From 1.2L To 4 Crores Per Annum: How PayTM’s Billionaire Founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma Built His Net Worth

From humble beginnings to the front page of India’s startup story, Vijay Shekhar’s recent reappointment to the CEO chair at a struggling PayTM reminds us of his earlier trials

This Monday, PayTM founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma was reappointed as PayTM’s chief executive officer and managing director — a widely backed decision that resulted in a share price jump of 4% and reflected retained confidence in Sharma’s ability to turn the troubled ship around.

 

Coming from humble beginnings and seemingly destined for success at a young age, Sharma’s rags-to-riches story covers much of modern India’s corporate story, and has seen dramatic shifts from record-breaking successes to much rougher times.

 

Here’s the story of how Vijay Shekhar Sharma built his net worth, how he came to lose around half of it, and how his own brainchild rallied behind him this week.

 

How Did Sharma Become A Businessman?

 

 

Born in Aligarh back in the summer of 1978, Sharma was the third of four children born to Sulom Prakash and Asha Sharma. The pair, who survived on modest means as a schoolteacher and housewife, quickly came to realise that their son was a prodigy — far outclassing his schoolmates, Sharma would go on to attend the Delhi Technological University, (then-called the Delhi College of Engineering), at the young age of 15.

 

While pursuing his B.Tech degree, Sharma decided to jump on the dot-com bubble and launched a website named indiasite.net in 1997, selling it before the turn of the century for a tidy sum of 5 lakhs.

 

Quickly understanding the potential of web-based content during the Internet’s ‘wild-west’ days, Sharma used his newfound capital to create One97 Communications, a web product that offered content on daily news, cricket scores, ringtones, jokes, and exam results — all cornerstones of the early 2000s Internet experience for India.

 

While all of this paints the picture of a super-genius, it’s important to note that Sharma had struggles of his own. Hoping to secure an IIT seat back in 1997, he initially failed to do so. Undeterred, he decided to forge his own path ahead, self-studying English while opting to bunk classes in favor of studying web code on the side.

 

The struggles didn’t end there, however. After graduating, Sharma went on to start One97 Communications with the help of a couple of friends. Running out of cash by 2003, he would take on odd jobs to keep himself and his company afloat — making a very modest Rs. 10,000 per month. Desperate for investors, his prayers were answered in 2004 when a friend decided to acquire 40% of One97 for 8 lakhs.

 

Using this momentum, Sharma went on to finally push for more investment by 2007, and by 2008, revenue was in the tens of crores.

 

The Birth of PayTM

 

 

While One97 would mark Sharma’s initial foray into business, it would be his second big idea that really innovated and took him into the big leagues.

 

The catalyst for PayTM showed up early in 2010 when Sharma realized that India’s newly-launched 3G network would severely affect the landscape of IT-based businesses in India. Sensing an opportunity on the horizon, he worked hard to build PayTM with his team across the next six months.

 

The payment platform was an instant hit with India’s newly digitized population, who set up 15 million wallets on the platform within 10 months of launch. Then came the real kicker — demonetization.

 

With cash finally taking the back seat compared to digital payments due to the 2016 government order, PayTM experienced a huge 700% surge in transactions — propelling PayTM to a massive $10 billion valuation within two years, and cementing Sharma’s position as one of India’s biggest names in fintech.

 

How Much Is Vijay Shekhar Sharma Worth?

 

 

As of Forbes’ latest figures, Vijay Shekhar Sharma is worth around $1.2 billion in 2022, although this number isn’t as impressive as his figures from 2019-2020.

 

Part of this can be attributed to the global pandemic slowing down revenue across the board, but in Sharma’s case, a big factor was PayTM’s failed IPO launch back in 2021.

 

The company’s share price, which recovered slightly in the wake of Sharma’s new announcement, fell a staggering 70% within a few months, largely due to a Reserve Bank of India ban on onboarding new customers, imposed due to ‘material supervisory concerns, which weren’t made public.

 

Before this drop, Sharma’s net worth was truly immense at around $2.6 billion.

 

Lead Image: PayTM

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