As a student moving from Hindi medium to English, Vijay Shekhar Sharma taught himself to read two books at a time. Both open side by side, both on the same subject. One in Hindi and the other in English, so he could learn the English terms for the Hindi ones – say samveg for momentum – and eventually leave the Hindi book behind. He remains adept at connecting and balancing different things. Two of those at present are running his company Paytm’s online market place and its mobile wallet.
In the process, he is building a bridge between online and offline commerce and trade. Offline commerce, the traditional shops and supermarkets, do much the same as e-commerce but their grammar and syntax are as different as Hindi and English.
Online commerce is booming because of the convenience it provides. As listed in this column last Saturday, you can order nearly everything from home and have it delivered right there from all over the world. The payment is either made online, while placing the order, or offline at the time of delivery.
Many people are not comfortable with cash. Cash on delivery, the great invention of Indian e-commerce, is faltering. Card penetration is very low in India. Even if you have a card, the person who you have to pay may not be in a position to receive payments through a card or Internet banking. For small payments, `100 to `300, many want to avoid using a card or punching a lot of numbers, and a one-time password, into a mobile phone. Some are plain scared of exposing their entire bank account while using a debit card or the entire limit of a credit card.
The digital wallet on the mobile has stepped in to fill this gap and is making O2O — online to offline or offline to online — a popular jargon, bringing offline commerce and trade online and the other way around. And when you talk of digital wallets, you talk of Paytm.
Initially starting with a service to recharge prepaid mobiles, Paytm has percolated across platforms. The Reserve Bank of India has issued 40 licences for digital wallets, and there are already about 130 to 140 million wallets out there. Of those, Paytm claims 80 million.
“Everyone with a mobile phone can become a merchant and sell a product or service,” says Amit Lakhotia, head of Paytm’s payment gateway. If you have a mobile phone, all you need to do is register your number on Paytm or any other digital wallet provider. You receive a one-time password. Enter it and you have a wallet. Paytm verifies the mobile number. No paperwork needs to be done if you spend under `10,000 a month. More than that and you need to furnish other documents.
Paytm says its wallet can be used on 15,000 online merchants, including big ones such as MakeMyTrip, HealthKart, HomeShop18, Uber, eBay, Jabong, and Groupon. Then there are the platforms that give access to offline services, O2O, such as food, taxi, spa, carpenter, plumber: Foodpanda, Domino’s Pizza, TinyOwl, Swiggy, UrbanClap, Tooler, and so on.
About a month ago, says Lakhotia, Paytm made a breakthrough and got companies to use its wallet to pay directly to people. This writer spoke to one of them, Nobroker. As the name suggests, its mobile app and website promises to do away with the broker in renting of houses. It brings together the owner and potential tenant and leaves it to them to take it ahead. No fee charged. And no property broker involved, who would typically take a month’s rent from each — a steep commission of 17%.
If you list a property on Nobroker’s website or app, you will get a small reward. To receive it all you have to do is furnish your Paytm wallet number. “We reached out to Paytm, instead of doing an online bank transfer. The only requirement to receive the reward is to have a Paytm wallet. One click and the money goes into their wallet,” says Akhil Gupta, Nobroker’s co-founder and chief technology officer.
Paytm’s Lakhotia calls it “instant gratification”. If this direct payment through the digital wallet by companies takes off, it could also mean long term satisfaction.