder and Chairman of Zaggle shares more insights about his venture, journey so far, motivation and future plans.

Below are the excerpts from the interview:

What is Zaggle all about?

Zaggle is a B2B Fintech company that helps corporates to digitise their spends that bolsters growth and increase their value through innovative and automated workflows. The company began its journey in 2011 with the vision of developing proprietary tech platforms that would connect corporate entities and consumer needs with merchants who have bespoke solutions for them.

Our specialty lies in arraying cutting edge technologies viz., AI (Artificial Intelligence), ML (Machine Learning) and OCR (Optical Character Recognition) which are conducive in facilitating a seamless experience to our users. The company has a rich client base of more than 4000 corporates presently and is going strong every year. 

What factors influenced or motivated you to start this venture? What seeded the idea of a startup in FinTech sector?

Zaggle was started with the vision of becoming a revolutionary global digital bank. Working as a serial entrepreneur for years, I realized that the banking processes and workflows are broken as it is not controlled digitally, thereby, complicating the entire banking process and making it more challenging. At the hindsight, we identified the problems that companies face while trying to handle their expenses and financial requirements. We realized that the conventional payments and accounting system is broken, sluggish and inefficient. Some of the pain points that we witnessed businesses facing are:

• The complex and tedious workflow
• Payments still made in Cash
• No Real-time Control or Visibility over the Business Spends
• Manual Accounting and a Reconciling Stack of Receipts and Spreadsheets
• Lots of man-hours required
• Risk of Frauds and Duplication

These were some of the dominant factors that influenced us to venture into the fintech sector to help businesses solve these pain points adeptly. We wanted to bring about a revolutionary change to automate the ways in which spends and finances are tackled by the businesses. We invested months to understand and research these impediments faced by the enterprises to provide bespoke financial solutions that would revolutionize the entire financial system.

What were the first few steps during and after the launch of Zaggle? 

Since the early days of the launch, the core theme of the company was digitization which has become extremely common with the pandemic. We realized that consumers are entirely dependent on physical transactions for their requirements and thought of digitizing the process entirely. Thus, we started our journey and began with digitizing vouchers.

We studied the market and understood that a separate voucher is used by every retailer. Hence, we decided to come up with a single digital card which can be accepted in any enterprise easily. Additionally, they do not have to make any changes in their system to accept it. We took a step in this direction and decided to gauge the effectiveness of it in the coming years. 

Witnessing the success of our first card – BOMB, we kept launching successive cards for businesses and by 2014 there were more than 1 lakh Zaggle cards in the market. Witnessing the burgeoning success of these cards within a span of just three years, we decided to broaden our horizons and shifted to employee rewards and incentive programs. And then we shifted to incentives for distributors, retailers and CFA agents and received the highest traction in terms of business growth.

Slowly and steadily, Zaggle started expanding and by 2016 the company had successfully set up its counterparts in the major tier one cities. By 2018, Zaggle had already reached a revenue of 650 crores and acquired multiple companies. By 2020, the company incubated its neo-banking platform called ZikZuk which will be catering to more than 1 lakh SMEs with its innovative product offerings.

Have you raised funds so far?

Zaggle was seed funded by eYantra – one of my earlier venture. Besides, the company was able to raise funding from Ventureast and Argonaut Ventures. The company is in talks to raise a large round of funding. However, given the unprecedented Covid situation at present, the plan has been pushed to next year.

Tell us about your motivation. What keeps you going?

The company was started with the vision of resolving the pain points and hurdles faced by the businesses and corporate entities. Today Zaggle’s Avant Garde solutions have been able to resolve the intricate process of tackling spends and finances seamlessly of more than 4000+ companies. It gives us immense joy and satisfaction when we see that our bespoke products are able to facilitate a smoothened financial and expense management structure. Hence, customer satisfaction is the key motivation driver for us at Zaggle.

How has your journey been so far?

The journey has been a phenomenal one. We started with digital cards which became a massive success within a year or two. Since then, Zaggle has been growing in leaps and bounds and exploring new avenues for innovation and growth. Over the years, the company has diversified into a B2B Fintech SaaS platform and using Digitization as a theme that has worked extensively with the enterprises to understand the pain points and slowly becoming an indispensable player as far as digitizing spends is concerned.

Our massive success with our innovative product offerings have shot up our revenues from INR 3500 Cr (GTV)  in 2019-2020 to INR 14500 Cr by March 2021. The company has registered a 5x jump in its revenues and its profit after tax from last year has grown by 14x in FY 2021. Additionally, given the global nature of the products, Zaggle is also looking at expansion in international markets. The company has already established its operations in Canada and will soon start its operation in the UK, Middle East, US and Latin America in the coming years.

How big is your team? How did you manage your team and business during COVID-19 out-break?

At present, Zaggle is a team of 200 odd employees spread across different cities and internationally as well. The pandemic was an unprecedented situation for all of us with no prior experience at hand. However, being a tech organization primarily focusing on digitization, the company quickly buckled up and came up with a number of measures which were immediately put to action.

We were quick enough to announce work from home for all and sundry and provided them with the electronic gadgets required. We started providing 24/7 support to all our clients and resolve their issues in turn. We also launched digital products that were DIY in nature and virtual prepaid cards that could be used for online purchases. The pre-paid card business has grown by 600%. We received the required output even in these challenging times with Work from Home as all the employees have been working passionately and have been devoted towards achieving their goals.

With the availability of advanced digital and video tools, we had planned well in advance including mock drills to test the work from home capabilities and have successfully implemented the same for Business Continuity. We have been ensuring all distributed teams can still reliably meet face to face digitally since all employees are not in the same location while making use of tools enabling remote working. All these factors have resulted in massive growth of the company during these unprecedented times.

What is the USP of your brand? What makes you different from your competition? 

At Zaggle, we aim to create special products and offerings that solves enterprise and company issues via deploying world-class technologies. We attempt to acquire this through the self-discipline of execution, innovation and fast product development. Our principal intention has been to help businesses create a productive and efficient company and assist them alleviate the day-by-day stress particularly related with accounting and employee management. Our services assist large-scale and small-scale groups and entrepreneurs reap strategic insights while making commercial enterprise decisions, cut down on pointless expenses, and change their standard business.

At Zaggle, we don’t believe in high claims and under delivering. Instead, we strongly believe in the notion of cumulative growth, i.e., for our partners and us and not just singularly us, which can be testified by way of our sprawling community of 4000 clients and 6 million users. This is what sets us apart from the rest. The charge at which we innovate and continuously experiment and listen to our customers, understand their wishes and converting that into a solution helps us to stay competitive. We have Visa, RuPay and Mastercard as our Platform Partners and RBL Bank, Yes Bank, IndusInd, DBS Bank as our partners and having such a broad preference helps our clients to choose amongst variety.

What role do you think your brand is playing in addressing the financial needs of the businesses and corporates?

As a brand, the sole purpose that kept us going was to automate all the mundane lengthy financial administration tasks. The entire purpose was to bridge the gap between banks and enterprises to facilitate access to capital and keep the enterprise strolling smoothly.

Fintech companies have constantly laboured to furnish progressive and ultra-modern technological assist to SMEs, businesses and innovation during the pandemic was no exception. As digitisation has turn out to be the new normal, more humans have turned to opting for digital transactions. Since we are in the digitalization business, we have viewed rapid growth considering the lockdown.

What are the business opportunities in FinTech sector, especially in the APAC region? How do you see market growth and response in the post-COVID-19 world?

The pandemic has had an extreme blow to the economy with imposed lockdowns, layoffs and faltering businesses, especially the SME’s & MSME’s collapsing. However, in the fintech industry the situation is quite different. The global health crisis can be said to be a blessing in disguise as the FinTech industry is experiencing an unprecedented growth.

The Fintech sector has viewed a surge in demand for contactless payments which has given a sizeable increase to the digital payments ecosystem in the country. The sector is receiving a lot of support from the Indian government and the investments and funding happening in this space have increased massively, reason being the global pandemic which introduced digitisation. Today, a number of banks and financial establishments are partnering with FinTech corporations to create a curated merchandise and a more personalized approach for their customer base in sync with their needs, thereby attracting new customers. All of these combined have led to rapid progress in the industry in the last year, and there are no signs of reversing.

Being a startup, what do you think is the biggest challenge in India? 

Start-ups are new “entrants” in the business field and play a key role in the development of a country. The growing market, favourable financing and technology take the start-up ecosystem off the ground, but the real challenge is gaining the trust of customers.

Customers are the true power behind start-up success. Your reputation and social media presence can give tech start-ups an edge in all traditional businesses. To earn the trust and loyalty of customers, start-ups must work hard to implement a customer-centric work philosophy. Becoming successful in business is more about your mentality, psychology and determination than it is about finding little tips, tricks, hacks and exploitations in the marketplace.

Please share your views on how our government is doing in supporting start-ups?

The Indian government has taken various initiatives and formulated policy measures to foster a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in the country. However, with its significant and unique demographic advantages, India has great potential in innovating, training entrepreneurs and creating job opportunities for the benefit of the country and the world.

In recent years, the Indian government has formulated a wide range of new plans and opportunities to promote innovation in various sectors. From contact with academia, industry, investors, large and small entrepreneurs, non-governmental organizations to the most inadequate sectors of social services, the Indian government is doing their bit to make a difference. Moreover, the Govt recognizes the importance of women’s entrepreneurship and economic participation in promoting the country’s growth and prosperity, and therefore ensures that all policy initiatives are aimed at providing equal opportunities for women.

What are your future plans on entering the neo-banking space? Where do you see  Zaggle in the coming 3 to 5 years?

We have recently launched our Neo Banking platform through our group company ZikZuk. It basically comes from the philosophy of yin and yang. Zik stands for Credit and Zuk stands for Debit, which is the basis of the accounting system. There are two parts to the Neo Banking Platform: Founders Card and Business Finance Manager Zikzuk is focused on the SME market with Founders Card as a lending instrument and BFM as a Business Intelligence Tool with an idea of using the BFM to estimate the lending limit.

We are also working with Multiple Banks to create a robust platform for SME Neo Open Banking which is a more logical extension of Banking. We want to create a platform for businesses to easily access financial services from different financial service providers. To avoid the hassle of different accounts, having cheques signed by authorities, going through RTGS, we thought this process should be automated through a platform to quickly flake in and move the funds to ensure that the cheque gets cleared without having to go through the process manually.

Awards and achievements

We started our journey in 2011 and we haven’t looked back since. In 2013, we won the Global Prepaid Exchange Start-up of the Year award. In 2014 we exceeded 100,000 cards in the market. The hallmark of 2015 was the launch of the app and the focus on loyalty and cash back in the restaurant industry. In 2016, our company acquired 5,00,000 cards, launched a new logo and expanded to multiple locations in India. In 2017 and 2018, the company and mobile payment company Click acquired several companies in the areas of cashback, technology and payments. In the same year, we also forayed into Employee Benefits & Expense Management Solutions. The year 2019 saw the launch of Reward, Recognition and Engagement platform Propel. The year 2019 was also a significant year for us as we entered in an exclusive Partnership with IndusInd Bank to launch Expense Management card powered by the bank.

Awards and Recognition:

  • Zaggle Prepaid Ocean Services was conferred the Best FinTech Corporate Innovation Program Award at The Economic Times BFSI Innovation Tribe Awards 2020.
  • Raj N (Chairman, Zaggle) among the ‘Most Promising Business Leaders of Asia
  • Best Employee Engagement Award in the B2B segment at the 29th edition of World HRD Congress & Awards 2021
  • Best Prepaid Card of the Year at Payments & Cards Summit, 2019
  • Best B2B Enterprise for Zaggle SAVE at HYSEA Innovation Summit, 2019
  • Best IT Company at HMTV Business Excellence Awards, Feb 2019
  • Best Prepaid Card Solution at IAMAI Indian Digital Forum, Jan 2019

What are your messages or leadership lessons for budding entrepreneurs/younger generation?

Trust yourself, believe in your ideas, believe in your employees, and understand that you are not alone in the entrepreneurial world. Start growing and expanding your network as soon as possible. These relationships and acquaintances will be rewarded the moment you launch your product, and the importance of meeting the right people will only increase over time. Be patient and carefully plan your starting strategy and daily life. Always thank those who help you become stronger and motivate you. You always need to look back to the past to say that you did a good job. Be brave and follow your instincts.

There isn’t any right or better time, it is the right time to start the venture but cut the budget and ensure that if you wanted to start today you should have started yesterday. Make sure your venture can create an impact on the economy, use this time to reach out to the clients to help them save more or in cost cutting and do more and more business.

Launch before you feel ready. If you wait until your product or service feels perfect, someone else will already be doing a better job of helping your customers solve their problems. Validate your business idea by launching fast, bringing on a small group of paying customers and adapting to make your solution great for them over time. The right availability of Technology, capital investment, emergence of government policies and an entrepreneurial and innovative mind-set are the ones to grow.

Hope this interview will motivate all the aspiring entrepreneurs. It is a part of our startup profiling feature story/interview series. We are on a mission to bring forward the inspirational journey of successful entrepreneurs in order to spread some motivation during these tough times.

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