By Anusha Ashwin
As the world increasingly moves into innovative digital payments, cybersecure and trusted transactions are of big concern, and startups working on solutions like Blockchain are surfacing. It is understood that Blockchain technology has the potential to reduce cyber risks by offering identity authentication through a visible ledger.
Chandigarh-based uTrade Solutions — a fintech company that provides online and mobile trading platforms for retail brokers; algorithmic trading software for institutions and proprietary traders along with comprehensive risk management solutions — is probably the first startup in India to tap Blockchain.
Founders Kunal Nandwani, Ashish Grover, Harwinder Sidhu, and Mayank Mathur teamed together in 2011 to setup uTrade Solutions. The idea behind their venture was to enable smarter trading by specializing in low latency algorithmic trading platforms.
In an interaction with Kunal Nandwani, Co-Founder and CEO of uTrade solutions, shares the USP of the company. Here’s how Nandwani and his team is taking strides in the fin-tech space.
Kunal Nandwani carries a work experience from London, where he worked for large banking institutions like Lehman Brothers, Nomura and BNP Paribas. Post the downturn, when things were not going easy in London, Nandwani decided to come back to India. “I was doing investment banking in London, which suddenly changed and slowed dramatically after 2008 Lehman crisis. My desire to keep growing pushed me towards entrepreneurship. India made sense as it offered a large market access, potentially big growth, relatively cost-efficient setup, and the comfort of being at home in India.”
It all started, says Nandwani, during meetings with stock brokers and bankers in India. Those meetings helped Nandwani observe that the trading platforms in India were technologically outdated, slow, over-priced, and a legacy architecture that had no scope to change in the future. Such insights set a firm ground for his entrepreneurial debut. Around July 2011, Nandwani with his co-founders Harwinder Sidhu, Ashish Grover, and Mayank Mathur, brought forth a combination of their expertise in software knowledge and investment banking. The ideas fell in place and the company was incorporated in 2011.
Mobile is central
uTrade is in the business of developing enterprise software products. The company’s automated technologies enable market participants to trade more efficiently. uTrade’s target clients include brokers, banks, exchanges, and other financial institutions. “Our core product, uTrade, helps people trade in financial markets. Whether they are retail investor, trader, or an institutional fund manager, they can trade using mobile, using algorithms, and the brokers who offer them our software can manage the client risk across multiple assets in a single screen,” explains Nandwani.
Not ignoring the fact, that mobile phone-based trading is growing fast and as internet access has become widely available via 4G, Nandwani’s uTrade offers trading through mobile apps. He says that, “Mobile phones have become much smarter and can almost do whatever a computer can do. With internet speeds getting faster with 3G/4G, people have started using mobile to access, process and create all kinds of financial information. Fin-tech firms need to have mobile apps to attract and also ensure its customers can easily access their platform without needing to open a computer necessarily. We understand the importance of the mobile phone in our business and are working on voice recognition based trading via mobile, which shall change the way traders invest in financial markets.”
Spinning Hashcove, a Blockchain-focused subsidiary
“I learnt about blockchain in 2015, in one of my trips to London. I was amazed at the potential of blockchain, and hence decided to get involved. From then, we researched, developed the product and tested. In few months, we started our subsidiary Hashcove, exclusive for blockchain. Researching more on blockchain gave us a perspective on how creation, sharing, processing of information will happen in the future, across all industries, in a decentralized manner. Hashcove will help its clients create ‘Proof-of-Value’ for firms, by building blockchain solutions for their needs,” indicates Nandwani.
uTrade launched India’s first blockchain technology empowered solution for Clearing and Settlement of contracts for financial markets called uClear. Adding to its blockchain catalogue, it has launched a KYC Platform, KYChain and a Digital Document Issuance and Verification Solution, HashDegree.
“While blockchain is in the nascent stage of adoption, we strongly believe in its inherent disruptive potential and want to invest dedicated resources into it. We foresee ‘Internet 2.0’ in five years driven by several blockchain-enabled platforms,” says Nandwani envisaging the future of blockchain.
Accelerated at FinTech Innovation Lab London
With a promising technology in hand, uTrade was considered for acceleration in 2014 at the Fintech Innovation Lab in London. uTrade was mentored for 12 weeks in London by executives from financial services, venture capital and angel investment firms through panel discussions, workshops, leadership coaching and networking.
“Selection for the program was done in London by CIOs of more than 10 investment banks, including Goldman, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, etc. The acceleration program got us working with senior teams of investment banks in evolving our product,” Nandwani elatedly recalls.
Milestones and scaling ops
In the initial few years uTrade raised $1m. Later, a bit of self-funding and seed fund from friends and family financially backed the company. Recently, seed funding from Hong Kong-based investor Axis Capital boosted the company’s initiatives.
“Our revenues are growing 50-100% year-on-year, since inception. Our team size has grown from an idea to 85 team members. The company has grown to render services to more than 50 financial institutions in over 10 countries. Today, uTrade boasts of facilitating trade worth over $10 billion on a daily basis. Our technologically superior multi-asset trading platforms are used by exchanges, proprietary traders, institutional investors and broking firms from ‘Chile to China’ making uTrade Solutions their technology partner of choice. India remains our key domestic market with 40+ clients of the likes of Bombay Stock Exchange, SMC Global, Tier 1 institutional brokers, proprietary traders, etc,” says Nandwani.
“In the future, we will continue to grow our market share in India, and focus on emerging countries like Turkey, Vietnam, among others. We shall enhance our product to add some of the new features including voice-based trading and blockchain integration,” asserts Nandwani.