Interview: Kumar Abhishek, Founder & CEO of ToneTag, Data over sound and sound wave technology company
At Sugermint Media, our aim is to bring to our entrepreneurs community some of the inspiring and motivational stories from the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
As part of this endeavour, we invited yet another entrepreneur Interview with Kumar Abhishek, Founder & CEO of ToneTag, Data over sound and sound wave technology company for an exclusive interview with us.
Tell us a little about yourself
Kumar Abhishek: I was with Finacle core banking at Infosys Singapore and Europe and have also worked as senior engineer with MindTree and IBM.
I kicked off my career as an analyst at IBM, post which I moved to MindTree Consulting Pvt. Ltd., before founding ToneTag. I have also worked with Finacle core banking at Infosys Singapore and Europe.
Please tell us a little about your entrepreneurial journey
Kumar Abhishek: For the longest time, customers have faced cash problems in the marketplace. Either they cannot get a note for a large amount changed, or they receive candy and other things as a replacement for small change.
This is especially prevalent in day-to-day transactions of small and medium amounts. So, one day Vivek (the co-founder) and I sat down to figure out a potential solution for this problem, and that’s when we came up with the idea of a ‘reverse digital wallet’, where the merchant can also transfer money to the customer digitally.
Since then, we have developed a wide range of payment and engagement solutions for merchants and customers alike.
The unique part of our journey is that we have harnessed the power of sound to create all our products, which has allowed us to reach out to an even bigger audience.
What service(s) or product(s) do you offer?
Kumar Abhishek: At ToneTag, we have developed a suite of solutions and products that can be deployed across multiple sectors and industries.
Our products essentially involve payment and engagement solutions for merchants to be able to create a seamless and convenient shopping experience for their customers and boost their business.
Some of these solutions require internet connectivity at certain levels while others operate completely without the need for internet or WiFi.
For example, our Smart Store solution needs an internet connection to place online orders for food or groceries while the voice-based Feature Phone solution is capable of making payments without the need for internet at any level.
What is unique about your label brand?
Kumar Abhishek: There are plenty of digital payment systems that exist today but what I believe sets ToneTag apart is that we use the power of sound to fuel our products and solutions.
Our sound-first technology has enabled proximity-based device-to-device and human-to-device communication with an emphasis on easy-to-use features, accurate data transfer, and secure transactions.
What made you choose this type of business?
Kumar Abhishek: During my tenure in foreign countries, I observed their payment systems and financial infrastructures and then compared them with India’s then-existing digital payment infrastructure.
Simply by having exposure to the global financial framework, I was able to spot gaps (read: opportunities) in the Indian financial sphere.
These gaps ranged from poor digital infrastructure to low digital literacy coupled with general inertia against opting for online payments.
ToneTag was conceptualised to address these issues by developing products that are safe and easy to use and make digital payments a reality for everyone across geographies.
What was your mission and vision at the outset?
Kumar Abhishek: Our primary mission has always been to create a user-friendly digital payment landscape for the people of India, regardless of where they come from and what facilities are available to them (Internet, smartphones, etc).
Our vision is to play a crucial role in creating a truly cashless, digital economy – one that aligns with the PM’s vision for the country as well.
How many employees in your organization?
Kumar Abhishek: ToneTag has a team of 65 members.
What’s your company’s goals?
Kumar Abhishek: Our primary goal still remains – to help create a fully cashless economy, however, we have developed a few more along the way.
We wish to create a niche for ourselves in the market as creators of a truly inclusive digital payment platform that works on sound technology.
Further, we also want to enable merchants to create frictionless and secure payment and engagement experiences for their audience.
What was the inspiration behind turning an entrepreneur
Kumar Abhishek: Having worked in several esteemed organisations and gathering a wealth of learnings and experience from them – I wished to use those lessons for the good of our own economy, instead of fuelling someone else’s.
I saw that India’s financial landscape could really benefit with some upgrades that would include everyone under the digital payment umbrella instead of just the urban population, and so I started working on a solution to make that happen, which could only be done as an independent entrepreneur.
What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?
Kumar Abhishek: Challenges are part of every business, especially in the technology sector where several ideas merge to make the consumers life better.
The biggest challenge being the proliferation of our solution in areas of low digital literacy where people did not trust nor understood digital payments.
We restarted from scratch, but luckily it took little time and effort to make small merchants and customers accustomed to digital payments, which was during the complete lockdown.
However, it was encouraging to see the acceptance that our tech received from our merchants and consumers peers and industry experts alike.
Moreover, the implementation of our technology by multiple banks and recognition from prestigious entities like RBI, NPCI, and BRICS brought assurance to the world that sound-based transactions are safe and secure.
Apart from this, ToneTag has won several global awards and competitions and has been featured on several leading news portals.
Key things to consider before starting a startup
Kumar Abhishek: In this day and age where so many bright young minds are emerging everyday with fantastic business ideas, the most important thing to remember is to bring a unique idea to the table.
Oftentimes, startups fail because of insufficient market and competition research before setting up shop. The most surefire way to succeed is to ensure that you are doing something that no one has thought of yet.
What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve made?
Kumar Abhishek: Any business is a game of trial and error, the trick is to learn to identify them in time so that they can be rectified at the earliest, too, as well as to learn from them and apply those learnings each step of the way.
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Kumar Abhishek: Have faith in your idea, and persevere. Too many young businesses drop out of the game early because they think one or two failures along the way is enough reason to quit.
It’s not – think of them as stepping stones and keep working at bettering your idea every single day, and at the end of the line success will be yours.
Your success tips for young and aspiring entrepreneurs
Kumar Abhishek: The Indian start-up market is highly competitive, in fact, it is the third largest in the world after the US and China. In such a market, it might be easy to get lost in the herd or spend years before you see any kind of substantial success.
The trick is to not give up and focus on finding solutions to why your idea is not working, rather than giving up on your dream completely.
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