The first time The Ken meets the founder and former CEO of Loylty Rewardz, Bijaei Jayaraj, it’s at a popular coffee shop in Powai, a suburb in Mumbai once known for being home to the city’s startup ecosystem. He wells up when he recounts what happened in January. “They popped champagne, and my son sat there and looked at everything,” says the 44-year-old. Jayaraj says he hopes his son saw why his father had been missing from the first 10 years of his life. There is a pause. And for the first time in a long time, Jayaraj, who usually loves to talk, is quiet.

Odds are you don’t know Jayaraj. He is barely ever featured in business dailies. He isn’t on Twitter spouting vague motivational quotes. He doesn’t attend startup conferences. Jayaraj disappears in a crowd. But he carries the distinction of being the founder of Loylty Rewardz, a business-to-business startup he founded in 2007. The company raised about Rs 160 crore (less than $20 million over the years), broke even, became the biggest player in the loyalty space, sold for Rs 300 crore ($44 million) to payments company BillDesk, and helped its investors make a complete exit. All in just seven years. And in January 2018, after spending three years at the company post the acquisition by BillDesk, its CEO rode into the sunset.

But there are few, if any, stories about the man who did it all. Fewer still on loyalty as a sector. In India, loyalty is run primarily by banks and big retailers. Startups trying to crack that sector remain few and far between, which makes this company important. And the fact that Jayaraj saw patterns no one else could makes it all the more fascinating. Loylty Rewardz did what it did in an unsexy sector, where nuts and bolts are fairly complex to imagine, and it managed to crack it while fighting companies with far more money. In addition to this, Loylty Rewardz did it all and made profits.

But what does Loylty Rewardz do? Simply put, it handles the loyalty programmes of almost every national bank, taking on the liability of loyalty points and helping customers redeem them at the end of the cycle.

Every time you use your debit or credit card at a store or on a website, the bank gives you points. These points are redeemable within three years. You can purchase air miles, buy a phone, or even an AC if you have collected enough points. Loylty Rewardz keeps track of these points and helps you redeem them. If you want to buy a phone with the points you’ve accumulated, Loylty Rewardz will find you a merchant. You spend those points and start back at zero.

The muscle

By the time Jayaraj left Loylty Rewardz, it still had Rs 65 crore left in the account, it was making profits, it had 1 billion profiles under management and was doing 30,000 transactions a day.

AUTHOR

Patanjali Pahwa

Patanjali has spent over seven years in journalism. He last worked at Business Standard as Principal Correspondent, where he wrote on startups, e-commerce companies and venture capital. He has worked at an array of institutions, which include Forbes India, Caravan and Outlook Business. He is a Mumbaikar, born and brought up. Patanjali did his BSc in IT from Mumbai University and then got his journalism degree from IIJNM in Bangalore. He is enamoured by Ernest Hemingway and Tom Waits and may try to sneak in references to them in his stories.

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