Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder of Paytm, yesterday did an AMA on Reddit, and was flooded with questions about Paytm, startups, Jack Ma, and entrepreneurs.
Here is a snippet of some of the interesting questions that he replied to.
Question: Is there any special significance of the number (197)?
Vijay: I started One97 as people search in 2001. That time one use to call BSNL / MTNL helpline on 197 to ask for phone number. So One97.
Question: When do you expect to turn a profit?
Vijay: We earned some profit in last 2 weeks. That said, profit is not short term aim, dominance is. So may be after next year.
Question: What is your net worth?
Vijay: Who bothers about that? !
Question: How do you feel about being wealthy since you come from humble backgrounds? Has your perspective towards life changed?
Vijay: I buy all my music (instead of free downloads earlier) and I feel happy about that 🙂
Question: Indian startups/companies are always stereotyped as having bad security practices. I have read about Ola and Freecharge on this subject, even Paytm also. So what do you say about this? Do Indian companies really ignore security practices?
Vijay: No company would want to be on other side of a breach. That said, it is tougher to meet very savvy security experts. We want to build a cult of security well wishers for Paytm. Pointers welcome.
Question: Why Indian companies hardly allow remote?
Vijay: It is tough for companies to rely on everyone who works remotely. That said, I think it is much better than when I started working.
Question: What are your favorite books? And which book you read recently?
Vijay: I haven’t been able to read many books. Last one I read and enjoyed was Steve Job’s biography. Mostly I figure I end up reading biographies of few people.
Question: Why do you still consider formal (broken) educational degrees while recruiting?
Vijay: Because exams are for writing what was written in book and not about learnings of real world. So education degrees are not discovery tool of smart people. I remember being a topper in school and a backbencher in Engineering college just because I did not understand the language. (And had lot of supplis 🙂 )
Question: What is your best and worst memory about DCE?
Vijay: Best memory : Maths department computer centre & East Hotel days. Worst: Knowing that I have another suppli or short attendance . (happened so many times 🙂 )
Question: How does Paytm manage such lucrative cash-backs ?
Vijay: Raise money, give money, get money, give more money, and so on. Well now merchants & brands are funding it!
Question: With such burn rate and such fickle customer loyalty, how long do you think the money will last? And with everybody just throwing money at the ecommerce scene in India right now, do you think it’s a bubble?
Vijay: Last I know most of large players have money for 2-3 years. You should see China money spends and numbers. Obviously India market is much smaller value but that could give context to why such race.
Question: When can we expect Paytm wallet to be acceptable at physical stores and services? Are there any such plans?
Vijay: We started doing it. Now in thousands of stores around Delhi/Noida. Expecting to go to top 10 cities in 2016.
Question: How did you build your negotiation skill?
Vijay: Learning the hard way. After losing many times. I think one should make someone Guru in negotiations and learn that way.
Question: What are your tips on delegation?
Vijay: Give it to those whom you can trust. That ways you won’t go back to person again and again.
Question: How has been your experience interacting with Jack Ma?
Vijay: Superb, inspiring.
Question: Who are people you admire?
Vijay: Those who have built amazing creations / companies / music. So Steve Jobs to U2/ ColdPlay to Jack Ma & Masa Son.
Question: I read in a recent article that you and your team stayed in Oberoi to learn about customer experience. What did you learn there? How did you integrate your learning into a technology company?
Vijay: If you see a customer care email reply of Paytm. We learnt how to structure customer communication, how to sound sincere and make it delightful for consumers.
Question: What is the one thing you know, which others don’t or think is false?
Vijay: That I am under a loan ! (no not the housing loan kinds but daily cash flow management loan from friend kinds).
Question: What are things you focus on to ensure a seamless transaction platform?
Vijay: Tech scale. Scalable tech.
Question: What is the monetization strategy of Paytm ecommerce? Your marketplace is zero-commision, so you don’t take a cut. How is this model sustainable (especially coupled with the cashbacks that you give out)?
Vijay: Merchants pay for marketing & we charge for payment processing.
Question: What are the important changes in work culture in India that need to be made? Can you compare that to how Alibaba’s work culture?
Vijay: People need to be more sincere, Alibaba people are super hard working.
Question: Ok I have been one of the very 1st adopters of the platform and even encouraged a lot of friends to buy stuff from Paytm instead of Flipkart, Snapdeal, Amazon but I had the maximum issues. From broken things to different size (of shoes) to even a lot of delays (I guess my tweets are max of complaints about Paytm). So my question is instead of expanding in new areas (insurance, hotel room bookings and more) why not improve the existing things and deliver a better experience to buyers?
Vijay: We learnt the hard way that not every merchant we got on Paytm commerce platform was sincere in sending exactly correct goods. Changing that by adding QC before shipment even if it means keeping more man power. Also launched ratings to identify bad blood.
Question: How did you overcome the language barrier from Hindi to English? I read an interview recently where you said how it used to limit you. Some tips for millions in rural towns and tier 2 cities who get restricted only due to the language barrier.
Vijay: Ultimately one has to learn English. You can find fun ways like watching movies, reading newspapers or books and so on.
Question: Indian companies are increasingly trying to capture all the verticals thereby looking exactly like each other. Interestingly, the 4-5 top tech companies in the world – Google, Apple, Facebook, Apple, Netflix – have just small areas of overlap. What is driving you guys to expand when the core product penetration is hardly anything.
Vijay: China has BATS, USA has GAFA (Google, Amazon, Facebook , Apple), India will have her own Internet conglomerates.
Question: If you had to bet all of your net worth today on one tech company from India (except Paytm) which company would that be?
Vijay: Paytm 🙂 Other tech companies I love are Practo, Ola, Grofers.
Question: What large consumer trend (tech enabled or not) do you think that most people are missing, but you are seeing clearly?
Vijay: O2O commerce will be far bigger than people think it is today.
Question: Why do I not see enough companies in the digital media space – Indian NFLX, Pandora and what have you – when it seems fairly obvious that media / entertainment will be 40-50% if not more of the bandwidth consumption.
Vijay: Paid subscriptions are tough business as consumer eventually gets it cheaper / free; network for streaming is missing; content licensing costs are out of logic.
Question: What are the 3 most important things that contribute towards a startup’s success in the Indian startup ecosystem?
- People == lot of young and worthy talent.
- Investors == All types & kind of investors for cheques from Rs 5 Lakh to $500Mn
- Exits == Finally there is a way out beyond an IPO.
Question: I know a lot of people who use misuse your initial free codes. Are you aware of it? Did you guys take any steps to stop that?
Vijay: Yep, We blocked lot of users. In fact we purged more than 5 Mn users !
Question: Any future ideas you are working on that we should be excited about ? Any Cryptocurrencies or Apple Pay / Google wallet integration that the Paytm team is working on ?
Vijay: Some exciting stuff in works. Apple doesn’t have attention on India 🙁
Question: Ever since the start of your Paytm/ One97 journey, what was that one moment that got you overwhelmed like never before?
Vijay: Jack Ma giving reasons on why Alibaba and Alipay should invest in us. Aahh !
Question: What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to someone who wants to start a company?
Vijay: Start it.
Question: Do you feel the Indian startup bubble is about to burst?
Vijay: “About to” is too short a cycle. That said, next round for everyone is getting tougher. Smart ones raised money in time. May there be more “bubbles, so that we see tide of change agents.
Question: How do Indians working in the tech industry compare to those in other countries (whether western, Russian, Chinese, etc)? I’m asking more in terms of competence, skills, being original, etc. Also what is Ratan Tata like as a businessman and as a person?
Vijay: Ratan Tata is as pleasing as a Banyan tree in the middle of desert. So humble & down to earth. I think Indians are sharp, original and savvy and not hard working all the time. We know more jugaads to do things than others can think of B-)
Question: Introvert or Extrovert ? Bill Gates or Steve Jobs ?
Vijay: Steve Jobs. Introvert pretending to be an extrovert.
Question: How do you see Paytm in the next five years?
Vijay: India’s most influential mobile internet conglomerate.
Question: How do you juggle your time between running a company at such a massive scale, managing investments and portfolio in startups, and still meet up with investors, fly off and grab that much needed funding?
Vijay: When you are launching a rocket, you want to make sure it is launched and not bother about sleeping a night before.
Question: Since you took out the time to experiment with Bangalore city, what is the difference in the ecosystem of Bangalore and Delhi/NCR.
Vijay: Bangalore has more startup people.
Question:Any words for those who still work in older technologies but enthusiastic about joining Paytm?
Vijay: JUICE == Join Us In Creation of Excitement !
Question: Do you see OLA as your competitor in processing payments? If they are seeing such huge transactions for booking cabs, I do feel they can surely jump into processing payments for other things too.
Vijay: Anyone who can process payments should be a potential competition. I have superb respect to Bhavish & Ola so don’t really look at them as one.
Question: Paytm recently invested in Loginext (Indian startup to help logistic companies). So what’s the vision of Paytm in ecommerce?
Vijay: Seller from every corner of country should be able to sell a buyer across every pin code in India. Building ecosystem of partners to make this possible. Loginext is a great software for couriers.
Question: Which industries do you believe can be disrupted soon with the help of technology but haven’t been touched yet or are at a very nascent stage?
Vijay: So many more pending! Go to market and see whatever you are not doing using an app.
Question: Does someone needs to have a high I.Q to become an Entrepreneur ? What qualities makes Someone an Entrepreneur according to you ?
Vijay: Very high EQ needed. A viable plan to change the world; okay some thing in this world 🙂
Question: What are the top 3 challenges of Paytm?
Vijay: Scale, scale, scale.
Question: What could you have been if not an entrepreneur or this was always the first love?
Vijay: I should have had a music band. May be like U2 or ColdPlay 😀
Question: When in future are you predicting almost every transaction to happen over mobile devices?
Vijay: 2018 onwards. But there is risk mobile form factor would have changed. May be wearable etc.
Question: What is the quality you most like in Jack Ma ?
Vijay: He can inspire people and make them do magic.