“We are in the business of trust. Everything else we do is secondary.” Vijay had mentioned this to me in one of our conversations. This, I feel is the true foundation of Paytm Money.
The first opportunity to work with One97 Communications came to me over 10 years ago in 2007. I let it go. Nobody then could have ever imagined that One97 would someday shape into Paytm that will redefine how India pays everyone for everything, and now it is fast expanding from payments to financial services in India.
Somewhere in 2010, VS2 (that’s how Vijay’s number got saved on my phone, in a rush) and I started interacting over Twitter. We finally met in Mumbai in early 2011. Our conversations went on for hours about Dotcoms, internet, mobile, technology, startups and probably everything else under sun with some vadapav and chai to keep us going. Years before Paytm was founded, you just couldn’t miss Vijay’s energy and passion, it still is as infectious as then, possibly much more now.
We kept in touch over the years and had several discussions to work together, but for some reason that never happened.
Last year in May 2017, I noticed a missed call from Vijay in late evening. Earlier that day, I had met board members of one of the largest (and traditional) wealth management companies, who wanted to understand how startups execute fast, are agile and use technology to win. That discussion didn’t go well, it was evident that they wanted to implement technology but clearly didn’t want to change or how they operate on a daily basis. I messaged Vijay late night — “At what point in time will Paytm venture in to Wealth Management?”. He responded within minutes “We should talk, let’s do it first thing tomorrow morning!”. We spoke next day, “After Payments, Banking and next logical thing that Paytm will pick up is Wealth Management.”
We met next week in Bangalore and on our way from airport to the city we discussed endlessly about the opportunity that is ahead of us. By the time we completed our 2.5 hour ride, both of us knew this is something we should do. Vijay asked, “When do we start?”, my immediate answer was “Now!”. And we actually got started the very next day.
Something even more incredible happened that day. Vijay said to me, “PJ, you have been an entrepreneur. And as entrepreneurs we like to create, building things, taking them from zero to one. The fun is in creation, in building something that will create an impact. I trust you to build the best possible product and the largest wealth management company in India. Build this as an entrepreneur, as a founder, operate and lead like this were your own company.”
I started on 1st June 2017 as the first person on Paytm Money team (the company wasn’t even named or formed then). I didn’t know if this was even real.
I landed in Bangalore the very next day and quickly started putting together a small team and got us a small office to get started. Putting together an engineering team took time, our first engineering team members came in by October 2017. Till then, our small team of 5–6 members studied the wealth management industry in depth and zeroed in on Mutual Funds as the first product to launch. We personally reviewed over 50,000+ reviews & customer feedback that Mutual Fund investors have had shared in past 12–18 months on App Stores, Social Media, Customer Complaint forums and the likes of these. We have designed the product, features, benefits & offerings grounds up to ensure we build the product & investment experience right.
Until early 2018, Paytm Money was not even announced publicly. We operated from co-working spaces, in complete secrecy and had our own struggles. Even within Paytm, only a handful of people knew that far away in Bengaluru a small team was putting together building blocks for Paytm’s 4th consumer brand.
Many teams at AMCs (and in few cases all AMCs altogether as well) didn’t take us seriously or at times were hesitant to introduce us to their senior management. We faced questions like, ‘What exactly do you do in Paytm or whom do you report to?’ or, “I know of friends working in Paytm and they are not aware of anything called Paytm Money”. Among the various obstacles, hiring was one of most challenging. Candidates unwilling to believe that we are a part of Paytm and dropping out of interviews at the last moment or unwilling to join us unsure if this was really from Paytm.
Everything about Paytm Money, right from finalising the name of brand as Paytm Money, to its identity, the purpose & mission of the company, complete product, design, engineering and everything was built grounds up by the team at Paytm Money.
It’s been an amazing journey so far and we look forward to coming days!
Trust is the foundation of this business.
Trust that Vijay had in me to build Paytm Money is the trust I have in my team. We are a tiny company that got started within Paytm, got built in true entrepreneurial spirit from scratch and has mighty aspirations to bring wealth creation opportunities to millions of Indians. At times, I feel I should have started with Vijay back in 2007 when the opportunity came to me first. But now, I feel — “We are just getting started.”
Today as we go live, I would simply say, “We are not here in the business to measure our success by accumulating assets under management; we are here to gather trust of millions of Indians who for the first time are about to invest through Paytm Money”.
Onwards & Upwards.