Shrini Viswanath: Dons of Dalal Street: Upstox Co-founder Shrini Viswanath’s first bet was a US stock

Stock broker Shrini Viswanath, who runs the discount broking platform, Upstox, says his personal investing journey started with Wall Street when we invested in the company he was working for.

“From there, I realised that the company you work for is also a company that you can invest in; and that the work you’re doing translates into a share price. Then from the share price, as long as that keeps going up, your wealth grows up,” he says. Edited excerpts from a chat:

When did you fall in love with the equity market? Which was your first stock bet?
Shrini Viswanath: I started my investing journey in the US. The first stock that I bought was from a company called Cerner Healthcare; the reason being that I was interning there and had the opportunity to open a brokerage account as an employee. I didn’t know much about healthcare then, but this stock was the reason why I got interested in investing. From there, I realised that the company you work for is also a company that you can invest in; and that the work you’re doing translates into a share price. Then from the share price, as long as that keeps going up, your wealth grows up.

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That is when my learning started. Before that, I had always read about stock prices by looking at the paper or going online, but actually knowing how and why they move helped a lot only because I did it myself.

Little did I know that eventually, this would lead me to co-founding Upstox.

What was your life like before Upstox? Can you take us through your early journey in the world of finance? What triggered the thought of starting Upstox?

Shrini Viswanath: I started Upstox at a fairly young age, just years out of college. For me, it was always an idea of wanting to start a business; particularly in financial services. After my first internship at Cerner, I interned at Morgan Stanley and later I worked at Citigroup- both financial services companies. That’s when I realised my passion.

So then, I started looking for an idea, how do you make something impactful in this space? And then Upstox was born.

Your baby (Upstox) is almost 15 years old now. How was your experience nurturing it and how did you overcome your challenges?
Shrini Viswanath: I have seen Upstox change massively since we started as just three co-founders. In the beginning, we hired a team of about two or three people. We spent the first six to nine months working out of a small apartment. From what I remember, until about 18 or 24 months is when we got our first office. A major challenge at that time was the funding stage, which was not set. There weren’t many investors and VCs in the market, so we had to be self-sustainable.

Hence, our first foray was to understand the markets ourselves. We were one of the first people to actually place an end to end algorithmic trade in the BSE (Bombay Stock Exchange) in India in 2009. Once we started trading on BSE and NSE, within about two years, we were one of the top, turnovers contributing clients to the BSE. 15 years down the line, we’re now serving a customer base of over 14 million.

You received the tag of the most respected entrepreneur by Hurun India January this year. Is there anyone who has influenced you and has had a positive impact on your career growth?
Shrini Viswanath: Honestly, it is my co-founders. When I went up on stage to receive that award, I saw a lot of solo-preneurs out there, for them the journey is much different than it is for us.

I’m thankful that I have had co-founders from the beginning; entrepreneurship can be a very lonely and difficult journey. One questions a lot about oneself throughout the process. I truly feel grateful that I have someone else to share this journey with, and it has helped me immensely throughout the way.

Outside Upstox, what does Shrini indulge himself into?
Shrini Viswanath: Outside of work, I’m a health nut. Throughout my life, I’ve always had friends and folks who are into fitness around me. I’m the type of person who needs to exercise almost five times a week. I try to eat healthy and plan my meals out in advance. I have realised that this habit helps me function better and I’m happier that way.

Additionally, I have started trying to take reading as a hobby as I get older. Over the years, I realised, one looks for mentors; for guiding forces. Some of the best guiding forces and mentors can be found in autobiographies where you read about successful people in whichever fields they are in. I try to get some level of insight to say, what is it that that keeps them picking or how is it that they’re able to have such a large impact? So I think that I’m taking up meeting as one of those activities that really pushed me.

I’m also officially or unofficially the IT person in my family. Even now, I could be a Co-founder, overlooking technology for Upstox; but most people know me as someone who fixes any IT issues happening in the house. I am the tech guy of the family.

Your piece of advice to all the aspiring entrepreneurs.
Shrini Viswanath: I would just say, the ride is not easy. One should not join it expecting to build something, sell it quickly, and then relax on a beach for the rest of their life. That is not how it is. Entrepreneurship is more like raising a child where it is a lifelong commitment. There will be some moments where it is great and there are going to be some moments where it is frustrating. One just has to be prepared; come with that reality and then never give up. Perseverance is key to face every challenge along the way.

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