For the third episode, we spoke to Ashok Hariharan, CEO of IDfy, a platform offers solutions for KYC, KYB, digital onboarding, and employee background verifications. They boast of marquee companies such as HDFC Bank, Zomato, and HUL as their clients.

In this episode, Ashok speaks about the early days of trying to build a sovereign ID’ for consumers, how they battled out tough financial times and came out stronger, and why its important to over-index on company culture.

What are 2-3 of the major milestones/pivots of your journey?

From a pivot perspective, when we started IDfy, it was supposed to be a consumer brand. We wanted to enable consumers to authenticate themselves and create a trusted identity. That never really flew. What we wanted to do was sell sovereign ID. Globally that has not worked other than when a government has picked it up. So, that was a big shift. 

But also to make a self-sovereign ID, we needed a lot of funding, but that we didn't get. So in those days, Blume used to give money very stingley. So, I barely got any money to do anything. We started the enterprise and in that journey, I think at some point we ended up deciding that as an enterprise business. I think that might've been about 2014. 

That was the only pivot really that we made. We have always built additional products, but the core mission of the company has always been eliminate fraud and establish trust. So we stuck true to the core mission of what we do. 

In terms of milestones, I would actually look back at this and say, a lot of people talk about milestone as what are the biggest successes. I would look at it as what are my biggest failures or because that's where I think character gets built, as well as culture gets built, is how do you deal with failures. 

I think one of the things is that we almost died four times as a company because we ran out of cash and being able to keep the team intact, trying to make sure that the company survives, was what made IDfy. So, that is, I think, one part now I look fondly back at and saying, okay, this is what built me as an entrepreneur, as a company. 

But at that moment, you feel stressed out, you feel horrible, but post facto, it seems hey, what a great experience, I learned something there. So, that I would say failures is something I would overemphasize on and deep dive on.

Second thing is, I think, digitization helped us a lot, COVID has helped us a lot. So that kind of created that digitization trend, which allowed us to scale up. So, last 4 years have been fabulous growth of a close to about 15x growth. So imagine the first 9 years were flat largely and most of that growth has come in the last 4 years.

What’s an underrated facet of building a company that not many speak about?

Personally, I think this is super important. I don't think enough entrepreneurs, enough companies, over index on it. I think culture. 

I think building a great culture where people feel like working with you, people stick around is super important. In today's world, it's all about how much money the entrepreneur makes. But really it's about how much wealth you can create amongst your employees. So, I over index on sharing wealth, and I think that I would say is.

Part of Pathfinders

Welcome to all our new series, Pathfinders!

We’ll take you through quick conversations with tenured entrepreneurs from Blume’s Fund 1.