The success story of Vijay Shekhar Sharma | CEO of Paytm

Defying The Odds: Story Of Paytm Founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma

5 Min Read |  April 29, 2021

FinnovationZ Convey

Back in 2017 when Vijay Shekhar Sharma, son of a humble school teacher was named the youngest billionaire in India, it served as an inspiration for many budding entrepreneurs.

But, have you wondered how he succeeded? 

How he turned the winds in his direction and brought a paradigm shift in the online payment industry of India?

No? 

Have a look at the interesting success story of Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma.

A Glimpse of his Childhood

Vijay Shekhar Sharma is a personification of courage, morale, hard work, insight and vision. His story shows how a man can change his destiny through sheer hard work and struggles. 

On 8th July 1973, Vijay Shekhar Sharma was born in a small village of Aligarh in a poor family. His father was a school teacher, his mother was a housewife and he had three siblings. Talent is a fragrance that manifests itself despite utter poverty Though Vijay Shekhar belongs to a poor family his profound knowledge helped him to pass Higher Secondary at the age of 14 only.

Vijay Shekhar aspired to be an engineer but he neither had the money nor the resources to get any coaching. His struggles with the English language was another challenge. But he did not give up. Vijay Shekhar told his mother that he wanted to be an engineer so he wanted to take coaching for the English language. His mother denied it, saying they do not have enough resources and his sister had to get married soon.

Failure: A Key to Success

Vijay Shekhar never gave up on his dreams due to his weak English. Though he was not good at the language but had commendable command over Science and Mathematics. 

Ultimately, at the age of 15, he was not only selected in Delhi University but also got 9th rank in the entrance exam. But, Vijay Shekhar who was the topper in his school turned into the backbencher in college due to his poor English.

A certain darkness is needed to see the stars.

One day, he was mocked in his class when the professor asked him a question in English and he could not understand it. Again, it did not hamper his morale. Rather, he started going to the library to understand English. He used to translate his subject books into Hindi and then study them. He failed in the first year of Engineering due to his non-proficiency in English. That language had become one of the toughest barriers in the path of Vijay Shekhar success.

Strong Morale of Vijay Shekhar

God helps those who help themselves.

The changing moment in his life appeared when one fine day he visited Dariya Gunj in Old Delhi and purchased a second hand Forbes Magazine. He used to read the success stories of remarkable businessmen. Vijay Shekhar got highly inspired by business tycoons like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Ratan Tata. The stories of how these entrepreneurs started from scratch and climbed the success ladder.

Vijay Shekhar had an ardent wish to go to Stanford and Silicon Valley but he couldn’t go due to the financial crisis and paucity of resources. Such was the moral of this ‘iron man’ that even when he couldn’t go he didn’t give up and did not get caught in such an obnoxious condition

He thought if he could not go to Silicon Valley, he could make his valley into Silicon Valley

The First Step to Success: One97 Communications

During his college days, Vijay Shekhar learned computers and made a website named indiasite.net which was a search engine for a company. 

But destiny had other plans! 

In 2001, Vijay Shekhar opened his own company named One97 Communications which provided a search facility for people. With the advent of One97 Communications, Vijay Shekhar also became one of the youngest businessmen in India.

To expand One97 Communications, he took loans from various banks, many times on the higher principal interest rate of 24%. Due to this, the income from the company evaporated mostly in paying the interest rate and rent of his house.

The value of money can be understood by the man who himself has starved and craved for a penny. That is why Vijay Shekhar understands the importance of money that money is a key factor in everybody’s life.

There had been a time in his life when he did no money to buy two cups of tea in winters. He has walked kilometres to kilometres just to save the money for the next day’s breakfast. He even had to skip meals to save some bucks! 

Go Big or Go Home

Vijay Shekhar inspires us to dream big and achieve it no matter what. 

To end the bankruptcy situation, he started a consultancy where he met Piyush Agrawal. Vijay Shekhar helped him by developing software in his company which doubled his profit. This act of Vijay Sharma impressed Piyush Agrawal and he offered him the post of CEO in his company but Vijay rejected it.

On the other side, Vijay Shekhar’s family was pressuring him to do a stable job. He was stuck between a fiscal crunch and family pressure. In the end, he had no other option but to accept the offer given by Piyush Agrawal. Eventually, his loan which he had raised for One97 Communications grew up to a hefty amount of Rs. 8 lakhs.

Vijay Shekhar shared this with Piyush Agrawal who helped him by purchasing 40% shares of One97 Communications. And thus, the loan of Rs 8 lakhs got covered. 

Vijay Shekhar says,

I was not meant to be the horse who was tamed by someone. I was meant to be that bird — the eagle that wanted to fly high.

And that is when I heard the words from Jim Morrison in a classic song: we want the world and we want it… now!

An Idea can Change the World

It was the deepest desire of Vijay Shekhar to build a consumer brand. The Board of Directors said that the profit of One97 Communications needs to be invested in something worthy of the venture as they cannot keep the dividends for a long period. They had to use that money. Vijay Shekhar took a tour of the whole world and reached Beijing. There he encountered that Beijing was fastly growing in terms of technology. He was startled to see that every number is a hundred times bigger than India. 

He felt if a country like China can do this, then why can’t India. It was there when the idea to build a payment platform came to his mind. But the Board of Directors rejected the idea. They believed that cash is king in India and the countrymen won’t approve the digital transaction. It is a matter of amusement that Vijay Shekhar was given an amount of Rs 5 crores for six months to take a chance on whether Paytm will be built or not. Finally, the idea of Paytm was executed and the rest is history.

The Magnanimous Startup: Paytm

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When there is a will, there is a way. 

Vijay Shekhar observed the growing phenomenal use of smartphones. He wanted to contribute to society so that people could use smartphones to do the transaction online. On 8th July 2010, an online website was launched called Paytm.com under its parent company One97 Communications. 

Initially, it served only from online prepaid mobile and online DTH facilities. Within a couple of days, it popularized among people due to its paying facility of electricity bill, water bill, and gas bill facility. Paytm made people’s life easy. Within 2 years, its users increased to two lakh fifty thousand. Paytm had become a popular name in the world of e-commerce.

Paytm payment bank became the first bank in India to offer a zero balance current account facility. The initial investment of Paytm was $2 billion in Noida, Uttar Pradesh. It served two countries India and Canada. 

Its products are Paytm money, Paytm Gamepad, Paytm smart retail and Paytm postpaid, Paytm wallet, Paytm mall. In 2014, Paytm launched Paytm wallet and initially the Indian railways and Uber accepted the concept of wallet for payment and others followed the league. 

In 2017, Paytm became India’s first payment app with 100 million downloads of the application.

The substantial and sensational moment occurred for Paytm on November 8th, 2016, a historical day in Indian History. On 8th November 2016, the phenomenal step of demonetization was taken by the Indian Government.

Demonetization banned all the Rs 50 and Rs 1,000 notes into circulation to restraint corruption and black money. It boomed the digital revolution in India and hence Paytm. When demonetization enabled people to use cash, people were compelled to use the digital medium to enable transactions and go for cashless payments. Paytm witnessed colossal usage. It upsurges Paytm revenue manifolds. During demonetization, Paytm worked and completed 600 days’ work in only 60 days. Its users increased to 200 million by November 2017.

Paytm is one of the most valuable startups in India having a valuation of $16 billion (as of 2020).

Courage Determines Destiny

Today, Vijay Shekhar Sharma net worth is around $2.3 billion. 

Success never comes decorated on the plate. This warm-hearted and candid entrepreneur made his dream true to build billion dollars from a time when he used to have only Rs. 10 in his pocket. Vijay Shekhar was not born with a silver spoon but he transformed his life into a golden one. This is a story of rags to riches. Vijay Shekhar Sharma motivates us to be ‘Michaelangelo’ of your life, create and paint your life with beautiful colours. He learned and taught us a lesson that perseverance, confidence, courage, vision can make you a billionaire. 

Lastly, it would not be wrong to say that Vijay Shekhar Sharma is coal turned into a diamond. 


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