At 41, he is the youngest Indian billionaire with a net worth of Rs.130 billion. Mind you, that’s solely based on the 15.4% and 8.2% stake that Vijay Shekhar Sharma holds in Paytm and Paytm Mall. His 51% stake in Paytm Payments Bank has not been assigned a value yet.
Many will proudly proclaim that hard work and persistence are what brought them prosperity, but the founder of Paytm is candid enough to admit that luck too has played a big role. Living in the posh South Delhi neighbourhood, Sharma recounts the days when he bought his first vehicle, a second-hand Maruti 800. “I bought it from a friend for Rs.10,000 and drove that car for four years,” he says and reveals that he then gave that up for another used car, but a slightly upgraded one — Honda City for Rs.11,000. Clearly, he always knew the value of money. Today, the billionaire is a proud owner of a Beamer and a Mercedes.
While the thrill of wheels is something that keeps Sharma going, what excites him is backing other entrepreneurs — they can each be as different as chalk and cheese. He has invested in 25 start-ups including Dimension NXG, GOQii, Unacademy, and InnerChef. “My ticket sizes for an investment can vary from a few hundred thousand to millions,” explains Sharma. This journey began in 2010, when he first invested in social venture platform Milaap. Though sector-agnostic, what’s notable in his portfolio is the presence of three media start-ups: ThePrint, The Ken and FactorDaily. Just like he knows how to spot good investments, he knows how to make profitable exits like he did with DealStreetAsia and Innov8. His latest investment was in the seed round of Kawa Space, a space-tech start-up, in September. “I don’t have any return expectation in mind. It’s all about investing in the future,” he says, adding that he does not seek the advice of any expert before deciding on these.
Recently, Sharma took a more active role by becoming a limited partner (LP) in Massive Fund, an alternative investment fund that takes early-stage bets, and in India Quotient, an early-stage venture capital firm. Roots Ventures is another multi-stage fund that counts Sharma as one of its anchor investors, and it recently invested in Smytten, a luxury discovery platform venture founded by former Google and Unilever executives, Swagata Sarangi and Siddhartha Nangia.
For now, Sharma takes all investment calls. “I don’t have a wealth advisor. All my money is in Paytm Bank,” claims Sharma. Given that he hit paydirt in a new-age business, asset allocation is Greek to Sharma. “I was never driven by wealth, so a structured approach to wealth creation has never been my philosophy,” he admits. “Get me a great idea with an enterprising guy behind it. You will have me hooked,” Sharma signs off.