We chat to Paresh Davdra, co-founder and CEO of online foreign exchange service, RationalFX, and money transfer service, Xendpay. He talks about how you should surround yourself with excellent employees, and how the recession hit him particularly hard.
Please explain who you are, what your business is, and what it does/aims to achieve?
My name is Paresh, and I am the co-founder and CEO of sister companies RationalFX and Xendpay.
RationalFX was the first to be born of the two. The UK’s first online foreign exchange service, it aims to create a more efficient service for customers, including high net worth individuals and SMEs.
Xendpay is a money transfer service – the first of its kind to offer a ‘Pay what you want’ model, its mission is to reduce the cost of remittances and to introduce more transparency in the field of international payments.
What is your favourite part of your job and what is your least favourite part?
It has to be the people – at RationalFX and Xendpay we have a truly excellent team who all share in our values and make it a great place to work. When I look around the office it feels surreal that I am responsible for so many employees – I’m so proud of everyone and thankful that we can provide them somewhere where they can earn the money to support their families.
I don’t have a least favourite part – it sounds cheesy but I don’t! I love my work and, perhaps partly because we built it ourselves, I have a strong sense of purpose here.
What inspired you to start your business? (And what made you want to be your own boss?)
Whilst working in FX, my partner Rajesh Agrawal and I identified a gap in the market for an online service – this eventually led to a fully formed business model using the expert knowledge we gained from working in the industry.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
The idea for RationalFX came from a natural ability for FX and ingenuity, through identification of a gap in the market. Xendpay was soft launched in 2012, however, came more naturally to Rajesh and I.
When Rajesh moved to London from India in 2001, his friends would often complain about the costs of sending money home to their families. Over the years they would use RationalFX – but RationalFX was not really geared towards sending small amounts overseas, from this, he and I saw a problem that needed solving, and so Xendpay was born.
What has been the biggest challenge for your business?
The biggest challenge probably has to be the recession – we were becoming really successful in the three years leading up to it and then everything suddenly slowed down. In an industry like ours, the recession made a monumental difference to business, but eventually we emerged unscathed.
The recession taught me that haphazard spending is not the way to go – I learned to be clever with money, as we can never predict what it would suddenly be needed for in the future. Businesses should always have a ‘rainy day fund’. During 2008, I matured significantly both personally and as a businessman.
What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to anyone looking to start their own business?
Perseverance is crucial to being an entrepreneur. Life is challenging, and starting your own business is equally so – if you believe in what you’re offering, stick with it and others are sure to believe in it too.
Another piece of advice, in the same vein, is to be brave and take risks. We took some gambles when RationalFX was starting out – we had no money and no salary for the first few years – but it eventually all paid off. Having overcome immense personal debt from the start of our venture in no time at all, RationalFX is now set to turnover $2.6bn.
Do you manage to achieve a good work/life balance?
To be honest, I don’t see a divide between the two – work is my life but that is not to say I don’t socialise and have fun. In fact, I’m still hanging out with the same friends as when I was 16! I catch up with them on a regular basis.