Everything to everyone

In this edition, you will learn the perils of taking too many risks and of taking too few

The ever-cheerful Vijay Shekhar Sharma is definitely the poster boy for digital payments in India. And why not, his company Paytm is the largest player in the payments space. In 2016, when demonetisation sucked cash out of the system, the start-up’s app became the preferred alternative overnight. At least till the government’s great leveler — UPI — started gaining traction. Once this happened, many companies such as Google, PhonePe and various banks set up their own payments solutions using the interface. UPI was now driving digital payments.

In technology businesses, the pace of innovation is rapid and customers are drawn to shinier and smoother versions. Successful consumer tech companies such as Apple, Amazon and Google know this — the value of constant consumer delight. So when Apple made iPods, it was goodbye to CDs. When it made iPhones and watches, the fanboys bought them all. Similarly, Amazon had readers on Kindle before stores could say ‘what the book’! Paytm wants a bit more — it wants to acquire customers via e-wallets and then offer them ‘everything’, from banking and bill payments to business services and retail.

Unfortunately, for Paytm, their product and technology have been replicated by gazillion players and the only thing customers care for is cashbacks. It doesn't help that the competition from deep-pocketed players such as Google, Walmart-backed PhonePe and Amazon is relentless. They are willing to plough millions of dollars into the payments business, which they see as a means to an end, of owning the transaction data. Just as the stakes in the payments game are getting higher, investors are getting cautious. It is terrible timing. Paytm seems to be juggling too many things at the same time. Can it beat the odds yet again? Find out in this edition’s cover story.

In strategy, we look at how Kellogg India pulled off double-digit growth during the past decade, but now has missed out on a huge opportunity. Sticking to the knitting is not always the best strategy for growth in India, as you will read on. In this edition, you will learn the perils of taking too many risks and of taking too few.