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Interview: Upstox co-founder Shrini Viswanath says, “We plan to reach 2 million customers by December 2020”

In conversation with the TechGraph editorial team, Shrini Viswanath, co-founder and CTO of Upstox said, “We are aiming to reach 2 million customer base by December 2020.”

TechGraph: What is the core value of Upstox?

Shrini Viswanath: Since the beginning, Upstox has been driven by the idea to make trading in stock markets simple and accessible to all, with an objective to improve equity participation in the country.

Indian households contribute significantly to the country’s savings which need to be channelized well through equities, bonds, and other instruments, to achieve greater financial inclusion. If we want the country to attain high sustainable growth, the investment rate must be raised.

TechGraph: What was the idea behind the launch of Upstox and how did it start?

Shrini Viswanath: We – Ravi, Raghu, and I set up RKSV Securities in 2009 solely for proprietary trading purposes. In 2012, RKSV entered retail broking and launched an online-only, flat-fee unlimited trading plan that allowed retail traders to cut down considerably on their brokerage costs. RKSV Securities launched the trading platform – Upstox in 2016. 

Upstox was founded with the aim to disrupt the digital brokerage space with cutting-edge technological innovations. Together, we have built a firm that is based on quality service with cutting-edge technology, designed to offer the least expensive brokerage service with the best user platform.

TechGraph: What makes Upstox different from the other big players who are already in this business?

Shrini Viswanath: One of the key differentiators that Upstox brings to the business is its ability to build and use technology in the house that enhances the overall user experience and its simple user interface that caters to customers from all walks of life, from self-directed active traders to new-to-market investors. The interface is user-friendly, and no overloads at low fees.

Almost 65% of our customers are first-time traders and investors. While more than 75% of our customer base is below the age of 35, around 80% of our customer base is from Tier-2 and Tier-3 towns and almost 85% of our customers carry out daily trades on smartphones.

TechGraph: Which are your most unique products and services?

Shrini Viswanath: The Upstox platform has always been focused on offering best-in-class services, from the time a customer opens an account to the time of executing a trade or even beyond. Our mobile app is also extremely intuitive and easy-to-use even for first-time traders.

From analyzing the market to viewing charts and placing trades, everything can be done in a few taps on a mobile phone. Also, keeping in mind the requirements of options traders, we recently upgraded our options trading platform, Pro-Web 3.0, where we offer 2-chart libraries and strategy mode for options trading, features that were well received by the options traders community. 

Meanwhile, we are constantly upgrading our processes using new-age technology and working on improving UI and simplifying the process to make trading easier and more accessible to people across the country.

TechGraph: How large is your customer base? What are the average trading volumes?

Shrini Viswanath: We crossed the 1 million customer mark in June 2020 and aim to reach 2 million by December 2020. Upstox has seen a 2X increase in trading volumes during the last 3 months. Approximately 85% of our orders are being generated on the Upstox mobile app.

TechGraph: What kind of growth has Upstox registered in the last six months?

Shrini Viswanath: We’ve seen an increase in customer additions even before lockdown began. We achieved the historic milestone for opening the highest number of accounts in December 2019, about 3 months before lockdown. 

We’re growing at a phenomenal level and have seen a 10x growth in our customer base since June 2018 and aim to reach 2 million by December 2020. 

Technology has made working from home easy and now everything can be accessed with a few taps on mobile. Often enough, we use multiple gadgets for our daily transactions. This is also reflected in the trading habits of our users, where 85% of orders are placed from mobile phones.

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Given the trend, we have worked on building a platform that is easy to access from the desktop and a smartphone. 

It is our aim to build a product that addresses the needs of every evolving trader with brilliant customer experience. 

We continue to ensure that we deliver by merging modern technology with customer-prioritized services to offer a platform that caters to every kind of investor and trader.

TechGraph: Over 80% of your customers are from Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities. What is the reason behind this?

Shrini Viswanath: The government has worked really hard to increase internet penetration in India, which is reflected in the wide user base of social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube. These social media platforms have reached every corner of India, increasing the awareness of various things. 

People are also using various social media platforms to generate a second source of income. Incidentally, the Internet has single-handedly helped to raise awareness levels about many things, including equity participation.

Over the last year, Upstox has on-boarded a large number of digitally-savvy traders from non-metro cities like Nashik, Jaipur, Guntur, Patna, Kannur, Tiruvallur, and Nainital among others. These growing numbers are driven by our practical and straightforward platform, a simple user interface that makes trading a rewarding experience even in areas of low internet bandwidth.

It is also indicative of the trust and confidence that traders and investors have placed in us and we’re grateful that more than a million traders have helped Upstox in its journey to becoming one of India’s biggest brokerage firms. 

TechGraph: The past few months have been challenging for the businesses, how did you deal with the pandemic?

Shrini Viswanath: We have always been a tech-first company, hence always prepared to work from home, regardless of the lockdown. So it was not difficult to adapt to the new normal. Technology has always been moving at a speed faster than humans. 

The advantages of communicating remotely or using AI for everyday work have been around for a while. But for the first time, since the pandemic, human behavior is changing with technology. 

The pandemic has forced people and companies to work differently. By doing so, companies are achieving the goals they have long strived for which is “digital transformation.”

Luckily, at Upstox, we have always been at the front-end of technology, which helped us in our growth map, despite the trying times around us. 

TechGraph: Most of your customers are young, almost 75% are below the age of 35. What advice would you like to give to beginners?

Shrini Viswanath: We believe in offering top-notch customer service and platform stability so that it makes trading easy for all users. While our app is easy-to-use even for first-time traders, we now offer new investors the chance to learn the basics of trading through simple online courses so that they can educate themselves and better their trading skills. 

Our core advice would always be to start with paper trading, fine-tune your stock investing strategy before committing money. Start with smaller trades before investing in more expensive trades, use the stop-loss option to maintain financial discipline and always, read, and stay informed.  

TechGraph: Is there any plan to enter new verticles too?

Shrini Viswanath: We are at an exciting phase of growth where we are working towards building a brand that empowers people from all walks of life to do more with their money through equity participation. We want to build a platform that offers complete financial solutions to anyone who visits our platform.

TechGraph: What is the roadmap for Upstox going forward?

Shrini Viswanath: We are now aiming to achieve a 2 million customer base by December 2020. We believe that this will be made possible by our intuitive trading platform that is built and innovated on the basis of the evolving needs of our customers. 

We hope to take trade with people from all walks of life. We also have some innovative and customer-centric features in the pipeline this year that will further enhance the experience of traders and investors on the Upstox platform.