“Main gareebi hoon (I am poverty),
Main tumhe pyar karti hoon (I love you),
Main tumhe chod nahi sakti (I can’t leave you),
Kyunki tum mujhe usse zyada pyar karte ho (’cause you love me more than I do)”
Vijay Shekhar Sharma wrote this poem in school on seeing that his classmates didn’t even have slippers to wear. Not that life was any better for Sharma. Born in Aligarh to a school teacher — who was so upright that he never took to privately tutoring his students and was adamant about making ends meet with his school salary — Sharma had seen from close quarters what it meant to live life as a have-not. That was nearly two decades back.
Today, as Sharma embarks on a new journey as a banker, the 38-year-old, ranked as the country’s youngest billionaire, feels life has come full circle — Paytm Payments Bank, the new avatar of the e-wallet business, is soon going to set up a branch in Aligarh and, more importantly, begin operations from a state from where Sharma’s tryst with destiny began. “Back then, the poor were more accepting of their financial status, but that’s no longer the case. Even if there are no jobs, they want jobs; even if they don’t have money, they want to spend it. I am trying to find a way to create a set of opportunities for the underprivileged,” says Sharma, sitting out of his multi-storey office in Noida, which also houses Paytm’s first bank branch. A payments bank cannot lend but can accept deposits from individuals and small businesses of up to Rs.1 lakh each, besides offering third-party products.
The RBI’s innovative step towards financial inclusion has only fuelled the momentum that Paytm’s digital wallet business got when the government demonetised 86% of the currency in circulation in November 2016. That trigger led to the platform’s daily transactions doubling to 5 million within 10 days of the event, and has since risen to 25 million transactions. By next year, Paytm Bank is looking to set up over 3,000 ATMs an