Inching towards the end of the TiE India Internet Day in Gurgaon in April, energies were low, yawns bigger and eyes drowsy – until Paytm CEO, Vijay Shekhar Sharma walked in.
With an infectious smile, a confident demeanor Sharma does not believe in mincing words. However, there is more to the man famous for his rags to riches story - and that is his sense of humor, which is inspiring for entrepreneurs at so many levels.
Introduced by entrepreneur Arvind Jha, Sharma was casually warned to not used the ‘f word on stage’, a protocol he broke immediately, only to make things more ‘easy’, if you may so.
Though he has no qualms about being joked about his built, yet he gets uncomfortable when talked about as a brand alongside the likes of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
“I am a simple guy; putting me up there, you intend to replace me with Rahul Gandhi. Don’t do that, I am just an entrepreneur.”
His opening punch was truly a help for many post the lunch-induced coma. Amused by his simplicity and woken by his wit, I figured out that deep within this entrepreneurial cloak is just an ordinary guy who believes in living in the moment and not taking life too seriously.
“I was coming in a tee-shirt, in which I couldn’t fit in,” says Sharma and has the audience in splits.
No offence intended!
Unanswered emails haunt most entrepreneurs. The Paytm founder had a funny take on VCs ignoring unsolicited emails.
“VCs, more or less ignore unsolicited e-mails. They actually give it to their associates. Associates are the people who are judging you when they have not built any business ever in their life.”
The Bollywood connection
His analogy on torchbearers of the Indian start-up environment was interesting too.
“Sanjeev (Sanjeev Bikhchandani, Founder and Vice-Chairman, Naukri.com) is Yashraj of our movies and Deep (Deep Kalra, Founder, Makemytrip.com) is Dilip Kumar of our movies because these are the people who brought life to the startup eco-system.”
The lowest can get the best of you. It is tough to imagine Sharma who was once struggling to make ends meet with Rs 10 in his pocket to being the entrepreneur he is, with his company being values at $3 billion.
When the 37-year-old entrepreneur is not cracking deals or using his expertise in board room meetings, he loves to indulge in adventure activities. His hobbies include bungee jumping, sky diving and river rafting.
He believes in listening to a wide range of music, be it rock, New Age, or Indian classic.
His journey from being a small-town boy from Aligarh to a raging entrepreneur whose company, PayTm has secured funding from the likes of Jack Ma of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and Ratan Tata is truly an inspiration.