As a child in school he was captivated by numbers; mathematics was magical as was physics. That little boy from Trichy has come a long way. Today, Vimal Kumar is absorbed in apps.
As a child in school he was captivated by numbers; mathematics was magical as was physics. That little boy from Trichy has come a long way. Today, Vimal Kumar is absorbed in apps. The air in Koramangala and Kumar’s experiments at JusPay led to the creation of BHIM, the app that works on the UPI (Unified Payments Interface).
BHIM incidentally is Bharat Interface for Money. One can send money either using a person’s contact saved on the phone or using the bank account number and IFSC code or the UPI ID.
“We designed and built the entire app. We made one-click secure apps possible and took care of the second factor authentication requirement that RBI wants. We have made it easy for both consumers and merchants,” says Kumar. BHIM, Kumar says, is both for the masses and the elite. The fact that payments are a very high repeat use case and also because users are constantly facing problems made the task challenging but also interesting. BHIM has played a pivotal role in making UPI popular; while card networks took almost a decade to stabilise UPI has worked faster. Kumar says it is much like Google building a Nexus phone to show what is possible with Android. It was a benchmark experience and inspired other apps like PhonePe and GooglePay.
If you walk into the JusPay offices, don’t be surprised if you hear Ilayaraja or Rahman playing. Like all Tamils, Kumar is a fan of both. Kumar has all but traded Carnatic music for Western classical music; he started taking piano classes but regrets he has little time to practice. When he does he tries his hand at some of the Bach compositions that he loves so much. Music has taught him that he doesn’t need to break everything down and it’s given him the “perspective of wholeness and a learning of how to combine arts and science which is very important”, he says.
“In school and college, we were reductionist,” he recalls. Initially, Kumar wanted to start an online education company. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to teach but was excited about enabling Indians. That’s how the idea of facilitating payments hit him—it was something that everyone needed to do all the time. Having worked at BankBazaar for four years before he founded JusPay in 2012, he had a good sense of the banking system and his stint with Amazon before that helped him understand what vendors needed.
India was a great laboratory for BHIM: it is a democracy, has size and thousands of people using phones. By the end of September, BHIM had seen more than 37 million downloads while the volume of monthly transactions in October was 18 million. While other apps may have overtaken BHIM, it was more because they were promoted better; the government, on the other hand, did little to push BHIM.
At 37, Kumar is married to his work. The 140-member team at JusPay works hard on vendor apps for the likes of Ola, Uber Amazon, Swiggy, Flipkart and Vodafone helping enable transactions via net-banking, wallets or cards, “The UPI stack is powered by us,” says Kumar, who is hoping to come up with more innovations for vendors. We’re waiting for the next BHIM.