I was born in a very small village in Uttar Pradesh, the population of which is in four digits and I still cannot locate it in Google maps. After spending six years there, I moved on to a small town called Jahanabad and studied there till 5th standard and then moved to Kanpur to live in a hostel while my family still stayed in Jahanabad. Few years later my family also moved to Kanpur. During my 12th standard I appeared for JEE and got selected. With a desire to explore beyond Kanpur, I decided to pick IIT Bombay instead of IIT Kanpur and moved to Mumbai in 2001.
After graduating from IIT Bombay in 2005, I started my career from unlikely field of retail banking for a Mechanical Engineer. I got an opportunity to work with HDFC Bank as part of their Business Solutions Group, which was later called Business Process Re-engineering Group. I was part of the team taking care of retail payments and digital solutions for retail customers. It was a time when innovations in payments space were just picking up. HDFC Bank had just recently launched their prepaid card variants, Netsafe, their one time use virtual card was still in infancy, Bank was having big plans around credit card and merchant acquiring business, mobile payments was something people had started talking about. In short I was very fortunate to start my journey at such a stage when India was at the starting point of re-imagining payments and in an organization which was at the forefront of this all under the supervision of a boss, who allowed me to paint my own canvas, without throwing his authority around whenever we had our disagreements and sometimes very heated debates.
I spent almost 9 years in HDFC Bank and in those years I was instrumental in implementation of many features of Indian payments space. I was the one who implemented Verified by Visa (VbV), back bone of 2nd factor authentication for online transactions way before RBI decided to make it mandatory. Soon after we extended to MasterCard Secure Code. I was key part of EMV implementation across debit, credit and prepaid variants of cards for HDFC Bank. I got to be a part of one of the biggest banking mergers in Indian Banking with merger of HDFC Bank and Centurian Bank of Punjab. I was the man in-charge for migration of all Debit and Prepaid card related data from CBoP to HDFC Bank.
When our financial inclusion business team needed support from solutions team I was pushed in that direction by my boss and that gave me the opportunity to work on projects like Bank on Wheels, Ultra Small Branches. We experimented with biomertic authentication for our rural approach and that made me the obvious choice to work with UIDAI and NPCI during early days of AEPS and APBS.
When Diners wanted to partner with HDFC Bank after expiry of their engagement with Citi Bank in India, I got to be a part of that project and worked very closely with Diners team to ensure smooth launch of HDFC Bank Diners Club Credit Card.
HDFC Bank also gave me the chance to work on massive project of core-banking upgrade and gave me the understanding of the amount of planning that goes into executing project affecting practically all departments of the organization spanning over a period of many months. How to manage and monitor the impact at various stages to avoid any catastrophe is one of the key things I learned from that project.
During this period mobile was also sneaking in and we were all exploring how to exploit the growing influence of mobile phones to process payments and allowed me to work on projects like mChek and mPesa. For our mChek implementation I made sure we store card track data inside mChek application on the mobile phone/SIM card thus processing the transaction as Card Present instead of Card not Present. Effectively we were using mobile device as one factor of authentication in 2007.
I also got a feel of regulatory and compliance areas by getting exposed to projects like SOX and PCI-DSS.
Post my stint at HDFC Bank and I moved on to Kotak Mahindra Bank, again as part of their Business Solutions Group. Two key projects I managed to execute in Kotak were enabling Kotak ATMs to acquire Master Cards and another banking merger as part of merger of Kotak Mahindra Bank with ING Vysya Bank.
At this point I was approached by the team building Jio Payments Bank and I joined them as their 11th employee with the mandate to design solutions for all their customer facing services. This gave me a glimpse of how to build an organization from scratch with access to unlimited capital.
Aparajit was setting up an accelerator for early stage Fintech start-ups and he approached me to help him with the same and I jumped to the opportunity as it was clearly something very new for me and also exciting considering all the action happening in Fintech space. I got a chance to invest in few really good Fintech start-ups at very early stage. One of them Open Financial is doing really well in Open Banking/Neo Banking space. This stint gave me a closer look at venture investing and a balcony seat to all the action in early stage Fintech start-up space.
When things changed at the accelerator because of factors beyond our control, we all decided move on to our respective directions with me choosing to join early stage payments start-up Payabbhi as their Chief Product Officer.