They were colleagues at Patni Computer Services (PCS), as were the other six young engineers including Nandan Nilekani and S Gopalakrishnan, who founded Infosys in 1981.
Hegde declined it to pursue his Master’s, and, after his studies, joined Infosys in 1983 as its first employee. For more than two decades, he worked on most technology projects at Infosys to become its chief technology officer and credited in building the architecture for Finacle, Infosys core banking solution used by banks such as Canara Bank and ICICI Bank.
Today, he is an entrepreneur. An offline and online payment technology firm, fonePaisa targets merchants. Hegde founded the company with his former Infosys colleague C S Prasad Subramanian and Ritesh Agarwal, a former banker. This is Hegde’s fourth venture.
“He was concerned about education and ideas rather than money. At Infosys (during his time), there was no technical decision which was taken without consulting Sharad. He was part of the intelligentsia,” Murthy told Business Standard in an interview. “At Infosys, we had a by-line — powered by intellect, driven by values. He was a walking icon of that.”
After quitting Infosys 2002, Hegde invested in startups and helped their technology strategy. He backed three ventures —CustomerXps, a company that develops fraud management software, used by Axis Bank, among others; OpenStream, a US-based software firm for pharma companies; and mVriksha Mobile Solutions, a shuttered e-commerce firm that intended to focus on smaller towns.
With fonePaisa, Hegde is looking to tap merchants of large companies such as TTK Prestige, and offer facilities of accepting online and offline payments, but with small innovations that look at adding value to their business.
“We saw the digital payments wave coming up a few years ago. How do you look at delivery systems that can be used on a large scale,” says Hegde, who, with Subramanian, built the technology architecture for the platform that can handle multiple thousand transactions at the same time.
The company has built the platform to be integrated with BharatQR, the universal quick response code that India is adopting to enable digital payments without the use of payment machines.
Hegde, who has worked with Nilekani, has contributed to the initial documentation for the Universal Payments Interface (UPI), the interoperable payment system that allows mobile transactions between individuals and merchants on their mobile phone.
India’s massive shift towards digital payments is an opportunity firms such as fonePaisa are looking to tap. The government has set a target of processing 25 billion digital transactions in 2017-18, as against the 10.2 billion transactions the country logged last year. The market is still open for players who offer value, says Chief Executive Officer Ritesh Agarwal.
“The market can be classified as elephants, goats and rabbits: Elephants are the large companies, goats midsized and local firms, and rabbits the mom and pop shops. We are not enthused about biggies and bottom rung rabbits, the midsized opportunity is huge,” says Agarwal, a former ICICI Bank executive. “The market is still huge for us.”