Home / Companies / People /  It's only Day One for Paytm: Vijay Shekhar Sharma

BENGALURU/ MUMBAI : Paytm failed to live up to lofty investor expectations as its shares plunged on market debut after successfully completing what was the largest initial public offering in India so far.

The weak listing has fuelled investor concerns about Paytm’s business models marked by intense competition and its ability to turn profitable.

In an interview after the listing, Vijay Shekhar Sharma, who founded One97 Communications, called it a day of learning for Paytm and has resolved to grow awareness around the company’s business model as it embarks on a new journey as a publicly traded company. Edited excerpts:

One97 Communications Ltd’s stock price hit the lower circuit on listing day. Crores have been eroded from shareholder wealth. Why do you think investors are not buying the Paytm story?

We feel there is a tremendous opportunity and Paytm is a new story. India’s stock markets have not seen a similar story yet. We are learning that we need to put in more work to make people and the larger public understand the Paytm story.

In hindsight, do you think Paytm’s IPO was overpriced?

Look, it’s only day one of trading, and it should not be judged as the reference point for Paytm. It’s a new business model, and the one learning we are taking is we need to explain our business to a much larger audience. As (public) companies, we do not decide the pricing. The investors do.

Will One97 Communications do anything different to gain the trust of shareholders, especially retail?

The biggest and the most important thing to do is to execute the plan we have spoken about in the past. The one thing that I’ve learnt today is that in private markets, you talk to a smaller set of investors; however, you talk to a higher magnitude of investors in public markets. The beauty about Paytm’s business model is that we can bring the customer acquisition cost (CAC) to a certain ratio of the payments business and then cross-sell and upsell financial services to them. That is the upside of Paytm, where CAC remains in payments, and we enjoy margins of financial services. That will be reflected in the quarterly announcements, and I’m sure investors will get confident. I’m not a trader myself. But today, I realize how big a business opportunity Paytm Money and trading can be, and what a large opportunity lies for it.

You were in tears earlier today at the start of your listing ceremony speech. What were the emotions running through you?

There was the Indian national anthem played, and I don’t know why every time I hear the words, ‘Bharata Bhaghya Vidhata’, it hits me. This is because I feel this is my purpose and Paytm’s purpose. And when I heard the words from the national anthem a few minutes back, it made me really emotional.

What were the learnings from your investor roadshows? Can we expect those learnings to yield into newer lines of business?

During our roadshows, we learnt that public market investors can also invest for the long haul. And they have all been a strong supporter of our purpose at Paytm. And businesses have to be fairly led by fundamentals.

You call Elevation Capital’s Ravi Adusumalli your co-founder. He has been one of your first and longest-backing investor. What advice has he given you? 

Well, he has always told me that there are different times for chasing different things. And that now, it is our time to chase monetisation and revenue growth. We will be focused on that.  

How does it feel to be a CEO of a public company? Does it feel surreal? 

It has been an emotional day. Who would have thought a young company which has no pedigree and no background could reach this milestone (of going public). This has been the expectation of every entrepreneur and of every team. And in some way on behalf of every young company in India today, we said a ‘Hello’ to the stock exchange.  We believe we have a larger responsibility and significant amount of execution to do moving forward. Today, I should recommit to listing more companies in India. India has the opportunity to become the second largest (public) market in the world. 

You were in tears, earlier today, at the start of your listing ceremony speech.  What were the emotions running through you? 

There was the Indian national anthem played, and I don’t know why everytime I hear the words ‘Bharat Bhagya Vidhata’ it hits me. This is because I feel this is my purpose and Paytm’s purpose. And when I heard the words from the national anthem a few minutes back, it made me really emotional.    

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