A mechanical engineer turned entrepreneur within the FinTech space has become a defining shift in Baskar Subramanian’s career. After a successful stint in the engineering field within the upstream oil and gas industry spanning India, Singapore and Malaysia, the entrepreneurial challenge to start and grow a new venture was realised through the setting up of Mobiversa, a mobile payment solutions company. Hailing from India, Baskar has come a long way from his hometown of Coimbatore – from the manufacturing trails of urban Mumbai and Singapore to the remotest regions of rural Malaysia. In a recent interview Baskar speaks on his background and the challenges in the formation of Mobiversa.
Dreaming big and working hard epitomises Baskar Subramanian’s career choices. An affable and pragmatic personality, he accentuates the determination in venturing into domains with new challenges. “My father, an engineer with BHEL a leading Indian GLC, was based in Tiruchirappalli. I picked up his career habits in doing a job efficiently through innovative solutions and through a culture of hard work. I am used to coming in two hours ahead to the office and I have designed solutions that are used globally,” says Baskar.
Coming from a middle-class family of four, with an established sibling in Qatar, the family lived a comfortable life. “I did my engineering studies in Thanjavur before taking on a two-year stint in Goa. The language was a challenge but the exposure was good as I gained experience wearing about five different hats within a period of seven years,” reveals Baskar. “I was also in sales, a career shift that I enjoy till today as it has taken me all over India and the region.”
In wanting to gain further exposure on a global basis, Baskar’s subsequent career steps with international companies involved a shift to Singapore in 2002. “Actually, I replaced someone temporarily but on completion of my tenure, I was given a permanent posting. I held four different positions ranging from management to technology. I am not comfortable in staying status quo, a pattern quite obvious throughout my career path,” says Baskar. “Most of my time was spent in Malaysia which has evolved into the setting up of my residence and business here.”
“Subsequent to getting my executive MBA with the Singapore Management University, I started Mobiversa in 2014 with my partners Zaki Tajuddin and Natesan Saravanan whom I am grateful to, for their willingness to be my partners. I am also thankful to Zaki’s father, Tan Sri Dr. Ir. Ahmad Tajuddin Ali for his trust in the three of us and his interest in a tech startup. Prior to this, I was browsing for new business ideas, one of which interested me was Jack Dorsey’s mobile payment company, Square,” says Baskar, “Mobiversa’s payment solution is aligned to Bank Negara’s push for a cashless society.”
The 360-degree shift from engineering to fintech was a new learning experience for Baskar. “I wanted to be in the technology space despite the challenges of learning afresh as it facilitates being ahead of the curve plus payment is ubiquitous,” he adds.
“Launching Mobiversa is a successful challenge as we have received the required accreditation from Visa and Mastercard, the major players. Currently about 600 customers have signed up with Mobiversa,” says Baskar with a sense of achievement. His regional management style seems to be more easy going and less competitive as compared to the relatively authoritarian Indian way. “I practise a flexible and lean management style where my door is always open.”
When speaking of a healthy work-life balance, Baskar admits with a hint of guilt that more time is spent in the office then at home considering the heavy responsibilities of his job. “I’m very grateful to my wife, Gayathri for her tolerance towards my workaholic nature, even as my daughter always teases me on whether I can recognise the house when I come home,” chuckles Baskar. However, one of the factors of achievement in his life is his 15-year old daughter. “We are both proud of her in all her accomplishments.”
Baskar’s advice for potential young entrepreneurs is to gain both knowledge and experience before embarking on new ventures.