On November 8, 2016; Indian economy underwent a vital transformation with the announcement of Demonetization. Whilst a progressive step against corruption, it created an overnight rumpus and pandemonium with multitudes of people standing in queues to withdraw cash from ATMs or exchange old currency notes in banks for quite a few days. Amid this overwhelming ruckus, Paytm emerged as a sigh of relief and became a household name for bill payments and money transfer. Paytm app featured in almost every smartphone as it made life easier. The man behind the idea of creating this mode of easy transaction is Vijay Shekhar Sharma. However, this victory didn’t come easy for him. It took Vijay Sharma years of hard work and determination in making Paytm what it is today.
Vijay Sharma: Education
Vijay Sharma was born in a small town of Aligarh in 1978. His father was an honest school teacher, who believed in strong principles. Vijay was a child prodigy. He completed higher secondary education in a Hindi medium school at the age of 14 but he wasn’t proficient in English.
After a comfortable childhood in his cozy hometown, his tough time started when he went to Delhi College of Engineering to pursue his graduation. In this phase, Vijay Sharma realized the value of English. He got low grades and felt hopeless, but refrained to give up. Vijay grappled with language problem for a long time. He bought second hand magazines and books to learn English. His friends at college also helped him. A topper in school was struggling in college. There was a time when he wanted to quit, but his will power kept him going.
He stopped going to college and spent a lot of time on the Internet. This was the phase in his life which endowed an entrepreneurial mindset in him. Sabeer Bhatia and Yahoo became his idols. Vijay thought of going to Stanford for further education just like his entrepreneurial idols. He soon realized the lack of financial resources and language challenge. This is when he decided to learn coding himself.
Vijay Sharma: Entrepreneur
Vijay Sharma started building his own content management system with some of his classmates. Indian Express and other big news publications used it. He also started his first job at an MNC and resigned after six months to start his own company with friends.
Vijay Sharma was left bankrupt after his partners conned him. He raised Rs. 8 Lakhs through his venture. He was conned off 40% of the money. This became the darkest time in his life and his dreams of entering the Silicon Valley were shattered. He was utterly devastated but again did not give up. He started living in a hostel near Kashmiri Gate in Delhi and would walk long distances to attend work or meetings in South Delhi.
Paytm was born
Things started getting better when Vijay Sharma ideated One97 – the parent company of what is now a big giant called Paytm. The company was based on the three essentials of Internet – Content, Advertising and Commerce. The moment of exuberance came when Vijay came up with the idea of entering payment ecosystem. The board was a bit perplexed with the idea of entering a non-existent market in India. So, he put 1% of his own equity in front of the board to take the risk of starting this new venture.
Vijay Sharma was quoted saying, “there is no fun in doing what others ask you to do; the real fun is in doing what others say you can’t do.”
Subsequently, PayTm was out in the market, and Vijay never looked back. The trust he built with his customers is the secret behind Paytm’s success. He incorporated a robust 24*7 customer care service center that resolved queries and issues swiftly and made customers feel safe about putting their money in the Paytm wallet.
The idea of putting 30% of company budget in customer care worked well. It made Paytm’s relationship with customers special and unique. Paytm also launched customer service accounts on Twitter and Facebook to ensure every customer complaint was heard and resolved.
Vijay Shekhar Sharma strongly believes in teamwork. He hires people that share the same passion of building a company like Paytm. He has also given 4% equity to his team. In current value terms, it turns out to be $120 Million. Vijay values every single contributor to his vision. He never addresses people working in Paytm as employees but only as colleagues or teammates. His values have made Paytm a big corporate giant today.
Life has been very busy for Vijay Shekhar Sharma. He has struggled in each phase of life and overcome many hurdles. There were times when nothing seemed to be working for Vijay and he had to survive with 10 Rupees in his pocket. He considered meals a blessing then. Amidst such adversities and challenges, what consistently stood with Vijay Sharma is his hard-work and determination.
Vijay Shekhar Sharma’s life and the success story of PayTm are truly inspirational.