A Weekly Show ‘ Talk With The Legends’ on VideoMeet by Mr. Ajay Data, Founder of Data Group presents very thought-provoking and motivating views of famous and not-so-famous achievers who have done excellent and extraordinary works in their respective fields and set an example for others. This Week Mr.Ajay Data in his popular Talk Show interviews yet another tech-giant who has revolutionized the way India makes payment digitally. Founder of Paytm Mr. Vijay Shekhar Sharma narrates his journey so far and tells that the technology industry has a huge responsibility to bring the world together amid pandemic and tech-led businesses would offer opportunities to young entrepreneurs. He tells Mr.Data that money may be mean, though unfulfilling but his mantra for success is – Building a Purpose and belonging to it. He emphasizes that in turbulent times one should go back to the source of energy to evolve and expand further. As a tip to the young entrepreneurs, Mr. Sharma says you must know everything technology, finance, resource for your business.
@ BR Bureau
During the last decade Mr. Vijay Shekhar Sharma surely emerged a true living legend by transforming digital wallet payment system in the country through his innovative tech-led Paytm which is run by his company One97 Communications Lt. Schooling from a small town near Uttar Pradesh to an engineering degree from a prestigious college in Delhi and struggle to survive as a student and entrepreneur made his a pioneer. On being asked about lessons learned in his life both professionally and personally, Mr. Sharma, in his candid reply, says the biggest lesson is that money may be a useful means but it is not ultimate or fulfilling, ambition or purpose- what you want in your life is very important. By discovering or building the purpose, you will be able to associate people with you.
Secondly, important learning came with the ongoing pandemic. The COVID-19 crisis brought it with certainty that life is very uncertain. Who had imagined that the whole India will undergo curfew for a few months? Hence, there is no milestone for life so live life accordingly by belonging to your core purpose.
About the way forward, he says that the technology industry has brought the world together amid COVID-19. Technology provided the much-needed support to people through internet, mobile and education sector in particular. This is the time we need to leverage the strengths of technology to support other industries to come out from the recession, he says adding that pandemic is not going away before 2021-end even if an effective vaccine is there, hence tech-led businesses would offer huge opportunities for entrepreneurship.
Internet or technology companies in America are controlling the world. On being asked about monopolistic attitude and business models of American giants, Sharma expounds that the internet is now controlling our lives. “When we build our resources, compliances and other norms were regulated by our government agencies. Now a new challenge has come up. Large American companies control everything and you cannot ask for any remedy if things go wrong. We do want such an ecosystem. The huge number of smartphones or internet users in India and everything is out of our hand. These big companies are bullying us. Security risks are very high if we talk about our banking system with source code. Distribution, payment and other important components, everything is driven by their diktat or Farman.”
“It is shocking to such bullying. A couple of days back, global internet giant comes out with yet another bullying exercise to ask us to pay a 30% toll. Is this acceptable to us? Digital India is backed on a technological ecosystem which controlled by the private organisation!,” he rues.
“No way can you get out of it. They are the judge, jurist, executors, prosecutors, and controller. It is shocking to see how they misuse their power to bully consumers, internet businesses or any other business for that matter,” says Mr. Sharma.
The Paytm chief saw many ups and downs in his life and he never gave up. Struggle, disappointment, depression, and success, he saw all this throughout his journey so far.
“I do not come from a privileged background and you can say from the lower middle class. I come from a small town (Vijaynagar) Near Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh. Studied in Hindi Medium School and as I was aspiring for engineering, I took up both CBSE and UP Board books to understand terminology both English as well.”
There was no TV in his house and that was a blessing in disguise as it allowed focusing more on studies and he was a topper in school. Though he was a science student, History always fascinated him and at school library which had limited books she studied several history books. “With this, I developed a huge respect for Mother India. I felt very proud to be her kid,” he says.
Narrating his Journey, Mr. Sharma says, “ In 1993-94 I landed up in Delhi and joined an elite technology institute -Delhi School of Engineering (DCE) which was an entirely new world for me. Fellow students, coming from convent background and prestigious schools of Delhi, were all English speaking. For an Aligarh Hindi speaking boy, it was difficult to understand why they all talk in English. So, yes I was an outcast. I would say my emotional progress at this point was less. In this way, DCE became very stressful for me and I started devoting most of my time to Computers and the Internet.
It became my life. I used to buy several books from Sunday Market (Daryaganj) and it was a period when I realised what America is all about.”
“In 1998-99, I finished my engineering from DCE and a new age of internet had begun by then. Instead of a job, along with three friends, I had started an entrepreneurship journey with a computer/internet company.
In 1999 we sold this company for Rs one crore. It was amazing as under the agreement each partner got Rs 25 lakh each in cash and that also in an installment of Rs 2.5 Lakh per month. Our parents were pleasantly surprised that what kind of a job is this where we were getting such a huge amount monthly whereas normally people were getting Rupees 15- 30 thousand per month with my level of qualification.”
Another turning point came in his life in 2005 when he was de-motivated or depressed. Parents wanted him to get married and leave his entrepreneur journey. They advised me to sell the company and take up a decent job. He thought who will give me a job! “I am not an MBA and not even trained in the branch I studied in DCE. I could have got the job of Admin or Shift Manager at a Call Centre! I was really very disappointed. At this point came the realisation- Go Back to the Source of Energy. This realisation navigates you through turbulent waters and expands you,” he says.
Mr.Sharma further says, “ In 2008 I started a new entrepreneurship journey by setting up One97 Communications Lt. which is now India’s leading mobile internet company and parent company of Paytm. When we started- it was not easy. Coming from the technological background it was difficult to understand financial jargons such as Cash Flow management, credit/debt, Return on equity or capital.
“Airtel was our client and we always look forward to the client meeting as they were kind enough to offer tea and My Second of Cup of Tea there was a Perk,” he laughingly informs. “Those were hard days. We used to walk 14 km to save money. However, we kept moving with a strong will.”
In 2010, we started preparing for IPO and that was the time when financial professionals raised questions like what is your EBITA, RoE or RoC and I had no answers to these. I learned a great lesson here that as an entrepreneur you must know everything- technology, process, people, finance, regulations and compliances related to your business.