Pioneering Payments: Amrish Rau’s FinTech Journey

Paying for things digitally is now a part of daily life – but this wasn’t always the case. In 2013, long before the reality of cashless payments had become the norm in many parts of India and the world, Amrish Rau co-founded Citrus Pay, an online payment provider built with a mobile-first focus. This was one of many ventures in his two-decades-long journey to pioneer India’s payment ecosystem in the digital age, culminating in his most recent appointment as CEO of Pine Labs. On this episode of Moonshot, Peak XV Managing Director, Shailendra Singh, speaks with Amrish about his early life and how it defined his approach to company-building, his transition from Citrus Pay to Pine Labs, and how building a company with a heart will help a startup as it scales.



Show Notes

  • From passbook printer salesman to CEO [4:04]
  • Focus on product-market fit and get cheesy [8:36]
  • Retiring at 40 and other startup exit myths [15:02]
  • The Pine Labs approach to digital payments [21:20]
  • “Be nice to everybody” and other advice for startup founders [26:30]
  • Stay unsatisfied [29:10]



Dewi Fabbri: A founder’s journey can begin long before they leap into launching their first startup. Amrish Rau is one such founder. He’s spent over two decades in the FinTech industry, and now serves as the CEO of Pine Labs; but before that, he launched Citrus Pay, which was acquired by Naspers’ PayU in 2016.

On this episode of Moonshot, Amrish speaks with Peak XV’s Shailendra Singh to share his journey shaping digital payment gateways in India, why he made specific company-building decisions, and why the key to building a great time lies in enjoying each other’s company.

This conversation was recorded at Surge, our seed platform for company builders.

Shailendra Singh: I’m thrilled to have Amrish Rau here. Amrish is currently the CEO of Pine Labs, we work very closely together. It’s one of my favorite companies. I’ve been on the board for 13-plus years, so very special. But before that, in this prior life, Amrish was a founder and we backed his startup. This is his second major gig with us. He founded a company called Citrus, which we will talk about. But Amrish’s story is super, super interesting. We have this classic debate that people with pedigree, and credentials, and past background and so on… And, Amrish and I were just chatting about his college days. So, Amrish let’s start there. Maybe you can talk about your growing up years, your childhood. When you were playing tennis; tell us a little about the early years.

Amrish Rau: So, Shailendra, I don’t know where to start with the journey. I think the first part of the journey I will say is that both my parents were bankers. Father worked with Bank of Baroda, mother worked with UCO Bank. These are government banks in India. And, we had a great life. We had a great life growing up. I wasn’t as intelligent as Shailendra is. I went through one of the great schools in Bombay; of course, all of you have heard of Shah and Anchor Kutchhi Engineering College. That’s where I went.

Shailendra Singh: Okay, I only; I’m not exaggerating. I knew that he had gone to a local Mumbai college. I only heard the name this morning for the first time.

Amrish Rau: But, you know, just back to it, I think to a great extent, sports played a very important part in my life. So, Shailendra talked about tennis right now. And he actually commented one day, he said, “Whenever you’re on the court, you’re super competitive”. I think it started very early. So, I used to play table tennis. Then I used to play a lot of snooker during my college days. It was all about hustling and trying to get your snooker game right.

I would love to say I went to Kota, I went to IIT. I would love to say I fought my way through that. But we had a different fight which was on the snooker table trying to make everything happen. And then, Shailendra I have to say, I got very lucky. So, I have an elder brother and my elder brother is almost seven years older [than me]. So, he’s like one generation ahead of me, and I was dropping him off one day at his office, and he used to work for Siemens. And just outside his office, there was a new board, a company called Siemens Nixdorf. And I said, “What’s this company?” He said, “Well, it does something in technology.” I said, “Can you send my CV out here?” So this is [like] my college days were over, I didn’t have a job. So, he sent my CV there. They gave me a job for three months as an intern. It was paying me INR 2500 per month which I thought was great. I thought it was like…

Shailendra Singh: At today’s exchange rate, it’s $30 a month.

From passbook printer salesman to CEO

Amrish Rau: At the first job, the job I had was… And some of you won’t remember, in those days, if you went to a bank, you had a passbook wherein you could get your transactions. The printer for that was a specific printer, and my job was to take that printer to all the banks in the country and ask them to integrate their banking software into my printer.

But long story short, that was my entry into financial services technology. I used to look into transactions that used to come on a passbook printer, but that’s where I learnt [about] going to banks, speaking with bankers, [and] understanding what drives them. I learnt a lot in that job. I got super lucky – in three months I had closed my first order and because of that first order, I got confirmed in Siemens; and since then it’s been a great journey. I never felt the urge actually to go to an MBA school because I thought I had a great job.

But more interestingly, now it’s been 25 years… And in 25 years, I’ve done 21 years in financial services technology. So, there is not much in that area that I will turn around and say, “Hey, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Shailendra Singh: So, Siemens; how long did you last at Siemens?

Amrish Rau: So, you know, I spent two years with Siemens. Then I got hired by their number one competition which was NCR Corporation, which is an American company. I spent seven, eight years with NCR, and then spent another seven, eight years actually being ‘employee number one’ for First Data Corporation. First Data was one of the world’s largest payments companies. They were looking to set up in India. They reached out to me. They hired me. I’ve been super lucky in my life. So…

Shailendra Singh: So, you had a long entrepreneurial run then.

Amrish Rau: I was just going to say that. I was super lucky, that even at NCR, Shailendra… [During] my second part of NCR, I actually ran the data warehousing and CRM (customer relationship management) business. So, there it was completely a software platform. So as I said, for 21 out of 25 years I did FinTech, but [for] those four, five years I actually built data warehousing, CRM, and business intelligence platforms in the Indian market. I learnt completely new skills around software, and being able to deliver software in the market. And then, I took over as ‘employee number one’ for First Data. Again, I went back to what I loved in payments. And just around 2011; actually, let me tell you my story about how I got to know Sequoia India & Southeast Asia [now Peak XV]. So, Sequoia used to call me and ask me, saying, “Hey, we are looking to invest in this company – you, corporate honcho – do you want to give us some advice about, you know, what should we do?”

Shailendra Singh: Yeah, we’d call him for references; like, should we invest in something?

Amrish Rau: Exactly, right? So, I was the person that they used to call up for some conversations. So, I used to go connect with them and spend a lot of time [with them]. But, as luck would have it, when I was ready for entrepreneurship, Sequoia was just one call away. So, the term sheet I had was 600k. I talked it up to a million and Sequoia came back with a term sheet of $1.8 million. And I went back and I asked the question. Why did you give me $1.8 million? And what I got to hear actually changed my perspective on how VCs look at businesses. They said, “Look, if I give you a term sheet at $1 million and if you fail it doesn’t help me at all. I give you a term sheet at $1.8 million, which I believe you require for an 18-month period. And if that 800K makes you successful, I’ll be super happy. So, I’m not going to try and cut corners and save 800K to $1 million. I believe the right amount for you was $1.8 million. Take this $1.8 million and build the company in the right way”. I just found that to be a really interesting concept in my head, which is, you know, the VCs are not trying to optimize for the money. What they are constantly trying to optimize is, do you have enough runway? Can you survive? Can you build a long-term company? And, they will try to support you through that journey. So, that was a big learning for me in my first venture. So, that was when the relationship with Sequoia India & Southeast Asia [now Peak XV] started.

Focus on product-market fit and get cheesy

Shailendra Singh: How was the Citrus journey? Talk a little bit about the Citrus journey.

Amrish Rau: So, when we started off with Citrus, there was one thing that we knew; that the transacting device was going to move from a computer or a laptop to a mobile phone. And, what Indians are going to require is a different experience on mobile. The technology behind simple online payment transactions will be different for a mobile phone, and you need to build a company which is mobile-first, rather than focusing on the laptop. So, while we did payments, we also had mobile as a very important thing to go after. At some point in time, we had become India’s number two or number three payments platform.

But the story about Citrus is not so much about the successes that we had, but much more about some very interesting decisions that we took. One, for example, [was that] we focused very deeply on PMF (product-market fit) over growth. So, you know, it was very easy for us to turn around and say, “I’ve built a classic payment gateway, which is ready for the laptop generation”, and I could have shown significant growth in our business. What we did was we said, “No, we want to go after the entire mobile space area”. At that time, mobile smartphones were still just taking off. So, our growth was not exponential, but we knew our product was very strong, and [we were] going after a very important segment. You will be challenged with that over the next few days, right? When you get to the next stage of raising money, you’ll always have that doubt in your head, which says, “Should I focus on PMF, or should I focus on my growth metrics?” Because, what drives my next capital raise – is it growth or is it PMF? And that’s a tough decision, right? I don’t want to sit here and tell you [to] weigh [up] one over the other. But I decided in those days that we wanted to focus on PMF and get our product right rather than worry about growth, and go after a technology which I felt was a crowded space. So, that was something very important to remember.

The second piece which we focused on at Citrus, which I talk a lot about, is knowing what is an input metric and what is an output metric. It’s very confusing by the way; what should be your input metric, and what should be the output metric? First of all, what we said was, “We run our business looking at the input metric”. So, at the stage at which you are, if you start to become focused on the output metric, I think you’ll lose your way. Focus on your input metric and get your input metric right; the output will take care of itself over a period of time. Now the challenge is, knowing what your input metric is. Many companies actually don’t understand [it]. So, some of the companies which I believe are high burn companies, actually look at DAU/MAU (daily active users / monthly active users) as output metrics. DAU/MAU is an input metric as far as I’m concerned. Now of course it changes based on the sectors you go after.

But if you focus on DAU and MAU as an input metric, and you know what your output metric is, you will run your business in a completely different way. And the last thing, on a lighter note, which I’ll tell you about what I learned through the Citrus journey is, it is not interesting to turn around and tell everybody, “Hey, I’m building a payment gateway for the mobile world”. What you want to tell everybody is, “You’re building a payments platform for the new generation”, What does that mean? “Well, let me explain what that means…” After 20 sentences, you get to the point, which is that you’re building a payment gateway for a mobile phone. I think that’s very, very important.

And, you know, Shailendra talks about the whole piece around storytelling. But for me, where it is really easy to explain is, “The more you talk about the higher goal, and the higher mission that you’re going after, the more you build your organization in that direction”. If you build your organization to solve for a payment gateway on the mobile phone, I think you will create a different company than saying, “I really want to solve for the new generation’s payment experience”. Like, if you look at Stripe. Stripe actually says that they are building to increase the online GDP (gross domestic product). That’s what Stripe says. And that allows Stripe to go into completely new areas all the time. So, as you build your business, constantly try and think about what is the higher goal that you’re going after. Again, at the stage at which you are, you’re going to feel extremely uncomfortable about it and ask yourself, “Is this very cheesy?” Honestly… And again, the reason I bring this up is that I went through the same question mark, “How cheesy is it? We are trying to create a frictionless checkout”. Today it’s a very easy word to say but to say that in 2013, “A frictionless checkout”. Oh my God, that was a big word to say.

But I learnt over and over again that the more you challenge yourself, the more you make yourself uncomfortable, you obviously try and build your organization to meet up to that larger standard. So, Citrus’ journey was fantastic.

Shailendra Singh: Citrus was acquired by Naspers, and then you ran PayU in India for many years. So Amrish, you ran First Data, and then you ran PayU, in the middle you had an entrepreneurial journey. So Amrish ran two big payment companies in India over his time there. And then also PayU; in fact, it’s very interesting when Naspers was buying Citrus, what they told us privately – and I think they had told you of course, because you know, they loved the Citrus business – but they said, “Oh, we need a leader for our India payments business”. So, they were actually buying the company and they paid $140 million, or $130 million… They were buying the company for somebody to lead. They had already invested tons of money in India. So, they wanted a leader and they wanted a team to lead. So, it’s very interesting sometimes… And then you guys successfully combined with them and then scaled it up further many multiples, could be for $30 billion, $40 billion.

Retiring at 40 and other startup exit myths

Amrish Rau: We did. So I think, the big number that stands out was; the first month that I took over as the CEO of PayU, I remember I had sleepless nights because in a month we were losing 25 crores, which in those days… A four million monthly burn is what we had. And, in that three year period that I ran as the CEO of the company, we took that business to an annual positive of $5 million is where we took the business in a three-year period. From a negative run rate of about, let’s say $50 million, we took it to a positive of $5 million in the three year period.

But before I get there, let me talk about another piece, which is the sale of Citrus. The sale of Citrus taught me many, many things. So like I told you, both my parents were with the government. I had this hustle in me. So, I had this statement, “At the age of 40, I want to retire. I don’t want to do anything at the age of 40”. And, when I sold the company, I have to tell you that my thinking process was, “Great. I don’t need to work again ever in my life”. And, you know, it’s been such an eye-opener.

Those three years after I sold the company, I realized a few myths. You don’t build a company for money. Ever. You just don’t build a company for money. You always build the company for something much more important, which is passion, mission, the team that you have. There is something much bigger, which is driving you. And, at least in my case, what I felt was, as soon as I sold the company, while we had money in the bank, [for the] more important things – I completely lost it. So, I felt extremely lonely. I found it extremely tough after I sold my business. That’s one.

The second is, the whole concept around an exit party is a myth. I still haven’t had my exit party from Citrus payments. Literally, I haven’t had that exit party even now. And, I don’t know how it is, right? The founder’s DNA is different. The founder does not stop thinking in her head. The founder wants to go and do something new every day. So, the party never feels like a party ever. So, one thing which I will tell you is that; and I’m not trying to tell anyone, “Is an exit a right thing or an exit is a wrong thing?” Everybody is built differently. I’m just saying, “Don’t get carried away with this big dream that an exit is some sort of a utopia and life is going to change”. Actually, [it’s] not. Life just becomes completely different. That’s where after I finished my three years with PayU, I came back begging Sequoia, “Guys, please. Can you please find me another startup which I can now do?”

I actually came back to Sequoia saying, “Fund me for my next venture. I am trying to raise $20 million. Are you going to lead this?” So, Sequoia said, “Yeah, whatever, happy to lead your round, but you’ve got to present to the IC (investment committee). I said, “Okay, sure. I’m happy to present to the IC”. Rajan [Anandan] was in the room. There’s another guy called Amit [Jain], he was there. Shailendra was there. Rajan was asking me a lot of questions. Amit was asking me a lot of questions. Shailendra did not ask me any question in that room. He just heard the story about what I wanted to build. And what I really wanted to build was in offline payments. I really felt that the payments industry was still in its nascent days. We hadn’t really started on the massive FinTech journey in India as yet. And, I wanted to go and build for small businesses, merchants selling offline, online. I presented my vision. Shailendra didn’t ask me a question there. I came out of the meeting. Shailendra comes from behind saying, “Hey, you know, when you’re on your flight back to Singapore… Let me know when you land in Singapore. I’m going to have a chat with you”. I had no clue what that chat was. And that chat obviously led to Pine Labs. And it’s been just fantastic, the last three years. Getting re-engaged with Sequoia, building Pine Labs has been phenomenal.

Shailendra Singh: So, you know, I told you guys, right? I have this philosophy that a company can have a co-founder at any stage in its journey, okay? The way I think about it is you can be a $100 million revenue company. If somebody has a way to help you build a $2 billion revenue company, that person is your perfect co-founder for the next stage of the company’s journey. And so, I basically went to Amrish and said, “Amrish, you can start at… You already built a company from scratch, or do you want to be a co-founder in a company that’s worth a couple of billion or at least very close to a billion?”, when we talked. We were closing a round at around $1.7 [billion] or $1.8 [billion] then, and said, “Do you want to build this company? Be the co-founder for the next stage. Take it public, help us build it. Be a partner with all of us.”

And Amrish was like, “Look, I was going to start a company, but this is an interesting idea. What if I don’t start at ground zero?” And, as you can tell from this talk, Amrish has a very high EQ right? So, he understood where I was trying to go with it. And he didn’t have this ego of saying, “No, no, I want to be CEO of my own thing from Day One, and so on. And be called this, or be called that”. And then, we had a few chats after that. And one thing led to another and Amrish said, “Look, just to be very clear. I’m not looking for a job. I wanted to start something. I wanted to be an entrepreneur.” And I said, “Well, what if you can be an entrepreneur and it’s just like how it was, let’s say at Citrus or whatever, and you are empowered in the same way?” And so then he said, “Well, but I also then want to invest in the company because I want to show skin in the game.” And he said, “Well, I’ll invest money at a $1.7 billion valuation.” I was like, “Even better. That’s great.”

So, you know, this idea of an ‘all in’ mindset, the idea of having the founder’s DNA… People who have the founder’s DNA, they will act like founders even in situations where you would think, “Oh well, they’re not the founder.” Which is why when you guys can find; if any of you can ever find your [own] Amrish, you must. It’ll change your life.

The Pine Labs approach to digital payments

Amrish Rau: What does Pine Labs do? So, we basically over the years have been the market leaders in offline payments. We’ve built our technology in such a way that we don’t make money on MDR (merchant discount rate) or as a fee from the merchant. We have a software stack in the cloud which allows many institutions to connect to our cloud infrastructure in one way. On the other side, we deliver all these services to merchants. We charge a SaaS fee to the merchant community for those transactions. Now, the more [number of] institutions that want to connect to the cloud and get access to the merchant’s checkout, the more money we make. So we charge the merchant, we charge brands, and we charge financial institutions to get access to the checkout point.

The second part of the business is we are now building out a very strong online payments platform. The third part of the business is, we have one of the largest issuers of virtual accounts and prepaid accounts. This year (2022), we are on the path to doing 200 million plus in terms of net revenues. And because this continues to grow at about 50% year-on-year, you know, Shailendra talks a lot about the basic concept of compounding. If you can compound the business at 30%, 40%, 50% for ten years, honestly, you’ve created one of the best companies in the world. So, [we] built a company over 15 years. It’s not a company which got created in three years or five years or seven years. It has taken 15 years to build this company and to get it here.

Shailendra Singh: Look, this is a rock solid business. I have some very funny anecdotes. When I first met… Lokvir [Kapoor] is the founder, and when I first met him, he very proudly told me, with a slight chip on his shoulder, he said, “You know, we don’t approach any customers”. I said, “What do you mean? You don’t approach any customers? Like, is it a bad thing to approach customers? Like, you have to sell yourself.” And he said, “No, all customers come to us.” This is a real story. They were a small company at the time and they had very good insights on building a product stack that was ahead of the curve, that added more value to the ecosystem. Actually, Pine Labs had this multi-acquirer platform that was a first in the world. What it did was it changed how the acquiring of merchants worked. And so, if you understood what that meant, it meant that every merchant acquirer in the world, when they said, “Hey, I’m going to process your payment”, had to put a terminal there. Pine Labs said, “My terminal works with all acquirers. So, I’m not a payment acquirer myself, but I’m a provider of a software platform.” And over time they were able to move that to the cloud, saying, “I have this cloud-based platform. If you plug into me, you can process payments anywhere you like.” I remember talking to Google about it; and a managing director at Google said, “How is this possible that the ecosystem lets you do this? Like, I don’t even believe that you can do this.” I’m like, “Well, we were doing it for eight years.” And this is what happens when you create a category. People don’t believe that you can pull something off, but we had pulled it off and we were already getting to some scale and compounding, and so on. And that just kept going. And so, it’s very interesting. This was a company that had zero sales DNA. They prided themselves that they would not approach a customer. Customers had to come to them. It was only three or four years later that we actually built a sales team. And, this is a very good example of a company that had extraordinarily strong PMF, but had not figured out how to build a business around it yet, and they had these notions that [were] like, “Look, customers come to us.”

Amrish Rau: And what Shailendra is saying is absolutely right. So the idea was, “If you build a fantastic product, customers will come to you.”

Shailendra Singh: Actually, Amrish has done such an incredible job of evolving this company. The company always had phenomenal products, a strong moat, a solid business, and product-market fit. So, I mean the PMF type of characteristics were rock solid, but it’s a very low-key company. [They] did no marketing. It was in stealth for four, five years. Never did any marketing or PR. Lokvir’s persona and PR were not made for each other. Never ever any PR and [they] just kept building. [They kept] building relatively very quietly.

Amrish Rau: Again, Shailendra, this is another very interesting topic to touch upon. What I just want to share is that don’t ever go to extremes which is, don’t be the person who is on every panel in every opportunity and talking about random stuff. But on the other end of it, I also believe that don’t be this person, who you know, who’s hiding in a hole, who is not explaining the thinking. Just because our most visible product in the market was the POS (point of sale) machine, everybody used to say, “Oh, Pine Labs, what does Pine Labs do? Oh, it’s a POS company.”

There was an effort that we made to try and tell everybody saying, “No, Pine Labs is much [more] beyond a POS. We do so many different services.” So in the first year, we went out and actually tried to, you know, do a reset on what Pine Labs is. But as soon as that reset was done, we then started to pull back and said, “Now we don’t need to go and tell everybody what Pine Labs is. Let others talk about who we are and what we do, and let there be a little bit of, you know, mystery around what we are building and how we are taking this forward”.

“Be nice to everybody” and other advice for startup founders

Shailendra Singh: So, you know the Pine Labs journey with Amrish has been amazing. Now Amrish is also, by the way, a very prolific angel investor. If I can embarrass you Amrish, how many angel investments you’ve made? Ballpark… Maybe you don’t want to give the number, but ballpark.

Amrish Rau: I think about 70.

Shailendra Singh: How has that journey been? So you’ve seen lots of companies that are at early-stages, right? So what have been the things that have stood out, as you now put on the lens of being the angel and mentor to so many founders? Tell us about life as an angel investor and what stands out for you.

Amrish Rau: Yeah, I think again, it goes back to the same principle, right? Which is, if the founder and the team are solving a certain business problem, solving for a mission, and are consumed by that mission, then it becomes fairly clear that this is where you want to go, and back that founder. So, two, three things on that Shailendra. One is this whole concept around [going] all in. So if you are not consumed with the idea, and if you’re not thinking about it day in, day out, I’m not so convinced that you’re going to create a big company. Considering you want to go all in, you’ve got to solve a few things, right? Solve for the family, solve for friends, those days don’t fight with anyone. Be nice to your spouse. Be nice to your friends, and be nice to your parents if you have a loan on your head. Do not fight when you are building a startup. Don’t be that individual who’s like, “Oh, I’m going to be the Steve Jobs.” Be nice to everybody when you’re building a startup. The other piece which I talk about, [which] worked very well for me is to be light on your financials. One of the things I advise is, don’t have too much of a loan on your head because it starts to affect your thinking and what you’re trying to deliver.

The last piece to it is, you know, while you have VCs, and while you have obligations to the VCs, the founders that I like the most are the ones who work hard on their co-founders. Again, it’s never easy with co-founders, you always have accidents with co-founders, but you have to work very hard with your co-founders, but also work very hard with your team. You will always have people, you know who will be just completely different, weird, just not you, but those founders who make the effort to bring in different kinds of co-founders, different kinds of employees within their organization, I think for me, those stand out. And I say, “Okay, this is a great team. I want to back that team.” You know, just some of the things which I try and look for when I invest behind that individual.

Stay unsatisfied

Shailendra Singh: We haven’t talked about this, but he’s really built a world-class team at Pine Labs over the last two, three years; taken old people along who were there for a long time, brought in a lot of new people and, you know, been able to assimilate them in a nice manner, which is not… It’s very rare, and not easy to find.

Amrish Rau: You know, we talk about the whole concept of building a team and having a team spirit. What does ‘team’ and ‘team spirit’ mean, right? The team and team spirit really means, “Do you enjoy hanging out with each other?” So, the softer part is hanging out as a team and being able to communicate with each other, have a beer, have deep conversations, is super important for team spirit to get built. If you look at the world-class teams, you will always see that these teams are not full of individuals. These teams are full of people who are connected to each other. Maybe it’s connected on the mission, maybe it’s connected at a very personal level, but it’s very important to feel happy in each other’s company. We spend so much time in the office, we should just learn to be happy with each other.

Let me tell you the other extreme of it. So, the other day there was this; as I said, we acquired this company, and that founder came in and sat in the room for a review which we were doing. The CFO was there, one of the CFO’s team members, myself, [and] we were there. I set the ground rules. I said, “I just want you to know when you leave this room, you’ll be extremely unhappy, you’ll be extremely uncomfortable, you’ll be pissed off as hell. But, we all are.” I mean, there is nothing that we can do about it. We all are pissed off, at all times, we are unhappy with where we are headed. We are feeling unsatisfied with our day. I think that’s also an equally important piece in a founder’s journey. In a founder’s journey, what’s going to happen is you will realize that the uncomfortable feeling that you have, or the unsatisfied feeling that you have today – let me break this news to you – you are going to feel exactly the same five years later. You’ll feel exactly the same ten years later. The incomplete day, which you feel now actually never goes away. It remains with you for all your life.

Shailendra Singh: Actually, double-click on that. Why this unsatisfied feeling?

Amrish Rau: Like, Roger Federer. Roger Federer has 20 titles or 21 titles with Nadal and 21 titles or 22 titles with Djokovic. How does that happen? That happens because what these individuals are saying is, “Okay, I’ve won this Grand Slam, but I’ve just realized there are these two strokes which I can improve on, and which I’m still not playing well”. Or I realize saying, “There is this one competitor who I still haven’t taken down. I still need to take that competitor down.” That is what drives them. That is what inspires them. That is what drives them to go and compete once again in the next Grand Slam and win that next Grand Slam. The same thing happens with us in our founder’s journey, right? Every day you feel, “Oh, I have finished so many good things. There are so many bad things that I need to solve for.” And that incomplete feeling never goes away from you while you’re building. What it does is, it will make you question your own self, saying, “Is this just too difficult? Is it all worth it? Why am I doing this?” And invariably, when you look into your boat, you’ll always find the leaky holes in your boat. And then, you know, somebody will come in and say, “No, no, you’ve got to look further ahead.” When you look further ahead you see sharks. Then you say, “Oh, damn. Now what am I supposed to do?” What I have realized out of my Citrus journey was [that], I think it’s very important to look really far ahead. Really far ahead. I think some of the economies that we are operating in, with the kind of young population that exists out there, the per capita GDP is continuing to rise. When you fast forward these economies 10 years from today, you will get to see a completely different picture. The more you spend time with your VC friends, with your founder friends, you realize that 10 years later, the horizon is looking completely different. So, one of the things that I’ll tell you is that on those dark days where you start to question yourself, start to question your product, [and] wonder when PMF is going to arrive; work hard to look really far out and don’t focus on those leaky holes in your boat. [It’s] super important. As I said, you’ve got to work on both extremes of it, right? Build a team that you’re happy with and then obviously… You know, when they say, “Stay foolish, stay hungry”, basically what they’re saying is, “Stay unsatisfied.”

Shailendra Singh: Because you’re going to want to keep raising the bar on yourself. And I do think a lot of people resonate with this feeling.

Amrish Rau: Yeah, I mean the best of the founders in India, at least the ones which I know, you talk to them, they will always tell you the same thing, “Hey, I’m not satisfied.” And you know, these are founders, you know, unicorn founders, IPO founders, all of them will have this streak of being unsatisfied, and aspiring for something bigger and trying to solve for something much more complex at all points in time. I’m saying it’s just natural. It’s just natural for all of that to come true.

Shailendra Singh: Amazing. Thank you. Thank you, Amrish,

Amrish Rau: Thank you.

Dewi Fabbri: You’ve been listening to Pine Lab’s Amrish Rau in conversation with Peak XV’s Shailendra Singh. For more interesting startup stories, visit our website ( or follow us on your favorite podcast platform.