The effect of demonetization

Paytm’s Vijay Shekhar Sharma claims huge increase in customers


Vijay Shekhar Sharma. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Vijay Shekhar Sharma. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

Vijay Shekhar Sharma was ecstatic on the night of 8 November. The Union government’s decision to ban Rs500 and Rs1,000 currency notes, and replace them with new high-denomination notes, was a game-changer for digital mobile payment platforms, such as Sharma’s Paytm.

“Keep the money digital. Superb step by our dear PM @narendramodi. From a bit inconvenience to incredible bold step! #win# The biggest, boldest and the most ambitious surgical strike by any government in the world. Hats off to our PM for removing Rs500/1,000 notes. This is a golden day to be a tech entrepreneur in India. Specially a FinTech one,” he tweeted.

A week after the announcement, Sharma says Paytm continues to see a huge jump in usage, particularly from merchants signing up to use the app to collect payments from customers. “From 3,000-4,000 sign-ups a day (before the announcement), we are now signing up 25,000 merchants a day, with the highest number of merchants in tier-II towns, not so many in tier-I towns,” he claims over the phone, adding, “We hope to have four million merchants signed up by March 2018.”

The company has also revised its estimate of customer “wallets” to 500 million customers by 2018, which it earlier thought it could achieve by 2020. “Daily transactions have jumped 250%, compared to a week before. We are well ahead of five million transactions a day, which is more than the point-of-sale card sales issued by all banks and cards combined,” Sharma claims. Paytm’s competitors have also claimed increase in their customers.

For Sharma “this is the influx point for those business consumers and merchants, who were earlier sitting on the fence. Paytm and mobile payments are now an obligation, and not just a choice, but the best choice. There are sectors we did not touch earlier, such as some everyday needs, who have started accepting us as a viable method. Earlier we were fancy, convenient, a new-age method. Now we are mainstream, we are necessary.”

Paytm also released full-page print advertisements, published in the country’s leading newspapers, congratulating the Prime Minister on this move. Commentators questioned both the timing and the propriety of featuring the Prime Minister’s photograph. “They were just an impromptu acknowledgement that this is a golden age for financial inclusion against black money,” Sharma reiterates.

Leadership speak

On the new payments bank

We will not be a banker for half a billion Indians, we will be a wealth manager of half a billion Indians. I don’t think we, as a savings account, will fight for a interest rate, we will fight for better returns for your money which can come from the wealth
management. 

■ On competition

If competition can keep you awake, then you are in the wrong business and your plans are down. Competition should not define who you are. In fact, we internally have an obligation not to talk about competition. I tell my people: Please remove the competition slides, I am not interested, you are wasting time.   

When someone disappoints him

I think I’ll say that I expect you to be smarter. Definitely expect you to be much better than this. And I am not saying that because you will be, I am saying it because I feel you better be. If you don’t be, then there will not be a place for us tomorrow.

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