Rajesh Agrawal: ‘Be passionate and deliver good service’

Interview with Money Week went really well and gives a really positive impression of both Rajesh and Xendpay. It conveys how humble origins inspired the creation of Rational FX and includes details on Rajesh’s charitable and philanthropic endeavours as well, therefore combining many of the strands tying Xendpay’s message together. Read the article in full here.

 

Rajesh Agrawal: More than just a good businessman

 

Sometimes a problem provides the spark of inspiration needed to set up a business. Rajesh Agrawal moved from India to the UK in 2001 to work at a foreign exchange company. Yet despite his job, when he remitted part of his wages back home, he still had to pay hefty fees and accept an inferior exchange rate.

As he puts it, “it pained me to see how expensive it was to send money abroad”. He quickly calculated that he could slash costs for both businesses and individuals by using an online international money transfer platform.

In 2005 Agrawal struck out with business partner Paresh Davdra to found RationalFX. One early experience told him all he needed to know about British banks’ attitude to small businesses.

He went to one bank, which turned him down when he requested a business loan to cover his start-up costs and living expenses. He returned shortly afterwards, saying he’d decided to stick with his job, but needed money to buy a car.

The same bank had no problem with giving him a £20,000 loan. Armed with the cash, he rented a room in a Brighton office and bought a laptop and printer.

Initially, Agrawal and Davdra focused on individuals. In the mid-2000s, Britons were frantically cashing in on their own rising property prices to buy houses overseas. So they arranged transfer deals with estate agents and property companies in Spain. It proved a winning strategy and sales grew rapidly.

The credit crunch and the financial crisis brought the property boom to an end – but by then they had already started targeting small and mid-sized businesses. Not only did RationalFX give cheaper rates than the banks, but it also offered the ability to hedge foreign-exchange exposure, something that was previously the sole preserve of large companies.

Rajesh had a “110% conviction” that his company would be a success. But there wasn’t a definitive tipping point. He characterises its rapid growth as “a series of small successes mixed in with a few setbacks that we had to take on the chin”.

However, he remembers celebrating when they hired their first employee (though the founders didn’t pay themselves a salary until after staff numbers had grown to four), and when they had made enough money to justify a move back to London.

They now have a total of five offices, including ones in France, Spain and Poland. At the moment they have a turnover of £654m, with thousands of clients.

In 2012, Agrawal founded Xendpay, a sister money-transfer platform where the user sets the fees. His advice for those thinking of setting up on their own is to “be passionate about what you want to do… you must have full conviction” in your plan.

In his view, many companies make the mistake of simply “chasing money… if you deliver a good service, the money will follow you”.

As well an extremely successful businessman, Agrawal is an active philanthropist who is involved with The Prince’s Trust. It is “extraordinary how a small piece of advice can help young people from going astray”, he says.

Motivated by the example of his mother, who taught at a girls’ school in India, Rajesh has also backed women’s charities, including the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and Women Empowered.

 

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