Kunal Nandwani, Founder & CEO (uTrade Solutions) grew up in Chandigarh and moved to London after Computer Science engineering and worked in the Investment banking industry for 6 years and came back to India to start the trading platform based on his experience. He along with three other founders (Mayank Mathur, Harinder Sidhu and Ashish Grover) built an online trading & algorithm trading platform to service the financial institutes, brokers etc. When they began operations in 2011, they had a product in mind (online trading as Indian financial market participants would grow and move to online platforms) and began building it and simultaneously began talking to potential customers who said that few similar products are there and it would take a minimum of one year to develop and the feedback was discouraging.
Kunal and the co-founders knew that the other products were not excellent, and that they will fail sometime; and kept at meeting prospects and selling hard and when the prospects saw a London based banker at the helm of the company talking passionately about his vision of helping the financial industry, the confidence began rising and the deals slowly began coming in. Kunal now began focusing on finding some partners who could open up doors and Kunal kept sharing the vision on how the future of the finance and brokerage industry will be over the next five to six years and did not talk about a project of a few months to do a point engagement and get away. They sat with the right people for about a year meeting everyone in the industry and socialized the vision of the product and took the feedback. This helped relevant businesses become aware of uTrade, and its vision.
Kunal had to pivot from the main product as a large financial institution released similar product and began offering it to customers free of cost and suddenly the product uTrade had built became hard to sell commercially. This was a big shock for a year old startup, but uTrade team rose up to the challenge by leveraging the experience that the team got out of building the earlier version and the fact that he had something to demo into a market that knew them. This helped him in credentializing their experience and he showed his prospects that he was far away from the idea stage and would be able to begin work with some customization, and launch new products as well.
The second product (algo trading) became a hit by the end of the second year when it got traction and actively used in the Indian markets. The third year they converted the couple of early products into enterprise level scalable software to be sold to multiple clients in India and internationally. Kunal travels extensively almost 10 to 15 days a month to all financial capitals of countries and meets whoever will be interested in talking. With Intellectual property that was tested amongst the early customers in the third year, they began charging full price and got 25 customers across 6 countries in 4 continents and in the fourth year
Kunal clearly demarcates the US and the Indian customers, where US customers will be satisfied with standard products to fit into the purpose but Indian customers will be satisfied in private labelling and customization making them feel that it is a product meant for them. He began with the initial customers in UK, but also realized that in-spite of India being a bit behind US & UK in development, it is an emerging country along the likes of China, Dubai and Latin America and he began focussing on these countries because the competition will be less and began reaching out to people through linkedin and ended up selling the product to companies in these countries as his story is most relevant to these countries
Kunals three takeaways to the startups:
1 Sales fixes everything – There is no point in building some product that you cannot sell or unless you know how customers will use it
2 Half the battle is .. keep showing up in front of the prospects. He advices founders to travel extensively or get someone else who can travel. Being in front of the clients whether they pay or not as you keep developing the product and ideas is extremely important as they also meet lots of people and forget you if you don’t be there in front of them as often as you can
3 Work in Partnership Model – You cannot keep doing everything yourself, get the partners who can open doors for you. Try collaborating with someone who may be even be competitors in some areas. Kunal talks about partnering in one of his blogs http://kunalonfintech.com/chosing-partner-clients-start-ups-growth-stage/
Today utradesolutions , after 3.5 years of being in business got featured as Most Innovative Fintech company in the world by Fintech Innovation Labs London, Nasscom Emerge product and got featured in 2014 Red Herring Asia top 100 technology companies. uTrade solutions has 40 employees 3 offices worldwide.