Tell us about you, your career, how you founded BookMyForex
Sudarshan Motwani: When I look at my journey, I find myself as someone who wasn’t happy doing what was standard. I had to do compulsively try new ideas even if that meant taking very large risks. I have moved on to various private sector banks to introduce several new products and delivery channel innovations throughout my banking career spanning over 30 years. I had a very strong inkling that retail forex service was a must have division in any Bank. I went on to introduce foreign exchange service as a new vertical in Bank of Punjab which went on to become the bank’s most profitable business.
Thereafter, I introduced and headed the foreign exchange vertical at Centurion Bank of Punjab, HDFC Bank Ltd and ING Vysya bank. One of my most interesting and challenging assignments include launching the world’s first multi-currency pre-paid forex card in collaboration with VISA at ING Vysya. Although Banks are ideally suited for retail forex but Banks are not known for quick innovations from emerging technologies to meet changing customer’s expectation. This is where I thought I had to be in a startup. I was 59 then but my risk-taking attitude and passion to experiment and try something new was very intact.
I had seen the problems customers faced in various banks and I exactly knew what the solutions can be and I knew getting those implemented in Banks would be very hard and that is how I came up with the idea of an online platform for retail forex. I needed tech support, an area in which I was nearly blank. This is where my son who studied Engineering in US and was working with Cisco Systems came to my rescue. I along with Nitin Motwani founded BookMyForex in year 2012 to reduce customer’s pain points.
Through BookMyForex, customers can directly view live forex rates, compare exchange rates and service quality standards, book their orders and get the foreign currency delivered at home. BookMyForex has revolutionised the way people buy/sell forex or send money overseas.
How does BookMyForex innovate?
Sudarshan Motwani: BookMyForex is India’s very first tech initiative in the foreign exchange domain. We are world’s first retail forex and remittances marketplace and we haven’t replicated this model from any existing business already present worldwide. We have been innovating since the beginning. Our company was the first forex company to use live and transparent rates in India. Meaning, up until now, forex rates at which one could actually exchange currency were never transparent. Haggling for rates was considered normal. BookMyForex got customers rid of this pain point with its strategy of offering real time and transparent rates.
We were first to introduced Zero Forex Margin concept, wherein its customers can buy foreign currency at exact interbank rates.
We have launched a visa powered Forex card that is being integrated with a mobile app which will allow the customers to control all aspects of the card like card reloads, unloads instantly in real time. One can also lock the card, disable online transactions and do many more such things. We’ll keep on innovating in order to provide a wow experience to our customers.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
Sudarshan Motwani: Foreign travel industry is one of the worst-hit sectors in this COVID crisis. We deal in currency exchange, forex cards, international remittances and travel essentials such as Travel Insurance, International SIM, Tours and Activities. All our product segments have been hit except money transfers and forex card re-loads which is being utilized by the customers who are themselves or have their close relatives living overseas.
We are right now concentrating on money transfers which was never our focus area and thankfully we are seeing a growth in our remittances business. Apart from personal remittances, we have introduced commercial remittances on our platform in partnership with few banks. We are now able to process remittances related to Import and Export collections and other trade related payments.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Sudarshan Motwani: We don’t have a clear-cut competitor in online space as we enjoy more than 70% of online retail forex market share. However, every offline retail forex company is our competitor apart from that many companies have tried copying our model right since we launched our business model but fortunately every company that has copied our model has been not one but many steps behind us. That is because it’s not about building as a website or building in order booking engine it’s about actually being able to offer that experience to the customers and that’s something I believe we succeeded at and our competitors did not.
What separates us from everyone else is our customer service. With an enviable network of 650+ Channel partners, we fulfil more order in an hour than what a single money changer does in a month. We plan to stay ahead in the game by being always better both in terms of rates offered and customer service.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Sudarshan Motwani: I love playing golf and it is a great way to cheer up. Travelling is another great stress reliever as it offers you an opportunity to escape from daily chaos however right now since we all are staying home, I am practicing yoga, playing online chess, listening to music & watching movies to keep myself energized and in high spirits.
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