Ratan Tata and Tiger global backed digital broker Upstox has been growing at a frenetic pace as it rides on ongoing mega trend of record number of first time retail stock owners opening trading accounts in recent years. Ravi Kumar, Co-Founder and CEO, Upstox shares growth aspiration for the digital broker in an e-mail interview with BusinessLine

Excerpts: 

Q

When we last met, you had mentioned crossing 8 to 10 million customers by year-end. What is the update?

Upstox now has over 9 million customers. We are thrilled to soon hit another milestone in our company’s history by crossing 10 million customers. We are extremely humbled by the number of people across the country actively choosing us as their investment platform.

Our exponential scale-up is proof that customers trust us and recognize the value of our cutting-edge technology and our hassle-free investment process. We hope to grow by 3x in FY23 and aim to have 200 million to 300 million customers on-board in the next four to five years.

Q

How are you trying to make Upstox, a one-stop shop for your customers? What are the expansion plans ?

As a brand, we want to empower Indians by helping them make better investing and trading decisions.

In order to be the financial platform of choice for Indians, we will continue to innovate and invest heavily in the new-age tech stack and features. We have integrated with WhatsApp for IPO application and demat account opening, and launched features such as Good-Till-Triggered and instant withdrawal. We are working on building a new version of our app that will transform the way our customers invest and make it hassle-free and educational. The only way to cater to the needs of our tech-savvy customers is to offer an on-the-go, simple, intuitive, and seamless experience that helps to build their confidence in their investment decisions.

We have been on an aggressive growth trajectory since the last few years. Partnering with IPL would enable us to capitalise on the cricket craze to further strengthen our brand among younger demographics.

Q

The year 2021 has seen a surge in IPO activity by start-ups. What does this year look like?

With some of the country’s most anticipated companies about to go public, we expect a surge in enthusiasm in IPOs in the near future. Thanks to the much-anticipated IPO of Life Insurance Corporation, 2022 could be a record-breaking year for initial public offerings. Digital brokerages like Upstox, with our tech-driven and scaled business models, have played a critical part in driving this broad-based distribution and adoption. At Upstox, we will continue to participate in  Bharat’s growth story by leveraging tech innovations to make equity participation more inclusive and accessible.

Q

Lots of millennials have joined equity markets—do you see this trend keeping pace?

At Upstox, of our total customer base of over 9 million, over 80 per cent are millennials. Investors from tier 2 and 3 cities in India represent about 85 per cent of our customer base. And, of our total customer base, over 70 per cent are first-time investors. We believe millennials are playing an active role in driving equity market participation in the country, and thereby participating in India’s growth story. The millennial mindset is inclined towards experimentation and portfolio diversification.

Our financial literacy efforts will continue to be scaled by platforms like ours. This will continue as the number of  ‘finfluencers’  grows. Vernacular content and platforms will drive the next wave.

Q

What is your view on competition in the digital broking space?

The broking sector in India has undergone a revolution over the years, fuelled by technological advancements and significant shifts in market structure. We need to expand financial services in India, come up with new ways to do so, and create new business models. We’ll need more competition for that. Competition is great—it promotes creativity and pushes us to deliver newer products and solutions to our customers. What our peers are doing in this space inspires us.

Q

Do you see consolidation in this space next year?

In India, the brokerage industry is vast, aggressive, and there are so many new opportunities across the fintech space. As mentioned before, we are still at only 5 to 6% equity participation. Our mission is to bring prosperity to every Indian. And while we’ve come a long way, we have a huge opportunity ahead of us. And I believe there is plenty of space for multiple innovative companies to thrive in this huge space. We will strive harder in the next few years to transform the way Indians invest.

Q

Fintech has scaled up in the last couple of years. Do you see the momentum keeping pace or do you foresee major challenges?

India’s fintech market is currently valued at $31 billion and is expected to grow to $84 billion by 2025, a compounded annual growth rate of 22%. Fintech has the capability to fundamentally reinvent and reinvigorate India’s financial and banking services sector by reaching more underserved customers. At Upstox, we intend to raise financial awareness with the aim of increasing equity participation in India, which currently stands at 5–6% compared to the over 50% in developed countries.

With the Covid crisis under control, good market performance, high internet penetration, and favourable government measures, Indian fintech start-ups have plenty of room to expand. The divide between India and Bharat, urban and rural, haves and have-nots is narrowing, and fintech start-ups are playing an increasingly important role in defining this digital economy.

Q

What are the hiring plans for this year?

We are actively hiring across roles and functions, and the remote working norm has now made it possible for us to hire across India and as well as globally. At Upstox, we have more than 500 employees across various functions.

We have always focused on building a team that reinforces our core stand of being a technology-first company that offers financial services. Thus, a significant percentage of our hiring will be across the roles like product managers, product designers, engineers, UX designers and researchers. 

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