Zerodha is now the largest stock broker in India, and one of the key reasons for our success is that neither revenue nor “growth” have ever been our primary goals. The chase has always been creating quality and impact—building high quality, accessible technology and services to offer to retail investors, to offer free and open financial education, and with our Rainmatter initiative, to build a modern ecosystem within the Indian broking industry. We have never raised any external capital in what now has become a very conducive environment, so as to never be forced to compromise on our ideals in favour of chasing growth and returns.
Around 2015, we realised that to grow the very shallow capital market participation in India, we need to do a lot more than just offer execution platforms as Zerodha. We figured the best shot of being able to do this was by creating an ecosystem of diverse, quality products offered by many partners vs. trying to build everything from scratch ourselves. This is when we launched Kite Connect APIs, creating a “broking as a platform” system, which then allowed startups to build niche platforms on top of us, without having to go through the pain of building their own stock broking infrastructure which we had already done. To kick start this and to seed the ecosystem, we started the Rainmatter fintech startup fund and incubator using our own capital. Rainmatter allowed startups to leapfrog all the infrastructural and regulatory complexities and quickly build out quality tech platforms for retail investors. We helped these startups with funding ($100K – $1M), but more importantly, by showcasing their products to our customers, helped them get over the biggest challenge for startups working on building saving and investing products, credibility.
In the business of money (banks, brokers, AMC, etc.), it is extremely tough to organically build credibility, and it takes a long time to gain the trust of customers. The return on investment that we seek from these investments is again “impact”, and pretty much the only thing we ever discuss when speaking to founders of these startups, which sets us apart from traditional VCs. Thanks to this, the startups we have funded today are some of the best in India solving problems in our industry. Smallcase, Streak, Sensibull, Learnapp, Goldenpi, Digio, Quicko, Finshots, and others (in stealth).
Our business is successful beyond my wildest dreams, but there has always been this void, knowing what we are building is just helping the top 3 to 4% of Indian population. Also, the realisation that our planet is maybe at the brink of collapse due to climate change, and that we should use our success and resources into doing something about it.
K (Kailash, our CTO) and I have been talking about this for the last 3 years, and we think that maybe one of the answers to both the above problems lie in each other, at least in the India context. With our learnings and experience of building Zerodha, we believe that with the combination of the right set of people, intent, constant experimentation, the willingness to open up all our learnings, co-operations with Governments, and capital willing to take risk without expectations of return, we should be able to contribute in some way. To attempt this, we have set up the Rainmatter Foundation, a non-profit foundation that aims to support grassroots individuals and organisations, and companies working on problems related to climate change, with a focus on afforestation, ecological restoration, and livelihoods.
Sameer Shisodia, who is passionate, experienced, and knowledgeable in this area, has joined us as the head of the foundation. Sameer left his long career in the tech industry a decade ago and partly moved to Coorg to experiment with sustainable farming, farm collectives, and his personal passion, rejuvenating soil and forests. Read his brilliant blog to get an idea of Sameer’s thoughts and ideas.
The foundation’s website is rainmatter.org and we’ve created a public forum to engage with the community. If you have any queries or ideas you would like to share, you are welcome to participate on the forum.
Below is an introduction to the Rainmatter Foundation in Sameer’s words.
Rainmatter Climate Foundation is a Zerodha sponsored initiative focused on fostering and assisting ideas that help preserve and regenerate ecosystems. Our belief is that this needs both direct interventions as well as the enablement of larger platforms that involve a mainstream understanding of the need and benefits of these efforts while also scaling participation in them beyond the philanthropic efforts of a few. Indeed we do not see this as charity; it is an investment into our own future and wellbeing.
Amongst our core beliefs is that moving to a green economy and creating green jobs is an essential part of the changes needed for a better ecology. We also think that this needs to happen in a distributed fashion across geographies, with value and job creation everywhere and not being limited to a few urban centres. Reversing both migration and concentration of value, wealth and resources are a major need towards this and will also need a strengthening of public goods and services across India.
Rainmatter Climate Foundation is uniquely positioned to influence these efforts in terms of the market and technology skills and partnerships we bring to the table. Additionally, we are committing a $100mn fund towards this over the coming few years. This will be disbursed as grants and funding for projects in the above directions that become replicable models. It will also be used for the creation of open, collaborative platforms that cross-pollinate and scale many good ideas and successful experiments and help create a green economy everywhere. This includes our commitments to funding open source efforts that help create projects and platforms for climate change and related efforts. Rainmatter Foundation is also incubating and investing in entrepreneurship that helps with these directions and helps move towards a greener, more equitable and lower footprint economy.
Our immediate efforts towards restoration include the creation of a 70 acre private forest that is being restored using ecologically sound reforestation principles, and one we hope will encourage many more with the means and intent to invest in the creation of critical ecosystems everywhere. We are exploring partnerships to assist various organizations including those in the government in their rewilding efforts. We have been supporting SwaYYam in getting a farmers’ collective to come together at the edge of the Bandipur forest, strengthening the green cover, improving the water tables and positively impacting livelihoods and the Center for Wildlife Studies’ Wild Shaale – a unique conservation-education program designed for rural school-going children living around wildlife reserves. We are creating a large subsidised/free nursery for the creation of more community micro-forests, and also help create more green livelihoods. Additionally we are financially assisting Mr.K.S.Gopal of the Centre for Environmental Concerns in his efforts towards creating a blueprint for greening road medians and islands in an ecologically sound manner.
Amongst our earlier investments are Terra, an online climate school training climate entrepreneurs on climate science, policy, business, social justice, and Blue Sky Analytics, who crunch massive amounts of satellite and other data to provide high-quality, historical, real-time and predictive environmental intelligence.
Visit rainmatter.org for more.