In the midst of the ongoing currency crisis, Google Analytics has found that many Indians are doing their first digital transaction on Paytm – some of them in the smallest towns or in the remotest villages – as it aims to offer financial inclusion to the poorest of the merchants and ease to the richest resident.
Knowingly or unknowingly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s plan to scrap ₹500 and ₹1,000 notes has helped Paytm, the country’s largest mobile payments firm.
In the last two days, since the news broke, traffic on the app grew by seven times, the Paytm app downloads have gone up by three times, 30% more cash has been added to the mobile wallets, offline transactions to merchants grew 10 times.
Paytm, before the announcement had 130 million mobile wallets. “For the first time, the mobile wallet will be in the hands of the common man,” said Vijay Shekhar Sharma, the company’s founder and CEO.
At this pace, Sharma said Paytm will easily have 500 million users (many of them will have digital bank accounts), while State Bank of India, today, has 202 million account holders apart from borrowers and corporate clients.
A large number of Indians, including cigarette vendors, autorickshaw drivers, small shopkeepers, and milk booth owners , who never used any form of digital money, accessed Paytm, symbolising a change wherein the internet is used not just for social media, instant messaging, etc.
“Paytm is serving the lowest common denominator of the society … people who were not served by the banks,” said Sharma.
Now, Sharma will step on the accelerator. Paytm will go on a hiring spree, increasing headcount by 600% to 12,000 employees. The merchant sign-up team, which had a vertical structure, was merged into one large team on Thursday, with a single aim – add every single merchant, on every single street in the country.
Paytm already has 8.5 lakh merchants. But Sharma is eyeing 10 million by 2018. It already has merchants, accepting Paytm in 6,000 towns. “We will go to every town with a population of 100,000 people,” Sharma said.
Simultaneously, he said the wallet business will be folded into the payments bank business (yet to start), where Sharma will hold 61% stake, rest owned by One97, making the direct shareholding of the payments bank business fully Indian.
By the end of this year, Paytm will have a million merchants. Then it will start the digital banking business – offer savings and current account to every merchant. Once the money is in the account it will push financial services such as fixed deposits, insurance and loans.
For consumers, it has launched a ‘Nearby’ feature, which helps in discovering a Paytm merchant in the vicinity. And, the new ‘Add Cash’ will allow them to find the nearest bank points to load the wallets with cash.
“All these people deal in cash …. We are hoping their behaviour will change after Modi’s perfect surgical strike,” Sharma said.