(This article first appeared in The NEWS Minute on 10th June, 2017)

Speaking at an event ‘RevUp Hyderabad’ at T-Hub on Friday, Razorpay co-founder and CEO, Harshil Mathur spoke about Razorpay’s journey of building a payments gateway, what worked for them, the challenges it faced and how it is important to build a lean startup.

Razorpay is an online payment gateway which allows Indian companies to collect payments through credit and debit cards, net banking and digital wallets. With over 35,000 merchants, Razorpay is the second startup in India after ClearTax to make it to Y Combinator, which is touted as the world’s most powerful start-up incubator.

Drawing lessons from building and running his own startup, Harshil says that is it very critical to keep a startup lean. And while the importance of it might not come when you are well-funded and have money to hire people, it strikes you when things are not going very well and the whole system becomes unmanageable for yourself.

And this is something we have seen time and again in many startups where 100s of employees were laid off or unpaid when funds start to run out and revenue isn’t being generated.

Speaking to The News Minute, Harshil has listed down five important points every startup must keep in mind to build and successfully run a lean startup.

Hire hustlers

Hire people who will hustle and do anything, Harshil says. They might not be the most talented, but a hustler will do anything to ensure the company runs. Those are the guys you can rely upon. Even if you are short of bandwidth or people, they’ll put in their time and energy to ensure work is done.

Hiring the hustler folks, the hungry guys, is the topmost thing to keep in mind if you want to build a lean startup. Only hiring based on talent won’t work.

Get business before you get employees

Don’t pre-solve for a problem you don’t already have. Don’t add 10 people because tomorrow you might have 100 million in sales and may not have bandwidth to manage that. You can always hire people later as well.

Don’t over-optimize and try to get people before you get the problem. “This is where a lot of startups make mistakes. They get employees first, but let’s first get orders and then figure out hiring them. We started hiring after we got our 100 customers. It was just me and Shashank Kumar till then,” says Harshil.


Harshil Mathur, co-founder and CEO, Razorpay at the ‘RevUp Hyderabad’ event at T-Hub, Hyderabad

Wear multiple hats

In the early stages, people should wear multiple hats. People should not be limited by their role. For example, engineers should not be doing anything else. That should never be the culture. From the very beginning, set the culture of the organization in such a manner that people are ready to wear multiple hats.

When employees spend time learning multiple new things, whenever a new thing or requirement comes up, the internal team itself can first take care of it and then you can go and hire when that requirement becomes bigger.


Try to automate as much as you can. You can hire really cheap workforce as well, which can do the mundane works like form filling, form entry, etc. These can easily be automated. People try to hire people for it because it’s easy to do that.

“But it really hurts the startup in the long run, you have to continuously hire these people and before you know it you’re a 500-people organisation even though your operations are small,” Harshil says.

So automate whatever you can.


The culture of the organization should always be about questioning things, it should be about keeping it lean. Right from the beginning, it is important to let everyone in the organization know that the culture has to be lean. It has to be ingrained in the culture. If not, people might always come up and say that a problem is becoming too much, we need to hire five people to do it.

Harshil also spoke about the challenges he faced while building the startup. Speaking to T-Hub’s startups, he says that building a product, hiring the best talent, scaling operations are some of the main challenges the company faced. He also spoke about how a startup has to understand what it knows and what it does, and get help from outside.

Building a stellar customer support, he says is of utmost importance. While it was a challenge, being able to build one of the best customer support systems has been one of Razorpay’s main USPs.

Finally, as a payments gateway and a fin-tech startup, it is critical from day one to prevent online fraud. “It is something that is not visible to most of us but happens a lot. And if you enter the payments space without dealing with fraud first, there is no way you can recover from that one single fraud that completely takes away all the revenues you made,” Harshil said.

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