Upasana Taku: The Woman Who Changed the Way We Pay

Meet Upasana Taku, the COO and board chair of MobiKwik, who, along with her husband, founded a business that's changing the way we pay.

Meet Upasana Taku, the COO and board chair of MobiKwik, who, along with her husband, founded a business that’s changing the way we pay.

When you think of pioneers in the world of digital payments and FinTech, names like Bill Gates and Elon Musk often come to mind. However, there’s one remarkable woman who is making waves in this dynamic industry without the benefit of an Ivy League education.

In a world where success stories frequently begin with Ivy League degrees and silver spoons, Upasana Taku’s journey stands out as a testament to grit, determination, and a commitment to making a difference.

Born in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, to a Kashmiri family, her early life wasn’t marked by privilege or elite education. Instead, it was her unwavering drive for knowledge and an unquenchable thirst for greatness that set her on a unique path.

A modest start for Upasana Taku

Upasana Taku

After completing her schooling in Surat, Upasana Taku pursued a degree in engineering from NIT Jalandhar. It was in 2002 that she took a life-altering flight to the United States, seeking a Master’s in Management Sciences from Stanford University. Stanford, with its rich tradition of entrepreneurship and a focus on the real-world application of knowledge, proved to be the incubator for the seeds of entrepreneurship sown in Upasana’s heart.

However, the journey didn’t stop at graduation. Like many middle-class Indians, she secured a job at HSBC Bank in 2006, a promising start by conventional standards. But Upasana was destined for something more profound, a desire to address fundamental issues at the grassroots level.

Her pivotal moment came in 2008 when she made a life-altering decision. She returned to India, a move that surprised and initially worried her parents, who were working in South Africa at the time. The allure of the “American Dream” and a Green Card was left behind in pursuit of a grand vision to impact lives in India.

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How Upasana Taku Journeyed through grassroots to entrepreneurship?

In India, Upasana recognized the transformative power of working with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to address grassroots issues. In November 2008, she joined Drishtee, a small NGO in Delhi that focused on rural Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) and microfinance. It was here that she got a chance to travel to rural areas in the northern states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, witnessing both the potential and shortcomings of NGO operations in India.

Her entrepreneurial spirit led her to venture into different sectors. She briefly worked with 2020 Social, a start-up offering social media consultancy services to companies. But Upasana soon realized that her true calling lay in a different direction.

It was in December 2008 that fate smiled on Upasana when she met her future husband, Bipin Preet Singh, through common friends. He was working with a Noida-based chip company, and together, they shared a vision for an e-wallet firm. Their combined determination to turn this vision into reality led them to co-found MobiKwik in August 2009, and five months later, Upasana officially joined the journey.

The path to establishing MobiKwik was anything but smooth. They faced resistance from banks, and convincing their first partners and employees was an uphill battle. Upasana’s unshakeable belief in their vision kept her going, even during moments of self-doubt in the first year. The product was up and running, but user adoption wasn’t as swift as they had hoped. Operating on a bootstrapped budget and with a core team member’s departure, morale hit a low point.

In 2011, Upasana Taku co-founded MobiKwik, a mobile wallet and digital payment platform. She saw a world where people could pay with ease and security, and she was determined to make it happen. But it wasn’t all smooth sailing.

Yet, their persistence paid off when they secured their first deal, marking a turning point in their journey. From there, MobiKwik experienced four wonderful years of growth, breaking even and expanding without external funding. In 2013, they secured their first round of funding, and MobiKwik began its ascent.

Challenges, competition, and the unwavering Spirit

The next two years proved challenging as easy money flooded into the world of e-commerce and mobile wallets. Competitors like Paytm, which started a year later in 2010, spent lavishly on marketing and customer acquisition. Despite the fierce competition and the era of easy money, Upasana remained unfazed. She firmly believed that sustainable success wasn’t about creating a buzz with money; it was about building a solid business foundation.

So, how does one maintain frugality in an industry where competitors are throwing money at marketing and cashbacks? Upasana’s strategy didn’t rely solely on MobiKwik’s growth. She identified a gap in the payment gateways space and founded Zaakpay in 2010, a digital payment gateway for e-commerce firms. Zaakpay became an integral part of MobiKwik’s ecosystem.

Power of persistence

In the unpredictable world of entrepreneurship, Upasana values one trait above all: persistence. She knows that highs and lows are part of the journey, and her ability to navigate the challenging phases has been crucial to her success.

She draws inspiration from the past ten months, a tough period for many e-commerce companies, including those with more resources and investor support than MobiKwik. Yet, she and her team kept hustling, never giving in to the difficulties.

While Upasana has found the formula for persistent hustle in the workplace, maintaining a work-life balance with her life partner, who is also her co-founder, presents a unique challenge. Conflicts sometimes spill over from work into their personal lives, a situation that’s familiar to many couples who work together.

Nevertheless, they’ve implemented measures to keep their professional and personal lives separate.

The future: a billion-dollar vision

Looking ahead, Upasana Taku and MobiKwik have set ambitious goals. They aim for a Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) of $1 billion by 2017 and are aggressively expanding their offline presence. The ultimate goal is profitability by 2018. As Upasana continues to hustle in pursuit of these objectives, her journey remains an inspiration to all those who dare to dream and work relentlessly to turn those dreams into reality.

The journey was fraught with challenges. Upasana was a woman in a male-dominated tech world. Upasana’s journey wasn’t just about business; it was about empowering people and, especially, women. She saw that women were often left out of the financial equation, and she was determined to change that. MobiKwik became a vehicle for financial inclusion, allowing women to take charge of their money, their way.

Upasana Taku’s impact on the world of digital payments and FinTech is undeniable. Her journey, marked by determination and innovation, has not only transformed the industry but has also empowered countless individuals, particularly women. Reflecting on her accomplishments, we acknowledge that her story is a testament to the potential for change and empowerment, achieved through unwavering commitment and vision.

Upasana Taku’s legacy is one of inspiration and transformation in the world of digital payments, proving that success is not limited to the elite; it’s within reach of those who dare to dream and work tirelessly to make those dreams a reality.

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Image source: CanvaPro

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About the Author

Suruchi Kumari

Hello! I am a feminist and an aspiring journalist. I'm all about dedicating myself to ensure unheard(ignored) and everyday stories of people find a regular place in your feed, through pen or mic; read more...

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