Uday Singh, CTO and co-founder of Volante Technologies, engages in an exclusive interview with RANA Business magazine, shedding light on Volante’s journey from bootstrapped startup to global payments leader and offering valuable insights to inspire and motivate fellow entrepreneurs and business professionals.
Can you share the inspiration behind starting Volante in 2001?
After the aftermath of 9/11 and the dot-com crash, my co-founders and I identified an opportunity to assist financial businesses in automating and digitizing their processes, enabling faster innovation. We observed the benefits of this approach during the Global Financial Crisis in 2008-09, where our customers, mainly major New York financial institutions, weathered the storm effectively due to the efficient automated software platform we provided for financial messaging and payment processing.
Did you have prior experience in this area, or how did you learn the business?
While I had a strong background in middleware as a co-founder and Chief Architect for multiple companies, I did not start out with deep expertise in financial services or payments. However, as an entrepreneur, I believe in rapid learning. I immersed myself in understanding our customers’ challenges by engaging directly with them. I have always found that I can learn more about a customer’s business and pain points in even five minutes of conversation, than a week of reading articles on the subject. This customer-centric approach has been pivotal in enabling Volante to develop great products and build long-term partnerships based on trust.
What challenges did you encounter, and how did you address them?
Starting a product company demands significant effort, risk, and time to create the right product, leaving little room for mistakes. Self-funding the venture during a challenging economic period also posed additional obstacles.
Our challenges leaned more toward the business aspects than technical hurdles. While starting a services company to create custom software would have been easier, we committed to building products for sustainable growth. We wanted to do things right from the outset, rather than going for quick wins.
Establishing market credibility and gaining the first customer took a lot of time, as financial businesses are inherently conservative and risk-averse. In fact, it took us two years before we landed our first customer, one of the world’s largest financial institutions. After that, we added new customers rapidly. Our success today is a direct result of the effort and care we expended in the early years to build the right products for our customers.
What valuable lessons have you learned since launching Volante?
A core lesson we always knew but consistently reinforced is the importance of building for scale and the future. It is essential to create solutions that can adapt to multiple customer segments and remain effective in the long term, regardless of unpredictable circumstances. Additionally, assembling the right team in the right roles at the right time is crucial for success. Leadership plays a pivotal role, as people follow leaders, not just managers.
Another important lesson is that to have innovative products like ours, you must build a culture of innovation from the inside out. That means encouraging experimentation and letting people take different approaches to problem-solving. This is something my co-founders and I prioritized from the beginning.
If you could start the business again, what would you do differently?
Looking back, we would have focused more on products that generate revenue for customers’ businesses, striking a balance between revenue growth and efficiency enhancement solutions. It is good to help customers find ways to automate and cut costs and become more efficient; it is even better to help them find new revenue streams. I would also have tried to spend even more time on understanding our customers’ customers. With this approach, we would probably have entered the payments sector much earlier, as it took us nearly a dozen years to venture into this domain.
Is there a person, leader, book, or motto that significantly influenced you?
I would not say there was a single person or book that influenced me. Over my career, I have taken guidance from many different sources. At Volante, my co-founders and I shared a key vision, which was to bring employment to India through “Made in India” products, positively impacting thousands of families. In this respect, I draw inspiration from the values and culture of my Indian heritage. Even as a global company, with people and offices all over the world, Volante’s organizational structure also aligns with these core values.
What advice would you give to someone starting a new business?
Identify a significant problem that needs solving for a broad audience, benefiting society at large. Create a solution that outperforms anything previously available.
Cultivate a team of individuals who share your vision and possess the skills and passion to achieve results. Creating a cohesive team culture is vital, as success is a collective effort, not reliant on one individual.
Lead by example, working diligently to meet your customers’ needs every day, and the rest will fall into place.