Razorpay: Building the Central Nervous System for Digital India

Ishaan Mittal
4 min readOct 12, 2020

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Shashank Kumar and Harshil Mathur launched Razorpay in 2014 as a payment gateway built to meet the needs of millions of Indian merchants who were starting to move online. Razorpay simplified digital payments for these merchants by embedding the full gamut of payment acceptance options — e-wallets, plastic cards and eventually Unified Payments Interface (UPI) — all into one simple API. It was a razor-sharp solution to all the payment woes of online merchants — simple and intuitive.

Like many other start-up stories, Razorpay wasn’t an overnight success. It’s a story of perseverance. The team put in sweat and blood, spending countless nights and days to build, improve and perfect their product. When we met Harshil and Shashank in 2018, Razorpay was growing rapidly, penetrating deeper into the digital economy by the day. It was very clear to us that they embodied all the qualities we admire and values that we live by — big ambition, long-term vision, patience, a maniacal focus on product and a deep desire to make the world a better place using technology. After close to a year, during which we met multiple times and introduced them to many Sequoia India portfolio companies, Sequoia Capital India had the privilege of partnering with the company in 2019.

Since then, many from the broader Sequoia Capital India team have worked closely with the company. These engagements have allowed us to get to know the Razorpay team well, and to understand their strengths and motivations more deeply. There are many things they do exceptionally. But if I had to pick their superpower, it would be their innate understanding and deep empathy for their customers’ pain points.

Innovation as a Culture

Over the years, Harshil and Shashank have developed a deep connection and association with their customers, to the point where they think like them — and now, this ability is woven into the cultural fabric of the company. Many employees who join the team spend time in the customer service functions to understand customer needs, which has helped nurture a bottom-up culture of innovation. Their consistent drive to solve a customer’s pain point has turned Razorpay into a product juggernaut constantly building cutting edge financial technology for the digital businesses of India.

A good case in point is the inception of Razorpay Capital. The Razorpay team had deep conversations with over 400 merchants in 2018 to uncover their financial pain points beyond payments. They learned that many of these young companies were struggling to grow as they were starved of adequate capital due to their lack of credit history. This inspired the team to build a product facilitating instant cash advances and working capital loans to their customers.

This enterprising culture, which fosters innovation and risk-taking, has attracted a team of A-players united by the North Star goal of empowering and enabling digital payments in India. Razorpay has focused on attracting the best talent, zeroing in on candidates with a learning mindset and nurturing them as long-term partners. The fact that they consistently do the right thing by their employees during every fundraising round — over 200 employees so far have monetized their stock options so far — is a testament to their ‘team first’ approach.

Central Nervous System for Digital India

At Sequoia Capital India, we dream of a future that is digital-first, digital-led and digitally native. Digitization is an instrument for bringing in efficiency, transparency and parity. It will break down barriers, democratize opportunities, and empower all sections of the society to propel India’s economy forward. I would go as far as saying that digitization is perhaps the biggest economic force since industrialization.

One key ingredient of a successful digital economy is a frictionless, seamless and bi-directional flow of money and financial information. A trusted platform that powers payments and exchange of financial data between constituents creates a safe, conducive and secured sphere for digital commerce to flourish. Razorpay’s vision is to be a unified financial technology platform for millions of business. This platform will become the central nervous system of India’s digital economy.

Harshil articulates Razorpay’s vision well: “Our purpose is to create products that help businesses track and move money.”

With this goal, Razorpay has launched Razorpay X, a neo-banking platform that offers current accounts, vendor payout solutions and payroll software among other products, to enable businesses to manage their entire financial system through the Razorpay platform. This, combined with a payment gateway suite and Razorpay Capital, will become the go-to destination for all financial needs for any business. For this reason, we believe that this is one of the most foundational companies that is being built in India today, and one of the pillars on which other entrepreneurs will build the digital future of India.

The entire team at Sequoia Capital India is stoked to have partnered with Razorpay in their mission to revolutionize finance for online businesses. We are big believers in this vision and Sequoia India is excited to deepen it’s partnership with Razorpay by leading the company’s Series D round.

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