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Misbah Ashraf | 29
Co-founder and chief product officer, Jar
The journey to unearthing a pot of gold is not easy. Ask Misbah Ashraf, who was brought up in Bihar Sharif, the headquarters of Nalanda district in Bihar. Born into a middle-class family with financial difficulties, Ashraf was forced to walk quickly. The inspiration was his teacher dad, who always used to walk briskly on the road. One day, the curious son asked his father about his speed. “Why don’t you walk slowly?” His father smiled. “If you are slow, you would get knocked over,” came the reply. The lesson was taken.
Ashraf started early. He dropped out of college in the first year and co-founded Cibola, a social payment venture, with his friends from IIT-Delhi in September 2013. The founding team built an MVP (minimum viable product), tested it and raised an angel round for seeding the product. After over a year, it was shuttered. Reasons: First, the startup was yet to get a payments’ licence from the government; second, there were bigger and loaded rivals also awaiting their licences; last, Cibola was ahead of time. “I was right about how the market will shape, but miscalculated the speed of change,” says Ashraf.
Four years later, the founder rolled out his second venture, a community-led commerce platform for fashion and beauty. Co-founded in August 2017, Marsplay had an aggressive growth. It scaled to have a user base of over 1 million and raised two rounds of funding.
Then came the pandemic, and Ashraf struggled to raise money. The company got sold to Foxy, a beauty shopping and live video commerce app, in February 2021. “Again, we overestimated the speed at which commerce would move from a retail and store model,” says Ashraf. There was a big learning from back-to-back failed ventures. Also read: NEERX: Nikita Tiwari and Harsh Agrawal's sensor is improving farmers' lives
“Entrepreneurs are inherently optimistic people who want to fast-track future,” he says. The thing to remember, though, is that one must approach a venture with a long-term building standpoint.
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Armed with the learning, Ashraf started his third venture, Jar, within a month. The consumer financial product was co-founded with an idea to help users save and invest. And Jar started with gold, an asset class that Indians are most familiar with. Just 18 months on, Ashraf claims that Jar has crossed over 11 million users, and is clocking almost 300,000 transactions daily. The fintech startup has raised over $58 million in funding so far and counts biggies such as Tiger Global, Rocketship.vc and Arkam Ventures among its backers.
This time, Ashraf is not only thinking long term, but is also building for an impact. “We want to reintroduce this generation to the concept of piggy banks by helping them build a saving habit,” he says. With Jar, the founder might have a better chance to hit his jar of gold.
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(This story appears in the 10 February, 2023 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)