India’s Paytm makes market debut

Tech News

A decade ago, Vijay Shekhar Sharma flew to Hong Kong to attend an All Things D conference. At the event, he watched Silicon Valley executives Jack Dorsey and Brian Chesky talk about the firms they were building. But the conversation that would change the trajectory of his firm, One97 Communications, was an interview of Alibaba founder Jack Ma.

“That trip taught me what was happening in the mobile payments and commerce spaces in Asia. It was so inspiring to hear Jack Ma speak at the event,” said Sharma.

One97 Communications was founded in the early 2000s and among a range of services it offered until that time included domain name registration and VAS for telecom firms. The firm had raised $15 million and was profitable, but Sharma was now convinced that he needed to make a move into payments, he recalled in an interview with TechCrunch on Thursday.

But it was a tough sell for Sharma, as many of his investors wanted him to continue to focus on existing lines of business, according to several people familiar with the matter. After some back and forth with investors, and putting some of his shares on the line, Sharma was given the green light to pursue his ambitious experiment.

That experiment turned out to be a success. Paytm chronicles the mobile payments adoption in India and on Thursday, one of the most valuable startups in the country began trading on local stock exchanges.

“This is not Paytm getting listed. This is India’s youth getting listed,” said Sharma.

Paytm, backed by SoftBank and Alibaba, was down 21.19% half an hour after it began trading, giving the 20-year-old firm a valuation of $14.9 billion. Its shares were trading at 1,700 Indian rupees ($22.9), down from the offer price of 2,150. The startup raised $2.5 billion in its initial public offering, 1.1 billion of which came from institutional investors. This is the largest IPO in India.

The journey for Paytm, which today offers a range of services including peer-to-peer digital payments, even after getting the green light wasn’t easy. Over the years, the startup received several buyout offers including from Freecharge and Snapdeal, according to sources familiar with the matter.

This is a developing story, and will be updated throughout the day.

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