Want to be the next Sanjeev Bikhchandani ? Stop building job portals. Build payment gateway solution

Paras Chopra of “Visual Website Optimizer” wrote a top-kick blog post recently on whats-wrong-with-indian-startup-scene, go read that here http://paraschopra.com/blog/personal/whats-wrong-with-indian-startup-scene.htm 


This blog post got inspired by reading what Paras wrote + my as usual frustration with Payment gateways in India. Note :- Current payment gateways are ‘oookkk’ but Indian Startups need better/world class service and more PG solution.

Opening a bank account used to be a big favour by Banks during 1990s or earlier. Later part of 90’s changed that when several private banks opened, then they started chasing ‘please open a savings/current account sir’. Consumer got the best deals, small business got best deals and scenario changed big time.

Now switch back to your attention to current payment gateway providers in India. They are the old banks of 80’s,90’s. Opening a merchant account is big deal, takes 45 days for approval, several mail communications (thank God they dint ask to visit personally :p , they know only few top level PG players in market, they take big margin from your business (5% / 6% …) and still behave as if they are doing a favour to you. That dreaded word ‘favour’, which most hates. But we are helpless in front of the almighty payment gateways.

This scenario must change, this is a big market, even if you win 0.1% of market share (oops so low..), you will make more money that you ever would make by trying to be the next Naukri, I mean ‘trying’ not ‘being’. Also note : 1 person applies for a job once in a year or two but 1 person can buy several times in a month itself, so you have more chances to become the next ‘Sanjeev Bikhchandani’ without ever-able-to-copy his ‘Naukri’ ๐Ÿ™‚ 

If you are building payment gateways (Zaakpay building fresh, any body else?), here is what I think you should do:

Engage Startups early: They are your brand ambdassdors, engage them, hear their need and let them try early. All the big current PG companies are happy in their cash kingdom, you build your own by engaging this bunch of startup-who-will-wow-spread-words and push you up there.

Innovative Pricing: Why price on each transaction, may be you can do volume pricing? I suggest break that entry barrier for your merchants integrating your gateway.

Be everywhere: Don’t just be online processing, break that pattern. There are several Startups doing cash on delivery, make that part of your payment solution. Do card, mobile, cash, retail…be everywhere. Yes few existing players have card, mobile, while some other has mobile & cash. You need to be all, reduce the pain of merchants.

Go global: India is huge, growing but have your platform ready for expanding to South Asia, Middle east to start with ? Allow Indian Startups to offer solutions to global market.

API, API & API: yes for developers, developers & developers ๐Ÿ™‚ 

Customer support your mom will love: Yes, do whatever you could but take care of your customers and give yourself a sweet spot vs the BAD customer support that current payment gateway providers have.

Note : I have nothing against current payment gateway providers in India but I am passionate that this market MUST be disrupted, so this is more to motivate wannabe Startups than to criticize current players.


Mere paas maa hai : Your mother is your only Startup supporter

When everybody would have left you alone while you keep ideating/iterating/pivoting/trying/winning/loosing your startup, only one person would stand for you : Your Mother ๐Ÿ™‚ You can proudly say ‘mere paas maa hai’ and keep your spirit high.


Though I don’t have too many data to substantiate this thought such as in Richard Branson’s autobiography, you would have come across his mother’s support and guidance from early stage, also hope you remember AR Rehman’s said ‘Mere paas maa hai’ during Oscars for the Best Original Score “Slumdog Millionaire”. Ok who needs proof of a mother’s role ๐Ÿ™‚ This blog post thought came from a recent experience while talking to few Startup friends of mine. When we sat down for a coffee and started discussion, it was becoming clear that in each case their mother has been the pillar of strength. That inspired me to write this up.


Call me biased ๐Ÿ™‚ but I think mother’s role for your Startup is equally can’t be done by your father/brother/wife/sisters….etc. No, when days are hard and things are going wrong, a mother will listen to you without judging you, without making you feel to be blamed. That love, care of a mother which makes each of us unique will power you back and you will feel ‘I am ready again’. Lets be positive  to other family members, they may do care you too ๐Ÿ™‚ However as an Startup entrepreneur, your family members are your big investors so they are bound to be give you tough questions & time. Is that bad? not at all. Who doesn’t love a bit of care, affection and believe in your strength. A mother does that more than anybody, at times she is also your biggest critic and when everybody is gone, she will stand for you.


Love you mom.


Note : All family members are duly respected and their roles are hugely appreciated ๐Ÿ™‚


You are replaceable if what you do is replicable : Musings on software product engineer

In professional life no matter what you do, you are replaceable if what you do is replicable. This is more evident in software product development companies as access to to rock star engineers (i.e. those who do incredible what they do) is key for success. Hence a software product development company will always replace those who can be replicated. This replace & replicate must have been same even in agriculture age or industrial age (think Ford assembly line).

There is a distinct difference of replicating what you do vs replicating how you do. Replicating ‘How you do’ is difficult, the most difficult it is, the less chances that you will be easily replaceable. Ok hoping I am not establishing a theory here. This thought came while running a startup, I find many people walk-in, work over the years and suddenly find that they are replaceable, it confuses them, irritates them, makes them feel that company is not understanding their value. However this is natural /bound to happen if you have stopped adding values to what you do and also bringing your own differentiation to it.

Lets take an example, during a software product development start, a set of process, framework and learning process gets established, each engineer gets it going as per the defined protocol. Over the time, only certain engineers think different way, add/suggest a different process/framework/methodology and 90% others simply follow what has been written/established on day one. Now these 90% claim they didn’t have time, they thought ‘doing as per rule’ is the way to go forward. However irony is whatever this 90% engineers did, all their knowledge is captured, product has been established and there is no differentiation in their thought/action, hence they are replicable & replaceable. They are not going to go to next stage of product development life cycle for that specific product.

Only those key people who kept on modifying their approach, questioned ‘why we do the way we do’, debated about different ways, forced some of their small initiative to be added by demonstrating advantages… these type of engineers are less replaceable, how they do is difficult to replicate’, they are fit for ‘software product engineer’. Here is my own analysis that I use for evaluating during interviews/assessment for finding a product engineer. If you score 3 ‘yes’, you are replaceable as a software product engineer. oops..


1. Are you using same programming language for last several years?

2. Are you using one framework for your product development for years without even checking what’s coming on in the framework roadmap ?

3. Do you think more number of years of experience in product development means more expertise?

4. Are you only a developer who writes code but who doesn’t know what a User Interface usability is?

5. Do you think writing more number of lines of code means lot of work?

7. Do you only read/visit Infoq.com or stackoverflow.com and hardly visit tech-business blogs like Techcrunch, Pluggd.in, Watblog, Mashable?

8. Do you think coding is fun but system administration/vi editor/server setup has no value? 

9. You don’t find time to write blogs, talk tech things in your company/city?

10. Do you think if there is no complexity in software development (hi-fi patterns for sake of) than it wont be a great product ?


Note : This post is highly personal style, I am happy to hear strong arguments against it. Based on observation, talking to friends, other startups, and communities, I think there are less software product engineers in India vs software service engineers a.k.a ‘software outsourcing engineer’. 


Startups in India, watch your โ€˜Payment Gatewayโ€™ back


[Note : Posting back in this new blog site as I dumped own wordpress hosting and moved to posterous, oops me geek nomad. This was also posted on pluggd.in ]

Payment gateway is backbone to India’s e-commerce but if you are a startup and observe the current situation (which is improving steadily), you will hear inner voice ‘what the heck why no body is doing something about it’. This inner and expressed voice you will see in almost all blogs in India. But then life goes on, each startup has a problem to solve.

Let me explain how & why I think Payment gateway solution providers are pushing Startups in India to few years backward!

1. Time to Market

 If you are developing an e-commerce app and want to release it in few week’s time, it is impossible that you will get payment gateway approved.They take lot longer. They don’t have a ‘sandbox’ environment where you can at least experiment your payment process and solution and fast forward your time to market.

When we first asked for a payment gateway solution during June 2008, one of India’s top solution providers didn’t respond for several weeks. We had few customer waiting to use our service but we were waiting for PG solution to respond to our query.

Hopefully PG providers will respond to market need and move things faster. We are talking about online payment not trunk call as it used be in 70?s.

2. Usability

Usability for me is simple as Jakob Nielsen’s following paragraph.

Jakob Nielsen defines usability : Usability is a quality attribute that assesses how easy user interfaces are to use.

Usability is defined by five quality components:
Learnability: How easy is it for users to accomplish basic tasks the first time they encounter the design?

Efficiency: Once users have learned the design, how quickly can they perform tasks?

Memorability: When users return to the design after a period of not using it, how easily can they reestablish proficiency?

Errors: How many errors do users make, how severe are these errors, and how easily can they recover from the errors?

Satisfaction: How pleasant is it to use the design?

Let me share some of bad usability I have encountered

2.1. Payment gateway only shows ‘bank names for credit card’ but doesn’t show ‘bank names with VISA credit card or Bank Names with Mastercard credit card’, so a user proceeds all the way to payment page and while entering ‘card number’, they realise that it only allows 16 digit!! Little they have idea that this payment gateway is only supporting VISA !! User will be pretty mad about it and first reaction is ‘why this ‘e-commerce portal’ didn’t inform me’.

2.2. All  payment gateways have a set of steps to go through for a user’s payment processing. Most of of them doesn’t show a simple flow diagram image on their payment landing page or ‘how it works’ link. User has absolutely no idea where he is being led to. Note : Payment gateway takes ~70% of transaction fees and they do a sloppy job.

2.3. Payment gateway asks same question several times!! Take ‘Billing info’ for instance, when payment gateway provider can ask user to submit their billing info on their payment page than why do Payment gateway insist ‘e-commerce portal’ to collect on their web page.

2.4. Payment gateway never inform user on  their payment page about unavailability of a bank due to maintenance. They let user proceed to payment and transaction is bound to fail.

Note : Some payment gateways have informed maintenance information just 1 hour before the scheduled maintenance!! Ok, but why can’t their solution make it automated? Simply show a message on payment page, so buyer is informed and doesn’t do a transaction for that bank!

3. Customer Relationship Management

A basic CRM solution/process from Payment gateway will help ‘e-commerce portals’ in a big way to manage their customers. For instance,

3.1. Every transaction request that reaches to a payment gateway page should be tracked and saved. Merchants invest heavily to win every customer, hence having every customer (who attempted to buy services and dropped off) info will build towards successful relationship management. Lot of analytics depends on this.

3.2. If there is a transaction that gets failed due to ‘payment gateway and Bank’ , such transaction should be communicated to Merchant in real-time. NOTE – currently all the payment gateway that we have come across miss this point.

3.3. They could provide an API at least to pull this real time transaction and customer info and allow e-commerce merchant to integrate with their backend CRM. Or  basic ‘transaction feed’ will enable ‘e-commerce portal’ to do the backend CRM job.

There are several such scenario where ‘e-commerce merchant’ lives at the mercy of payment gateway.

4. Cost of Support

Due to poor integration between the ‘Payment Gateway’ and ‘Bank’, several support requests get generated to the ‘e-commerce portal’. For the ‘e-commerce portal’, these payment failed/issues are uncalled support, they have better things to do such as their service & product support. The cost of support due to bad payment gateway increases as volume of transaction increases!!

5. Payment Gateway helping your Competitor

Your ‘e-commerce portal’ Startup might be first to market, innovative and steadily building up but watch out : your payment gateway partner may be helping your competitor to win your customers!! Because customer had bad experience with your payment gateway partner, so customer will jump the ship i.e. to your competitor.

This is based on our experience and learning. As they say ‘when you are young if few mistakes happens, quickly learn from it’. After learning from these mistakes, we did take few strong actions like having own better CRM solutions for payment handling,  support tickets are getting managed by apps like www.zendesk.com , real-time updates getting generated for each transaction request that goes via our ‘e-commerce portal’ and thanks to our payment gateway partner: at Ayojak, we have 99.99% transactions successfully handled,.