Hailing from an ordinary family, Hitesh’s journey isn’t ordinary. With the support of his family, he chose the niche of his calibre, topped in academics, and built a successful career. His feats with entrepreneurship are even better.
Founding a successful venture in banking and taking up the co-founder role in the automobile segment, his skills seem to know no boundaries.
Let us hear from him about an amazing journey in setting up Park+, a holistic car management platform across India.
YC – Welcome to Yellow Chapter.
We would like to hear your journey from the very beginning, can you talk about your childhood?
Hitesh: I was born and brought up in a lower middle class family in Jaipur. My mother was a homemaker. She inculcated in us the importance of education for a better life. She was not very comfortable helping us with our studies. From a very early age, my siblings and I knew we had to study well and study hard.
My father was in the government service. Our dinner table conversations were quite simple, around how we spent our day, how school was and how we were preparing for exams.
It was upon me to lead my brothers and sister through the right path of education. I worked really hard and pursued Computer Science at the University of Rajasthan. My brothers got through IITs and my sister did a B.Ed.
An incident, quite emotional, happened during admission time. I was reluctant to opt for Computer Science due to the higher fee compared to other colleges with a subsidised fee. I opted for Electrical instead, but my father knew my liking for learning computers. He literally tore off the application and forced me to take CS. I knew financially it was a stretch for him but he still managed. From the second year onwards, I switched to an education loan and so did my brothers.
When looking back, I am immensely thankful to my parents. Their trust and belief in all of us helped us achieve good things in life. We owe them a lot, a lot!
YC: What are your suggestions for the upcoming graduates?
Hitesh: Just one suggestion: “ Make the most of it”. Now is India’s time for tech. India is amid a Tech Boom. So many Unicorns have been established in 2021 & 2022. By 2030, there will be a few Tetragons and Trillion dollar startups established in India as well.
Students should capitalise on each opportunity that comes their way. These days they are well equipped with smartphones, laptops, and easy internet access, unlike in our times. Pick internships, read, and figure out what is happening in and around the world. Figure out the problem statements and design solutions. Make the most of college days, this is the time when the risk appetite is really high with zero liabilities.
YC: Can we talk about your career journey?
Hitesh: 2004 – I started my career as System Analyst for Syntel Inc. American Express was one of the big clients. I worked for APPC Project (Advanced Payment Processing Components), a core component of the AMEX credit card payment transaction system developed using middleware technologies like MQ Series, EJB(Session, MDB), JMS, DB2, Mainframes.
Learnings – It was my first job away from home. I was slightly nervous but I knew that to grow my career as a coder, I had to maximise my espouse working in bigger cities and companies. I took it as a challenge.
2006 – Induslogic Inc – Sr. Associate Engineer – Worked for a product called Mantas (Currently Oracle Mantas) AML(anti-money laundering) domain product. Mantas’ products try to find aberrant patterns in the transactions made by the customers of a financial institution.
I was responsible for:
- Developing Comprehensive Scenario
- Advanced Alert Generation & Workflow Customised
- Thresholds & Risk Scoring
2009 – Technical Lead – ZSL Inc – IDB Bank was upgrading its MANTAS AML software, from version 5.0 to 5.7.2. I was leading this migration.
Learning – It was an exciting period. I had already developed the relevant experience, and now was leading a project. I learned how to delegate work and lead a team.
2009 – 2013 – One97 Communications – Handled multiple telco products and engineering teams.
- Developed a framework to manage 1000+ servers (deployed across various data centres in India) from a single command centre without any manual intervention.
- I initiated a Big Data project to build Data Warehouses capturing Data from all POPs spread across Operators, Geographies & Applications and Standardised all business, client and operations report requirements.
2014 – 2016 – Paytm – Head of Engineering – Payments – I was one of the first engineers in India who started working on a digital payment platform for Paytm. We launched the first QR code payment, this was inspired by China where I saw people using QR codes for payment seamlessly.
- Speed. We knew if we had to go aggressive in the market, we would have to pace up. It did help us a lot.
- Forward-thinking. We used to be working today but building for the future. We were even ready to adopt products and adaptations that didn’t exist when we built the platform.
Paytm was great and then later moved to Oxigen. Since I saw an opportunity to diversify my career I decided to move on.
2016 – 2017 – Chief Technology Officer – Oxigen. I oversaw the development of core products such as Payment Gateway, Digital Wallet, Order Service, Cart, Catalogue, Search User/Merchant apps, Deals, Digital fulfilment recharges, utility payments, movies, hotels, flights and deals. Developed a deal marketing platform, a product that will be used by merchants.
2017 – 2018 – Senior Vice President- Engineering at Midtrans. I was a key member of the executive team and envisioned the strategy and operating plans. I was responsible for Product Strategy, Product Identification & conceptualization, Product Development, Technical Roadmap and was the architecture planner of the team.
When I left Paytm there was always a debate going in my mind. The tier- 4, 5, 6 cities of India had few or no banking discourses at all. The banks are not able to reach out to these places and this lack of infrastructure is very much real.
Be the change you wish to see!
2018 – I decided to change this scenario. I wanted to solve for rural India. I wanted to give rural areas a platform for their fintech needs. I wanted rural India to grow. That is how I started my first venture,PayMonk – Making India financially sustainable, one step at a time.
YC: What were the initial days of PayMonk like?
Hitesh: Tensed! PayMonk was a bootstrapped startup. I had invested my hard-earned money around 2.5Cr. I knew I had to give at least 3 years to PayMonk before expecting huge returns. I was confident, but however well prepared a founder is, there is always a chance of failure.
Challenging! Also, from a tech guy, I had to become a business guy. Managing the sales team, dealing with banks, and being on the ground together was a huge change for me.
We had a good response at first, we started capturing different Customer Service Points (CSP) and onboarding them, different villages etc. Here, I learned that I am not the guy for on-ground sales but will rather resort to inside digital sales. Hence, after six months, we pivoted to inside digital sales to acquire the market.
We were able to break even, within one and a half years. In the next six months, I was able to gather back all the money I had invested in the company. The company grew to a self-sustainable one, and today, we are doing about 700+ crore worth of transactions every month.
YC: How did you land up in the automobile industry?
Capture gaps, Capitalise opportunities!
Hitesh: 2019! During my journey in Paymonk, I played multiple business roles. I realised being a tech guy is one role that I like and enjoy the most. Although Paymonk was at a stage where it could have been big, really big. But to pull Pyamonk in that direction required a skill set (like raising huge funds, managing investor relations) which I did not have and also was not keen on, either. I knew it was time for me to move on.
Amit, my colleague at Paytm, came back to India after his tenure in Tokopedia. We were in touch all these years. He wanted to start something of his own, we met a couple of times. We discussed a lot of ideas like fintech, stock trading, ad tech space and automobiles. We knew we had the required experience building products for the masses and not the premium user, be it Paytm or Paymonk.
We wanted to build a premium product but for the masses. We saw traction in the automobile space. In the automobile space, there are players like CarTrade – once in a 5 year use case or car service providers, again, twice in a year use case. There was no product which was covering the entire journey of a user from buying to selling on a single platform. We wanted to build a product that gives the user a reason to open the app at least 5-6 times a month.
Problem Statement :
We wanted to solve it for the convenience of a car user. Be it buying a tyre, changing batteries, buying some accessories, pre-booking a parking spot in a mall or booking a service wherein some valet can drop your shopping bags in your car once you are done shopping and want to enjoy meal time with your friends and family.
We were looking for that hook or problem statement for which a car user will open the app regularly. Solving parking at malls, movie halls, and offices gave us that hook. In 2019, Amit started Park+ – Solving parking problems in India. Starting from finding & booking parking, valet assistance, fastag recharging and daily car cleaning, we have expanded to viewing e-challans, checking car health, and buying & renewing insurance. We have tried to cover the entire ecosystem around a car.
2020! Amit knew I was looking for an exit from Paymonk. He asked me to join him as a Co-founder and Head of Engineering at Park+ and I joined.
YC: Getting good engineers is one of the biggest challenges, what is your take on it?
Interview, Interview, Interview
Hitesh: Yes, I agree hiring is challenging. A couple of things helped us:
1. Seed funding – By the time I joined, Amit had already raised a huge seed round. It became a little easy to attract talent. But I was very clear the founding tech team had to be carefully handpicked. I still remember I interviewed a lot of people day in and day out. I just followed the same to the T.
2. What real life problem you are solving – If you can show the potential hires what and how you are solving a real life problem, they will find it worthy. Also, you should be able to convince them sooner or later this issue will be solved and you are the best person to do it.
3. Credibility – Based on my past work and market reputation people knew if I was making a product, then it will definetly be something good. They were readily willing to join.
4. Wealth is created by ESOPS and not salary – There are still a lot of people around who know wealth is created by ESOPS and not salary. These people are ready to take the leap of faith and join early-stage startups. Recent success stories have even proved the same.
Once we had the founding team in place we focussed a lot on freshers and interns in hiring. In the past 2 years, we have invested a lot of time in marketing and branding (in colleges) of what we are building and how we are building it at Park+. We have shown the growth and learnings a potential hire can expect at Park+. We are currently working with 300+ colleges in India.
I ensure every fresher or intern working in my team gets real good learning and experience of the work. Within 3-4 months my freshers are able to learn and deliver what others are not able to do within a year. My young team is my brand ambassadors at Park+. For our young team we manage all chores end to end, be it travel, PG, food, whatever they need, we help them. Our last two years of effort have started paying us now, we get 100+ good applications from colleges even if we post an internship.
Lastly, another key step is the interview process – To date, I am deeply involved in tech hiring. Due to my deep involvement in the hiring process I was able to gather a lot of input. We even video recorded our interviews. We have designed the interview process in such a way that the person whom we are interviewing will surely get some learning out of the process, even if not selected.
YC: What keeps you going in tough times?
Hitesh: I have had a good childhood, regardless of the financial odds. What I believe is that if you give your 100% to something, you will achieve greatness in it. Today, the people who join Park+ are at the same age as when I was looking to make a career. So I now have something to work for, I can make a difference in their lives. It keeps me motivated that I now have a team to keep building it for. It is no more about me, but about the entire team.
Also, I try to avoid surprises, I do my homework well in advance –
- I know the entire code – I am still a hardcore techie, and the base architecture is my contribution. I still ensure that I am hands-on, whether in coding or hiring.
- We try to invent solutions that are for the future and avoid reinventing current solutions.
- Our product funnel is always ahead of the sales funnel.
YC: People whom you would like to thank on this journey of yours.
Hitesh: I owe the most to my parents for what I am today. Regardless of the odds, they provided me with the best and asked me to aim for the best. They believed in us and built us. Although I can’t repay them, I know that it is they who made me and hence what I have done.
My family has been a great influence on my journey. My wife Kritika Gupta, working at American Express, is my pillar of support. My brothers, Pradeep and Lokesh, both work at Amazon and their wives Rachana and Shivani , are great inspirations and support in my journey.
Amit has been together on this journey since 2014. He too has been a great partner. I would like to thank my team and all others who were on this journey along with me.
It was great talking to you. Yellow Chapter wishes you all the very best in the coming years.