How A Aligarh Boy Became India’s Youngest Billionaire- Vijay Shekhar Sharma

Ayan Sarkar

Will you dream to be billionaires with just Rs 10 in your pocket? Well dream are costly but the person who wish to rise and touch the sky do believe in dreams and never lose hope even in difficult times. Vijay Shekhar Sharma, a person who always wear brilliant smile and handles his most difficult times.

If you are wondering who Vijay Shekhar Sharma is, he is the youngest billionaire in India. Does it ring a bell? Paytm?? I guess we all use it. Vijay Shekhar Sharma is the founder of the online payment platform Paytm. This introduction is not enough for boy from small town Aligarh who became billionaire in just eight months.

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So let us delve deeper into the exclusive life story of this young billionaire who at the age of 38 has a net value $1.3 billion.

Vijay Shekhar Sharma- The person he is now

Vijay Shekhar Sharma is the founder as well as the CEO of One97 Communications which is the parent company of Paytm. The year 2016-2017 is surely the fast turning out for the platform given demonetization that saw the popularity of the company. The payment gateway Paytm was founded in the year 2010 and soar and now with the planned entry right into e-marketplace.

In the year 2015, Paytm reputed to the first Indian company which received funding from Chinese ecommerce company Alibaba after raising more than $625 million right at valuation of $1.5 billion. For the parent company One97 Communications, Alibaba Group was known to be the biggest stakeholder. One of Taiwan based MediaTek’s investment funds namely Mountain Capital invested in Paytm with over USD$5 billion.

In January 2017, the company employed over 13,000 employees with more than 3 million offline merchants right across India. This also operates Paytm Wallet and Paytm payment gateway. The first overseas market of Paytm launched bill payment services in Canada on March 16, 2017. This app will allow Canadians to pay their bills. All the credit of his company and its achievement goes to one man who smiles despite every hardship he has faced. The man hides all his tears behind the smiling self which he puts in front of the world. But the surprising thing what brought tears to his eyes were not his failures but his much deserved hard-earned victory.

The journey of Vijay Shekhar Sharma- Where it all started

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Sharma rise to the top is something extra-ordinary but he followed his dream with only one motto- to do something to impact other people’s lives.

Being raised in ‘lower middle class’ family, he lived in Aligarh. He did his schooling with Hindi being his medium of instruction. He loved his family and they were content with the small surprises which he gave the. To fulfill his dream, he was ready to take the challenges which came his way. He passed his higher secondary exam just at the age of 14 and was a topper of his class always. But then came the difficult part. He had to leave his cozy home outside his hometown and moved to Delhi for higher studies.

“For a big city like Delhi, I had to leave Aligarh and I was alone there in the city. Moreover I did my schooling with Hindi being my medium of instruction. So, when I came to Delhi, I found it difficult to cope with English”

This was unnerving for the student who always a class topper right through his school days. Just imagine the fact that he needed to take vice chancellor’s permission for taking admission into Delhi College of Engineering as he was just 15 years of age. How will it feel to you if the person who was always the front bencher in school was unfortunately the back bencher in the starting days of his college as he was unable to contemplate the instructions and respond to the queries of his teachers.

Due to the lack of fact that he could not understand English properly, he could not even appear for IIT or any other competitive exams. But that was something which deterred him. He says,

“When winning is about not giving up.
When doing all that you can, gets a new meaning.”

With the struggle to learn English as well as to survive the rigours of engineering college on top of the drawbacks of the big bad city which Delhi was, any normal person would surely aspire to quit. But the mettle of Vijay was something else. Instead he decided to use the time which was getting by not attending college to turn himself into an entrepreneur. He made internet his domain. Moreover he started buying and reading second hand tech books of the Silicon Valley. Not only that to make it through college he started reading two books together- the Hindi version as well as the English-one making a habit of reading two books at the same time.

“I dreamt of becoming a Sabeer Bhatia. I realized that instead of taking up a job, it would be better to create something in India.”

Well he was not a man to flatter. He decided to code all by himself. It was during the third year of college, Sharma along with his batch mate set up a web portal by the name Xs! Corporation. This firm was made to provide web-guided services like web directories and was also a search engine. One of the investor namely Individual Angel Investor offered then seed money of Rs 20,000. Two of his batch mates right into the venture. In the year 1998, he finished college. But this company was growing fast and in the year 1999, February to May, his turnover was nearly equivalent to Rs 50 Lakhs. But in the year 1999, he sold the company to Living Media India which is now part of the India Today Group for nearly an amount of half a million splitting the money between four of his partners. Indeed this was a big moment for collegian who just wanted a job with a salary of Rs 10,000 salary.

“That was a big dream for a boy from Aligarh.”

But the “boy from Aligarh” did splurge his earnings but on his family. He spent by buying a color TV for his family which they did not have and also by buying saris for his mother and paying off the loans which his dada has taken for his elder sister’s marriage.

After the bright days again came the dark nights

Well things does look positive for Vijay Shekhar during this time, he faced failures and gloomy days soon enough. With the help of his former collegues, he co-founded One97 in the year 2001. But soon his co-founder left him and the company went into loss. By this time, dotcom was rising fast. He started facing very hard days.

“I did not have money to avail public transport then and had to walks nearly 14 kilometers everyday living off on just two cups of tea.”

He wanted to start his business again but his father asked him to take a job but as per he was concerned, the entrepreneur drive never left his dreams. He joined Startec Global Communications as a consultant. But the job never really satisfied him. He asked his father for a loan of 11 lakhs and started a telecom business in the year 2005.

His initial idea was to hire 7 astrologers and start making money by astrology phone-ins. He was eagerly waiting for a break which he received when he suddenly found out Bharti Airtel Ltd was interested in creating call centres for live astrology. This dial-in model interested him and he started his business of providing VAS for mobile phones right for Airtel under revenue-share model.

Vijay was working hard to make things turn up and around with the revenue rising up but unfortunately One97 suffered revenue loss of Rs 11 Lakh in the year 2001-2002. But the ‘Iron Man’ was surely not to be faltered. He took the big risk of experimenting with 3 basics internet-content, commerce and advertising. But he was determined to bring change in the system and decided to do something with smart phones.

The Birth of Paytm

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The big moment came for Vijay Shekhar Sharma in the year 2011.He envisioned and opened Paytm to do away with plastic money. He pitched the idea of entering the payment ecosystem in front of his board. Now very honestly, the board was not convinced as he was readily willing to spent company’s money on something which was non-existent.

“Some other entrepreneur surely would not have liked the idea of selling their equity and starting their own company. But my aspirations were big as I wanted to build a 100 year old company. Well boys and men are surely different because boys flip and sell while men run and build legacies.”

So he took the big risk and invested just 1% of his equity which was nearly 2 million in the year 2011 and decided that to take the big leap.

“There is no fun in doing what other are advising you to do instead try doing something which people say you cannot do”

With these concepts, the first avatar of Paytm, PayThrough Mobile was born which helped it to become one of the rapidly big ecosystems in India and there was never looking back from it.

Image courtesy: http://bit.ly/2q3oDNq

After rolling out the internet wallet services, he built a strong 24×7 customer care service which will address the worries of various customers for enabling the trust of the wallet enough. He spent nearly 30% of the company’s campaign budget in investing in building trust with customer. Vijay prides himself in the relationship he shares with his business partners/investors. He says,

“There are four owners of this company namely me, SAIF, Alibaba and Alipay”.

Right after building a billion dollar company, what he feels difficult is maintaining success and it is the most difficult part. He believes it cannot be done without good teamwork. He makes sure that he takes the right people who share the same passion very like his. In fact, he has given 4 % of his equity to his team which as per current estimate value is $120 million.

Demonetization and Paytm

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One more turning time for Paytm was in November when the India Government with Prime Minister Mode decided to scarp off nearly 86% of the currency notes of India. This was the moment Vijay seized as Paytm with the digital startup went on promotional spree with

“Paytm Karo”

Paytm went on to become the first digital payment start-up of modern India with everyday goods and services. This surely worked for him as by the end of 2016, Paytm had nearly 177 million users if compared with his initial users which were just 122 million. This was surely the master stroke of a Hindi Medium small town boy who conquered the Anglophone Startup world of the country.

Paytm now have permission right from the reserve bank of India. The payment transactions are surely a success which is surely more than couple of banks combined together. In fact, there are aspirations of building Paytm banks all over the country. Once when asked about whether he had any previous connection with demonetization and his profit, he says,

“What he did was for the country and overall growth of the economy of India. I am just a small company just doing business.”

The Key Takeway Here

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Vijay Shekhar Sharma stands true to the words which say that a man build his own destiny. Right from his initial days, he never ever felt disheartened. Coming from such a small town with language barrier, he proved that with sheer determination, you can achieve anything in life. Moreover when he became rich, he never forgot his family and indulges in splurges for them. He wanted not to buy buses but train bus drivers which is symbolic of that fact that you should create efficient employees.

Modesty is another thing which one should learn from him. After being the youngest billionaire, he always bears a happy-go- lucky attitude and certain one of the most approachable person in his company. He is the perfect example of the phrase which he said in his most difficult times,

“To the winners, who won because they didn’t give up”- Vijay Shekhar Sharma

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Ayan Sarkar is the CTO of Webskitters, a renowned web development company known for serving its clientele with excellence. Being passionate about the web and mobile app development industry, he believes in inventing ground-breaking solutions for serving his clients. Sharing his views and innovative thoughts with others, he recurrently maintains his blog and believes in disseminating his technological experience and insights with others.

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