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Sameer Nigam and Rahul Chari, co-founders of PhonePe say hustle culture is overrated, weekends are family time

Hustling and overworking has many a time found a place in stories of startup founders, especially as the hype and romanticism around startups picked pace. However, Sameer Nigam and Rahul Chari, the co-founders of PhonePe, one of the highest valued fintech startups in India, believe that the hustle culture is overrated.

Sameer Nigam and Rahul Chari, co-founders of PhonePe say hustle culture is overrated, weekends are family time
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Hustling and overworking has many a time found a place in stories of startup founders, especially as the hype and romanticism around startups picked pace. However, Sameer Nigam and Rahul Chari, the co-founders of PhonePe, one of the highest valued fintech startups in India, believe that the hustle culture is overrated.

Chari, founder and Chief Technology Officer said, "We had decided early on that we are not going to be the company that continuously burns the midnight oil, we're not going to call people over weekends." Chari believes that it is important to have a happy team that is concentrated on building things in the right way.

Chari also believes that there is certain romanticism attached to the hustle culture which is not necessary to grow a startup. He said, "We continue to be extremely prolific and with all the features that we roll out and the growth that we see, we don't need to hustle, as long as we think through things and plan it better."

Chari added, "When you actually look back a year, any startup that has tried that (hustle culture) versus a startup which has worked like us, the net impact is possibly higher on our side."

Further, according to the founders, the fintech sector doesn't allow for overworking and requires a stable approach. Nigam said, "It (fintech) is a very heavily regulated industry, and this is real money. We are now processing over $800 billion a year, annualised. If we started behaving like Mavericks, serious problems can happen."

Chari said, "He (Nigam) probably would be the only CEO who keeps telling people to do less, 'Don't do this. Let's stop this. We can do it later.'"

Nigam argued any company that gets to scale should not put out bad beta products. He said, "Even if you take three months more to get it right if the first interaction with like one-three million customers in the first few weeks is good, the word of mouth that it will carry is just so precious and then there's no pressure."

Further, on the funding winter, Nigam said the slowdown that we are seeing in the startup world was imminent after large-scale investments chased budding but yet-to-mature startups.

However, startups that were disciplined during the good cycles and did not chase high valuations will not feel the pressure now, he added.

PhonePe is a leader in the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) with a 47 percent share in monthly volumes. It currently processes over 2.5 billion transactions a month at an annual total payments volume run rate of $780 billion.

During the interaction, Nigam also said the company has clear plans to list on the stock exchanges someday and when ready it will launch an initial public offering (IPO) in India.

Founded in December 2015, the company has more than 360 million registered users and one in four Indians is now using it. It has digitised over 27 million offline merchants spread across Tier II, III, and IV cities and beyond, covering 99 percent of pin codes in the country.

The Flipkart and Walmart-backed company recently said that it plans to double its employee strength by the end of December as it taps a boom in online transactions. PhonePe currently has 2,600 employees and 2,800 open job positions across cities such as Bengaluru, Pune, Mumbai, and Delhi it is seeking to fill by April 2023.

Dwaipayan Bhattacharjee
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