The Intrepid Innovator
There are few inheritors who decide to forsake family legacy and create independent wealth through innovation and enterprise.
Such is the case with Vinay Kalantri, the founder and managing director of The Mobile Wallet Private Limited.
Text: Ashutosh Gotad
Vinay Kalantri belongs to the immensely successful Balaji Group of Companies, which is owned by his father, the equally well-known Vijay Kalantri. The Kalantris originally belong to Merta, Rajasthan—a city that has great historical significance since it was here that Meerabai, the poetess and the most popular devotee of Lord Krishna, was born. During his formative years, the family already had a successful business. His father Vijay Kalantri had incorporated Balaji Group of Companies in 1985 that has made its mark in a wide array of fields like textiles, trading, IT, telecom, project advisory, financial services and infrastructure projects. Its flagship company, Balaji Infra Projects Limited (BIPL) is a leading infrastructure developer with interests in ports, rail, road, SEZ, power and other infrastructure projects. So what led Vinay to choose a different path when he could have taken over such a remarkable legacy?
“I am a second generation businessman with a strong belief that entitlement comes only with performance,” says Vinay in reply. “I have always wanted to lead from the front, and hence since my teenage years, I have been into businesses, either helping my family, or dabbling in a few ventures on my own. I started businesses and exited them at great valuations. But I have always aspired to be a technology entrepreneur.”
In all this, his father, however, has been a strong inspiration always. Here, Vinay reminisces about a saying his father had coined, “You can have a new dream every time you close your eyes, the key is to wake up every day and pursue the dream and take it to its logical conclusion.” This saying resonates in the back of Vinay’s mind every moment, showing in his work and interests. “I have always been more inclined towards new age and technology businesses, and hence, the previous businesses and now The Mobile Wallet. It feels a lot less like work when you’re doing something you love. Sometimes I like taking a break from work/meetings just to keep myself working on the dream that I am recreating in real life. I don’t think you ever stop creating dreams, be it for you or for others, as long as you are enjoying the process.”
The inception of a dream
India is going digital and Vinay has leveraged this to his advantage. In late 2015, with the firm belief that the next big revolution in India was possible only on mobile/digital payments, he started The Mobile Wallet—a Mumbai-based financial technology company that provides not just a cashless solution, but also a neo-banking experience to its customers—with which he aspires to create a next-gen banking experience for customers. What defines the brand is user-friendly approach and services, and Vinay and team intends to take this proposition to the masses. A good example of this is Hazira Township, also known as Nand Niketan, India’s first private sector township to go cashless with the help of The Mobile Wallet. The company also intends to introduce blockchain technology ecosystem in the retail payment sector, which can be applied to almost all fields in the financial sector, including payments and transfers. The Mobile Wallet has its own prepaid debit card which is linked to the e-wallet; this makes transactions easier. The company has also diversified and has other products. The Food Wallet—a systematic prepaid food coupon and discount portal—is just one of them.
A futuristic proposition
The Mobile Wallet was started with the intention to do something disruptive. Vinay says, “If I cannot bring disruption in a market, then I don’t even think about getting into it.” At The Mobile Wallet, the disruption was a prepaid card—a card that truly became the first interoperable payment instrument in India. With the launch of this card, their acceptance network was amongst the highest, if not the highest, in India, without investing a single rupee in building the acceptance network.
Their first innovation, India’s first SmartSpend account, combines the best of a MasterCard and a digital wallet to make your spends a whole lot smarter. They also intend to redefine the banking of tomorrow by making it ‘human’, ‘honest’ and ‘happy’. The company has been recognised by SiliconIndia as amongst the top 10 promising e-payment solution providers in India. And, as per the latest RBI data, they make more than 5% of India’s prepaid transactions.
Operating in a challenging environment
Vinay takes inspiration from Bill Gates’ famous statement, “Banking is necessary, but banks are not.” With The Mobile Wallet, he has created a product with short and simplified processes that can be completed as per consumers’ convenience. The most important challenge—data security—was taken care of by launching a chip and pin prepaid card to reduce vulnerability during transaction processing.
The two major dimensions The Mobile Wallet focuses on are customer/client interaction and allocation of task. Through client interaction, they have been in a position to improvise the product as per the customer’s need. Automated transactions and load processes, on the other hand, have streamlined the operations, reducing manmade errors and automated standard protocols have ensured customers’ trust.
A promising future
The past one year has been pretty exciting for the company as it has witnessed exponential growth, even in the backdrop of a ‘remonetised’ economy. Month-on-month, transactions on his platforms are rising, which, for Vinay, is a positive indicator of the growth of the digital payment industry. India also ranks second and third in the world in terms mobile phone subscriptions and number of internet users, respectively. This provides a conducive environment for a ‘less cash’ economy. However, Vinay also admits that there are not many incentives for consumers to go digital yet. He feels the government needs to reward consumers who prefer transacting digitally.
The family man behind the businessman
Vinay considers himself lucky to have a beautiful family. He considers his daughter as the biggest source of inspiration and energy. Her simple questions have taught him to not accept everything at face value but to ask ‘why’.
His wife Heena comes from a business family and understands the pressure of building businesses ground up. She being a working member in the company, has taught Vinay a lot about how successful organisations are built with people and not just processes and products. His favourite pastimes are skiing and flying drones, and his most loved destination is London.