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Zero merchant fee is a force multiplier for digital payments: Paytm's Vijay Shekhar Sharma

Updated: Jul 10, 2019, 02.34 PM IST
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BCCL
Vijayshekharsharma
Paytm’s model is built on zero MDR and giving merchants an opportunity to sell online or becoming a financial services customer, he said.

Highlights

  • Paytm has around 250 million KYC verified customers on mobile wallets and the growth looks positive.
  • Companies in this space, including Paytm, offered incentives for P2P, pushing the volumes up to almost 800 million a month.
  • UPI is just one of the five payment modes, while for Google Pay it is part of one universe called UPI.
The last year has been challenging for Paytm, with fintech rivals expanding rapidly and its Paytm Mall e-commerce platform scaling down operations.

In an exclusive interview with ET, founder and CEO Vijay Shekhar Sharma says Paytm is eyeing multiple ways to expand products and start making money off users including tapping gaming, content, commerce and wealth management to shore up revenue and retain customers. Excerpts.


Have you started positioning Paytm as one beyond just a payments company?
Yes, Paytm is creating an ecosystem with lifestyle and financial services. We are creating content like gaming and video; commerce includes ticketing, travel, online to offline; and advertising includes deals, banners and video ads. From user transaction data, we have created fintech services such as banking, loans and wealth management. The foundation of Paytm remains the same. There are consumers who pay to merchants online and offline, and payments is our moat and differentiator.

With Paytm facing heat from UPI payments players, what makes you unique compared to Google Pay, Amazon Pay and PhonePe?
Paytm is a payments instrument that can be used for net banking, cards, UPI etc. For us, UPI is just one of the five payment modes, while for Google Pay it is part of one universe called UPI. We are observing that the number of customers who link their bank accounts on multiple UPI apps is nearly the same. We have a base of 12 million active merchants, and of this, we clock around 200 million transactions on wallets and another 150 million transactions on UPI.

Are we seeing user growth stagnate on UPI?
Companies in this space, including Paytm, offered incentives for peer-to-peer payments (P2P), pushing the volumes up to almost 800 million a month. Now, we have realised that beyond the top 50 million users, new ones are not being added on UPI. So, we reduced cashbacks on P2P, which caused a steady decline in UPI transactions overall in the last four months. The number has reduced by 100 to 200 million because that chunk was dominated by cashbacks.

Is your focus shifting back to wallets now?
We have around 250 million KYC verified customers on mobile wallets and the growth looks positive. I used to believe wallets were not needed because people would start paying directly from their bank accounts. But, we are seeing that customers love wallets much more than direct transfers from bank accounts. A few months ago, we were pushing only UPI, but now we realise it has plateaued. Usage of wallets is not dead.

How will the proposed zero Merchant Discount Rate (MDR) regime for merchants affect digital payment revenues?
Zero fee to merchants is a force multiplier for the acceptance of digital payments. India’s acceptance of digital payment modes will accelerate with this kind of change on more payments options. Paytm’s model is built on zero MDR and giving merchants an opportunity to sell online or becoming a financial services customer.

What is happening to Paytm Postpaid?
Since we are not a registered non-banking financial company, we cannot lend from our own books, we need partners. Initially, with Paytm Postpaid we were experimenting with Paytm Mall where the e-commerce business was giving loans to customers. But as it scaled up, we moved it to an NBFC and will now provide lending through them. We have tied up with Clix Capital, Tata Capital and Indifi, and we are working with five-six NBFCs and banks.

What is the path ahead for Paytm Mall?
With regard to funding, Paytm Mall has 30 months of capital in the bank at the current spending level. We will raise money in due course based on our offline to online model. Earlier, our team was building the warehousing model, but now our focus is on the shopkeeper model.

Can you talk about Paytm’s investment strategy?
Our approach is to primarily build in-house, but if the market opportunity is becoming bigger, then we buy. If we don't have the bandwidth, then we invest, like in content. Other times, we will enable our partners scale up, like with grocery.

Also Read

Sonia Dhawan rejoins Paytm group

Paytm in talks with T Rowe Price for its funding round

Bulk payments live on Paytm

Paytm First Games raises $20 million for expansion

Paytm promotes Vikas Garg as deputy CFO

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