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At Just 28, This Kiwi-Indian Built A Tech Company Worth Millions

Devrath Soni, Founder, CEO at Sugar Wallet

“I am creating the next financial institution of the world.”

Devrath Soni is hardly the tech entrepreneur I was expecting to meet. All of 28, the man has launched a micro-investment app that allows users to buy gold with as little as  ₹1. Sugar Wallet, which first launched in 2022, expanded this year into the Indian and Turkish markets. It’s valued at  $20m USD, approximately.

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Devrath is sporting jeans paired with two t-shirts (a half-sleeve over a full-sleeve) as he extends his arm to greet me, exuding the demeanour of an undergrad student. 

“The point is to cut through the clutter in the investment space. How can we simplify this for those who aren’t inclined to investing?” says Devrath, with an accent heavily Indian for someone who moved to New Zealand at just seven years old.

Sugar Wallet’s journey began in 2022 in New Zealand. The first iteration of the app offered users the ability to put aside as little as $1 while also keeping the investment choices simple.

“We realised complexity was a big barrier keeping newbies away from investing in the market. Our solution was to offer them not just a low threshold for the amount invested but also just three investment choices.”

The app has since pivoted from investing in markets. Now users get to buy gold instead of stocks, an option Devrath feels sits rather well with the conventional Indian wisdom of investing in gold. 

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Devrath Soni/Photo: Supplied

“When I look back at my journey, I have always tried to find ways to empower people.” Sugar Wallet is not his first rodeo. 

Devrath was fresh out of college and out shopping for a good suit when he realised he couldn’t afford any good ones on the market.    

“It was so expensive! Later in India I had one made that was the same quality for only a fraction of the cost. I was like, surely it won’t cost so much for it to be shipped to New Zealand.”

He returned to Auckland and opened his first venture, a custom-tailoring business. The plan was simple. Take customer measurements here and get the suit stitched back in India. 

“It worked like magic. Customers began coming in by word of mouth. I didn’t realise it then but what really satisfied me was the happiness on their face at having worn a world-class suit at an affordable price.”

That business lasted a good four years until the Covid-19 pandemic, when he sold it off and began searching for his next big idea. This one came to him closer home.

“One day, a relative told me she had her savings sitting in the bank. She said investing it was too complex and risky. It might not seem like much today, but that stirred me up.”

He toyed with the premise of a product to educate people about investing, an idea that led him to his mentor–a tech entreprenuer in his 30s.

Mahesh Muralidhar flashes a disarming smile as he turns to me. The soft-spoken Kiwi-Indian is hosting us at his place in Ponsonby for this meeting on a sunny Friday morning. 

Canva Design DAGF6kQTE8gMahesh Muralidhar/ Photo: Supplied

Mahesh wears many hats. He struck gold as a founding member of Canva, the popular web graphic designing app. More recently, he came a close second as a National Party candidate from Auckland CBD in Election 2023, giving Green’s Chloe Swarbrick a run for her money.

Over the last three years, Mahesh has put his heart and soul into building Phase One Ventures, an early-stage founder community supporting young Kiwi entrepreneurs.

“When I first met Devrath, I saw a young man brimming with passion. He truly wanted to make a difference, he believed in his mission.”

Mahesh worked with Devrath to chisel his idea and helped him launch Sugar Wallet in 2022. “He is at the cusp of exploding on the global stage,” Mahesh says of his protege, his eyes giving away a hint of pride.

Devrath is no less excited about what the future holds for him. “Sugar Wallet is the next financial institution of the future. We will be expanding the product soon to also offer lending services against your gold assets.”

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