What started as a simple ‘mobile and DTH recharging’ eCommerce website in 2010 has now snowballed into one of the most used digital payment apps in both Android and iOS. The Founder and CEO of Paytm, Vijay Sharma came from a very humble beginning in a small town called Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh. Vijay was a first bencher who completed his schooling at the age of 13 and joined the Delhi College of Engineering when he was just at a tender age of 15. Although, being a topper in his school he faced a lot of problems during his engineering days. He can never forget the day when his teacher asked him a question in English and he could not answer it, which slowly turned into a constant embarrassment for him, which pushed him from the first bench to the last bench. Due to his slow pace in comprehending English he was also the favourite scapegoat for all the bullies, but this did not damper his spirit and inherent curiosity. He was always intrigued by the happenings in the Silicon Valley and spent most of his time at the Computer Centre in the college and dreamt of becoming a Sabeer Bhatia one day.
One requires a lot of guts to sway away from the traditional pathways of life, and Vijay always had a bee in his bonnet to start something of his own during his college days. In his own words he said “To hell with these classes!” And he flung himself right into the startup world by starting his first company called X’s corporation Ltd. It was a web portal that offered web guided services, including web directories and was also a search engine. With the initial round of seed fund of Rs. 20000, he along with his Co Founder Harinder Takhar took the company to a level where his company made Rs 50 Lakh in turnover just at the time when he finished his college in 1998.
Vijay later on sold the company to a firm called Living Media India, The company is now worth half a million dollars, which is now known by the name of ‘India Today Group!’ He worked in the same firm for a year and then left after losing interest in it. He along with his colleague Rajiv Shukla co founded One97 Communications Ltd, a mobile value-added service company. The name One97 was actually derived from the directory enquiry service number for BSNL, which was 197. They started the firm with his investment of Rs. 2 lakh, but they crashed and burned during the 9/11 attacks. Vijay was always the kind of person who would call spade the spade, he feels no shame in admitting that during the time he lived on just two cups of tea for the entire day. He took up a job as a consultant to make ends meet and when he saw the sudden splurge of smartphones, he decided to create an impact people’s lives, by coming up with a disruptive idea to slowly wipe out plastic currency and came up with Paytm.
In fact, Vijay now wants to be the first player to launch a payments bank in the country. After an undisclosed personal investment by Indian industrialist Ratan Tata and $575 million by Alibaba Group, Paytm claims to have over 100 million users and aims to add half a billion users by 2020. With Reserve Bank of India (RBI) now giving them a nod for the payment bank license, Vijay is confident that they will launch the Payment Bank within 18 months.
He Says, “The country has been split with haves and have nots -- those with bank accounts and others who don’t. The opportunity is to bring half a billion Indians who do not access financial services into the mainstream of the economy and Paytm feels very strongly about the opportunity. We are very proud that RBI has given us this opportunity.”
Alibaba’s Alipay and SAIF Partners are currently the largest shareholders in Paytm and they are contemplating to put the payments business under the new identity, ‘Paytm Payment Bank Ltd,’ in which Vijay will own a majority 51% stake. Vijay’s inspirational story reminds us all that failing is not falling down, but refusing to get up. He understands that Paytm exists because of mobile internet and with the steady spectrum increase in the mobile internet usage having a strategy to double down on growth of mobile internet is just spot on.