Rahul Jain is the co-founder and CEO of Cape Town-based Peach Payments, a payment processor focusing on Africa and other emerging markets. It offers payment solutions to online and mobile businesses, enabling them to accept payments from consumers across the globe.
1. Tell us about one of the toughest situations you’ve found yourself in as a business owner.
In the early days, our seed-funding round collapsed at the last step. This was a setback because we needed the funds desperately. It took us another year to raise the money. During this time, we were constantly with our backs against the wall. We were funding the business with our savings, including paying salaries, while not having taken a salary ourselves for two years.
One week, we were out of business; and, the next week, there was some hope. This was truly a rollercoaster business-wide and also emotionally as individuals. The only way we overcame this challenge was to put our heads down and focus on growing sales and revenues.
This way we started to solve the cash crunch, little by little. Mentally, it was a big challenge to keep ourselves motivated, and I think it was the small victories that really helped on that front.
2. Which business achievement are you most proud of?
What really amazes me and what I am proud of achieving is that today Peach Payments is a recognised player in the payments space in Africa. Four years ago, when introducing our business, I would spend the first five to 10 minutes explaining who we are, our history, what the company is all about and try and build some credibility.
Today, when I talk to prospective clients, or even random strangers sometimes, and mention that we are Peach Payments, quite often I get a response: “Oh, yeah, I’ve heard about Peach.” This amazes me each time.
I’m proud of this because we haven’t yet spent any money on marketing. Rather, we’ve focused on customer service and it’s our customers who spread awareness by word of mouth. This is our achievement that I’m really proud of and it is all because of the fantastic team at Peach.
3. Describe your greatest weakness as an entrepreneur.
The inability to say no. This is something I’ve had to learn over the years. When you’re building a business there are many, many opportunities that come up every day. Being able to focus and learning to say “no” is critical to the success of the business.
We spent our first year chasing opportunities all over the globe and this almost caused us to go out of business. An early stage business needs focus to build a solid foundation.
We decided to focus on the South African market first and once we were stable, we explored opportunities outside. Even today, it takes conscious decision making to be able to say “no” to shiny new opportunities that crop up all the time and keep our focus on completing projects we’ve already started.
4. Which popular entrepreneurial advice do you disagree with?
A lot of people considering entrepreneurship are told, or think, that they need a “killer” idea to be successful as an entrepreneur. This is something I wholeheartedly disagree with. You don’t need a “killer” idea. What you need for success is execution. The ability to execute on your idea and build a business.
This ability is not something you are born with: this is something you have to cultivate in your professional life, and also develop and refine as you build your business.
If you ask me, most of the successful business are there because of the team’s execution ability rather than the original idea for the business. So, my advice to budding entrepreneurs is focus on building “killer” teams instead who can execute on the business idea.
5. Is there anything you wish you knew about entrepreneurship before you got started?
I wish I knew and understood how critical it is to find the right people for your team. You hear a lot about how you must find the right people, but you don’t really get this until you are in the thick of it. A founder can only do so much, there are only that many hands and hours in the day.
As the business grows, having the right team in place is critical. Not only having the right team, but being able to trust them is key. If you don’t trust, then you will never learn to let go.
Letting go and delegating is the only way you can truly multiply the number of heads and hands that are working together to make the business a success. I wish I understood this a lot earlier.
The journey so far’ series is edited by Wilhelmina Maboja, with copy editing by Xolisa Phillip, and content production by Justin Probyn and Nelly Murungi.