From earning Rs 10,000 per month to $2.4 bn net worth, here’s Vijay Shekhar Sharma’s story

From earning Rs 10,000 per month to $2.4 bn net worth, here’s Vijay Shekhar Sharma’s story

One of the biggest success stories to emerge from the Indian startup ecosystem Paytm is set to list today following a $2.5 billion initial public offering last week.

Vijay Shekhar Sharma-founded Paytm lists today Vijay Shekhar Sharma-founded Paytm lists today

As they say, try and try, till you succeed. Vijay Shekhar Sharma, serial founder of sorts and an example of that adage, eventually found success -- and a blockbuster one at that -- with Paytm.

One of the biggest success stories to emerge from the Indian startup ecosystem Paytm is set to list today following a $2.5 billion initial public offering last week. But things were not always so rosy. Till a few years ago, Sharma was making Rs 10,000 per month through his company and was being pushed by his father to take up a job even if it meant earning only Rs 30,000.

Sharma, at 27, was a trained engineer, selling mobile content through a small company. He had stated in an interview to Reuters that his modest salary was not helping his marriage prospects either. "Families of prospective brides would never call us back after finding out that I earn around Rs 10,000 a month. I had become an ineligible bachelor for my family," he had said.

But now, Forbes estimates his net worth to be somewhere around $2.4 billion.

Born in 1978 to a school teacher father and a homemaker mother in Aligarh, Sharma was the third of four children. By his admission, there was not much money to go around. The Paytm founder stated in an interview with Bloomberg that he had to find ways to make money through consulting jobs. But as a teenager in 1997, Sharma reportedly started a website called, which was subsequently sold for $1 million two years later.

Also read: ‘Man, I can feel for our cricket team’: Vijay Shekhar Sharma ahead of Paytm listing

Sharma said that his Hindi-medium schooling did not equip him well in English. He told Bloomberg that he, a well-known fan of rock music, learnt English himself by memorising rock songs and reading translated textbooks in English and Hindi. He made it to engineering college at the age of 15. He was the youngest engineer out of his university, and would years later go on to become one of the youngest self-made billionaires in India.

In 2000, Sharma founded One97 Communications, which would eventually go on to become the parent company of Paytm. One97 Communications was, at that time, selling content to users through telecom operators. Paytm was launched almost a decade later, in 2009. By 2010, smartphones had become the distribution channel, he said. Paytm moved to online payments in 2014 and launched their licenced wallet product.

The year 2015 brought good tidings to the company as Ant Financial, Alibaba and Softbank decided to invest in the company. At that point, digital payments found a few takers, but cash was still the undisputed king.

While Paytm was gradually scaling up, it was really in 2016 that it caught its lucky break. On November 8, 2016, the government announced the demonetisation of the Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 banknotes and the issuance of the new series of notes. What that meant was cash shortage for the weeks that followed. With the prolonged shortage, people turned to digital payments. Paytm was one of the most well-known digital payments companies at that time, offering swift transactions. By then Uber had also listed Paytm as a payment option, buoying its use among commuters. It also allowed a host of services including movie and bus ticketing.

Also read: Paytm IPO share allotment finalised: Here's how to check status, GMP and more

Soon, Google, Amazon, WhatsApp and PhonePe flooded the segment, but Paytm had already made its mark.

Additionally, the National Payments Corporation of India created the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) that enabled banks and fintech firms to carry out swift transactions. From thereon, Paytm has only grown in leaps and bounds. In 2017, the company launched the Paytm Payments Bank, Paytm Gold and allowed FASTag recharge. In 2018, it launched Paytm First Games and in 2019, it rolled out its ‘buy now, pay later’ services.

Sharma or VSS as he is more popularly known is the man behind the success of the company and who is palpably confident most times, apparently, once asked SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son about what he thought his odds were. Son told him to "raise more money, double down and go all in" and focus all his energy on building payments, unlike his rivals that also had other businesses.

Cut to 2021, Paytm launched its $2.5 billion initial public offering on November 8. The digital payment firm has collected Rs 18,300 crore through the IPO. The issue size of the share sale was revised from Rs 16,600 crore. It surpassed Coal India (Rs 15,475-crore IPO) and Reliance Power (Rs 11,700 crore IPO) in terms of the issue size.

India's biggest IPO was subscribed 1.89 times on the final day. The issue received bids for 9.13 crore equity shares against an offer size of 4.83 crore shares.

The 43-year-old now aims to only take the company forward. He aims to dominate the mobile payments ecosystem and go to the Americas and Europe.

Also read: Here's why Paytm shares may disappoint investors on listing on Thursday

Published on: Nov 18, 2021, 10:01 AM IST
Posted by: anwesha madhukalya, Nov 18, 2021, 9:52 AM IST