INNOVATORS VS COVID 19
ZebPay: How India’s Biggest Crypto Exchange has Survived and Thrived During Covid-19
Rahul Pagidipati, CEO of ZebPay tells us about buying and selling Bitcoin, Ether, and other cryptocurrencies instantly.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Rahul Pagidipati: I’m going to interpret “family” the way we do here at ZebPay, with the Hawaiian word “ohana.” It means family in the larger sense of community. Our ZebPay family has more than tripled in size since March 2020, adding over 100 new members. A few of us have gotten Covid, but thank God, recovered fine. We offer full health insurance and send gift baskets and offer regular support and encouragement calls while they got better.
Tell us about you, your career, how you joined ZebPay.
Rahul Pagidipati: ZebPay was founded in 2014 by three guys from Ahmedabad who just wanted to give Indians a simple way to buy Bitcoin: Mahin Gupta, Saurabh Agrawal, and Sandeep Goenka. I came on as a minority investor in 2018 and took over majority ownership in January 2020. I’ve been an entrepreneur for over 20 years, mostly in health care and more recently in blockchain and crypto. I’m also Chief Investment Officer of Ayon Capital.
How does ZebPay innovate?
Rahul Pagidipati: We were India’s first cryptocurrency exchange and are still the largest in total user base. Nearly two-thirds of Indian crypto investors bought their first bitcoin or crypto on ZebPay. We’re now innovating in NFTs (non-fungible tokens), financial services, and other areas. We recently launched ZebLabs, our own R&D division, to bring blockchain-powered solutions to help solve social problems.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Rahul Pagidipati: The lockdown had the side effect of leaving people at home with more time to explore new ideas and try new things. At the same time as the lockdown started, the Supreme Court of India issued a ruling favorable to our industry, so between the two factors, we had a 30X surge in business. We’ve nearly tripled our number of employees with everyone working remotely.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Rahul Pagidipati: We realized that working from home is going to be the new normal, so we have researched how to create a happy work environment without being in one place. We can now hire people from any geographic location. The biggest challenge is making sure everyone feels like one ohana, one family, in spite of being in separate places. It’s team-building while social distancing, but we’re learning from other companies’ best practices and coming up with some ideas of our own.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Rahul Pagidipati: We focus on culture since everything else–product, service, marketing, brand–flows from the culture you create among your team. We have a Chief Culture Officer, who we call Chief Ohana Officer, with broad authority to implement and foster change. We apply nudge theory and other ideas from behavioral economics along with plain kindness and common sense to help people move in positive directions. Top-down things like posting a mission statement don’t work.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Rahul Pagidipati: In our industry and particularly at ZebPay, we don’t use the word competitors. We say collaborators in creating the crypto industry and bringing this revolutionary technology to India.
Your final thoughts?
Rahul Pagidipati: One of our priorities is bringing more women into crypto investing and into our team. We’re working to get to 50/50 in both areas and making good progress.
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