Want to Get Investment From Vijay Shekhar Sharma? Become His Friend
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At 45, Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma has a charismatic aura around him. Whenever he enters a room, that big smile on his face and his happy-go-lucky attitude light up the entire ambience. One quality of a successful entrepreneur that the man beautifully exhibits is humility, something he knows how to use to his advantage.
Addressing a session at the 13th India Digital Summit in New Delhi, Sharma was a delight to watch. Those who have met him know his energetic vibes. Within minutes of stepping onto the stage, the livewire forced the serious-looking business aspirants and journalists to roll on the floor laughing. Amid the dynamic discussion, many serious and relevant questions also popped up that Sharma answered with sincerity
Life for Friends
True friends are hard to find and Sharma values those who value his friendship. Like any other enterprising businessman, the benevolent entrepreneur has invested in multiple firms including Innov8, InnerChef, GOQii, Zapr, Hiver, among others. However, he doesn’t call these investments, neither is he seeking any return. Why? Because instead of a corporate association, he deems them as helping a friend.
Apart from a company worth billions, Sharma also owns a golden heart. In his own words, the aspirational entrepreneur can do ‘anything for (his) friends.’ However, if you are planning to befriend him now, it might be a little too late. Sharma said it was long ago in 2014 that he stopped making friends.
Jack Ma over Berkshire Hathaway
Sharma has had an incredible journey. Born and brought up in a small Indian town like Aligarh, Sharma has been a child prodigy. The star entrepreneur completed his 12th-grade studies at the age of 14. He had always taken pleasure in every step of his life. His persistent efforts had gotten him investments from not only attracted Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma but also Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway.
“When you are at a certain stage, everyone wants to taste a pie of your success, what matters is when someone holds your hand while you are a nobody,” he said. Apart from Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and Berkshire Hathaway, Ant Financial, SoftBank and SAIF Partners as key shareholders in Paytm.
While Ma showed trust in Sharma’s capability when he decided to challenge the likes of Flipkart, Snapdeal and Amazon in 2015 by launching Paytm’s e-commerce arm, the US-based conglomerate pumped $300 million into the firm recently for 2.9 per cent stake. While both the investments played a significant role in the company’s growth, Sharma values Ma’s contribution more.
Being Ready for the Opportunity
8 November 2016 is a date which no Indian can ever forget. The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the demonetization of 500 and 1000 rupee currency notes, sending the entire nation into a state of frenzy. Standing in long bank queues, citizens were taken aback by the sudden call taken by the government. This was Sharma’s blessing in disguise.
The biggest benefactor of India’s demonetization of Sharma, who was ready for the opportunity as it struck. The “digiphobic” country was now feeling the effects of technical wave and Sharma’s team leveraged the opportunity to the tee. Within 2 days of demonetization, every other trader, from a vegetable vendor to the grocery store owner, owned a Paytm QR sticker. The offline mode of payment made our lives easier and Sharma’s life happier.
The task, however, was not a cakewalk. Over 300 additional volunteers were hired to distribute these stickers throughout the nation. Notably, Paytm already had the bandwidth of over 10,000 employees at that time. Convincing the conventional community about the medium’s credibility was another humongous task that the team overtook.
No individual can achieve success without an efficient team’s efforts. Sharma is no different. The Paytm founder takes pride in what his team has achieved in the past years. From his eureka moment when he pitched the idea of entering the payment ecosystem in 2011 to the board of Paytm’s parent company, One97 Communications to launching PayPay in Japan, Sharma credits his team for always being on their toes.
“We leave the team to do whatever they want. If they are able to manage, then good, if not, then we micro-manage them,” he mused. The sky is the limit for Vijay Shekhar Sharma and he himself admits that Paytm would venture into every field that has even an ounce of opportunity for success.
Technology is the King?
Over the years, the paramount of entrepreneurship has shifted from having merely an idea to having an innovative one. With the influx of disruptive technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, Machine Learning etc, the ecosystem has transformed. Sharma, in fact, believes that without a technology background, an entrepreneur can’t survive in today’s world.
His good friend, Deep Kalra, the founder and Group CEO of MakeMyTrip, who was also present at the summit, has thoughts. While he admitted, young startupreneurs should have a co-founder or senior employee with required technical acumen, being from the technology background themselves wouldn’t make a difference if they have the entrepreneurial brilliance, Kalra concluded.