The ‘working class boy’ who built a £1bn business

Mr Davdra's wife recently treated him to a brand-new Harley DavidsonImage copyright

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Mr Davdra’s wife recently treated him to a brand-new Harley Davidson

Paresh Davdra can be thrilled about the brand brand-new Harley Davidson waiting for him in a friend’s garage.

This specific’s not a sign of a mid-life crisis, he insists, yet a wedding present via his wife who he married in August.

He just has one more test to pass to get his motorcycle licence, then he can hop on the bike in addition to also whizz around London for meetings.

The boss in addition to also co-founder of money exchange firm Rational FX, which reported revenues of more than £1bn ($1.3bn) last year, features a life which’s worlds apart via his parents in addition to also grandparents.

They were forced to flee Uganda in 1972 when dictator Idi Amin gave the Asian population just 0 days to leave the country.

“They came to the UK with just £50 between them,” says the softly-spoken Mr Davdra. “My grandfather had his own tailoring shop, yet they had to leave everything behind.”

His family pulled together in addition to also bought a house in Harrow, north London, with his dad securing a job as clerk, in addition to also later as a financial controller, at a foreign exchange broker.

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Paresh Davdra co-founded RationalFX in 2005

Their fighting spirit rubbed off on the younger Davdra. “We were never truly given anything – if I wanted something, I had to earn This specific.”

via the age of 16, he spent the school holidays holding jobs in a mobile phone shop in addition to also in telesales, while out of term at Middlesex University, he worked at his dad’s firm, taking up roles via filing to working in compliance.

He studied marketing in addition to also computer science at university, yet tells me which technology does not come naturally to him.

“If you told my team I had This specific degree, they wouldn’t believe you. I’m always the one calling This specific to connect the laptop to the printer,” he laughs.

As soon as Mr Davdra graduated, in 2003, he joined his dad’s company as a foreign exchange dealer, helping clients to buy in addition to also sell large quantities of foreign currencies.

He was inside role for just over a year, working with Indian-born Rajesh Agrawal, a friend of his father’s who had arrived inside UK in 2001. yet two factors could spur him to quit.

“I’d tried to buy a property with my dad yet the bank rejected the mortgage application,” Mr Davdra says. “This specific deflated me.”

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RationalFX can be based in Canary Wharf, London

At the same time, Mr Agrawal resigned via his This specific manager role. “When he decided to quit, I badgered him. I asked him to tell me what he was doing,” Mr Davdra says.

The two met for coffee in addition to also quickly agreed they wanted to set up a company together. The idea was to support customers buying property abroad with their currency needs.

“Everything we were doing at the old firm was manual, yet we thought we could offer the same service online,” Mr Davdra says.

However, the duo faced a serious challenge: money. Mr Davdra was only a year out of university in addition to also had already taken out a personal loan to buy a BMW.

When Mr Agrawal took their business plan to the bank in addition to also asked to borrow £10,000, he was swiftly rejected. yet he returned a few days later in addition to also asked for £20,000 to buy a car.

The bank said yes.

“I then sold my BMW in addition to also we were set,” says 37-year-old Mr Davdra, who also moved into Mr Agrawal’s home to save on rent.

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Mr Davdra’s grandfather had to flee Uganda in 1972

With just £32,000 between them, the pair launched their foreign exchange brokerage, RationalFX, in 2005.

Like many start-ups, the next difficult task was signing up customers.

“We got on the phones in addition to also began pitching to estate agents in addition to also attended every property industry event there was,” recalls Mr Davdra.

“We’d be inside office all day via 8am, then we’d just be at This specific inside evenings.”

Their big breakthrough came when they signed several estate agents who were selling properties in Dubai.

However, just two years after launching, the financial crisis hit. Mr Davdra reflects candidly on how This specific changed his young mindset.

More The Boss features, which every week profile a different business leader via around the globe:

“I was 27 at the time in addition to also the business was doing great guns, in addition to also I was well on my way to being rich. which’s all I thought about This specific.

“This specific wasn’t truly about building a business – which comes with time in addition to also maturity. yet the crash brought which along. This specific was a Great learning curve.”

Rational FX also felt the fall-out via the crash, with its growth slowing. yet This specific weathered the storm in addition to also went on to diversify.

Today, its clients range via high-net worth individuals, either buying property or producing investments, to medium-sized businesses, such as firms exporting cars or importing textiles.

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RationalFX employs 110 people

This specific reported revenues of £1.3bn in 2016, up via £1.1bn the year before, in addition to also pre-tax profits of £2.3m – largely because the firm reinvested heavily in its business, Mr Davdra says.

After enjoying success with Rational FX, the founders had an idea for an offshoot company – an online money transfer platform aimed at individuals sending lower sums to family overseas.

“We felt which Rational FX was driving revenues, yet Xendpay [the brand-new company] was more of a social initiative, to try in addition to also bring the costs of remittance down for people working hard to bring their families out of poverty.”

Xendpay features a “pay what you want” style, although This specific does suggest a minimum commission of 0.3-0.4% of the transaction.

Mr Davdra says which more than 70% of users pay the suggested fee, 10% hand over more, in addition to also the rest pay nothing.

The platform isn’t profitable yet, although Mr Davdra expects This specific to break even next year. “This specific was a bit of gamble yet a risk we were willing to take.”

‘Still growing’

Last year Mr Agrawal stepped down via the firm after he was appointed Deputy Mayor of London for Business. He still owns 70% of the business, in addition to also can be a non-executive director, while Mr Davdra holds the remaining shares.

Mr Davdra says he “misses him”.

“Apart via business, over the last 12 years we have developed a Great relationship. He’s a very very close friend.”

For today, there are no plans to sell RationalFX, although private equity firms approach the firm “an average of twice a day”.

“Our brands are still growing in addition to also are quite young. This specific’s all about the right opportunity,” Mr Davdra says.

Headquartered at Canary Wharf, RationalFX in addition to also Xendpay together employ 110 members of staff.

Despite his penchant for expensive bikes in addition to also cars, the millionaire Mr Davdra – who still lives in Harrow – has his feet firmly on the ground.

“I think we’re pretty humble. We’re working class, in addition to also we just do normal stuff. This specific’s the way we’ve been brought up.”

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