“Our offerings to the consumer are under three heads: pay, buy, and save. Under ‘save’ we are going to act as the facilitator for a range of financial services. We have applied for a payments bank licence....”
Vijay Shekhar Sharma was in the middle of that sentence on Thursday when his mobile phone rang. The caller told him the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had granted him the licence he just mentioned.
Squealing in joy and making thumbs-up signs, Sharma went out of the room to celebrate with his team and take calls from television channels. It was a while before he could be brought back to resume this interview.
It was a big day in the life of the young company, the youngest in the list of 11 who got the RBI’s licence to start payments banks, which can do some of what a full bank does, such as deposits and payments, but cannot give loans. Paytm is also the only e-commerce outfit in that list.
But 10 other people got this licence, and then there is a large number of full banks. How will Paytm’s bank reflect its character?
“We know there will be a need for many persons like banking correspondents and bank branches, but we will be primarily led by the mobile,” said Sharma. “The consumer will get a very different experience of mobile banking.”
Paytm already has a 100 million mobile wallets, more than anyone else by a long mile. How can the wallet users be an asset to its other businesses? “That is the ‘pay’ part. We can graduate those consumers to ‘buy’, where they can transact on our online market platform. The same set of customers can move to financial services, or the ‘save’ part. By using technology, we can contribute to financial inclusion.”
Paytm’s mobile wallets work well in a country with a large number of people with no access to banking and only a small number of people with credit and debit cards. “It is about financial inclusion,” he said. “Payments, shopping are all about the consumer. Based on that we can offer many more things.”