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Not one to mince words, Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma was vociferous in his praise of prime minister Narendra Modi for the government's move to withdraw Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 banknotes from circulation. He believes the move could bring in big gains for the Indian economy and sees widespread acceptance of digital payments, after an initial period of settling pain.
Sharma’s company, One97 Communications, which runs Paytm could be one of the big beneficiaries of the development. Paytm started as a mobile wallet to simplify payments, and is now valued at $4.8 billion.
Forbes India caught up with Vijay Shekhar Sharma on the sidelines of the magazine’s flagship event, the Forbes India Leadership Awards 2016, where Paytm won the ‘Outstanding Startup for the Year’ Award.
Flashing a big grin and the ‘V’ sign as a gesture of joy, Sharma described the move aimed to crack down on corruption, black money and terrorism sponsorship, as a 'masterstroke' and a 'bold' one.
The government has banned Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes. What is your take on it?
I can’t believe a master stroke which has been taken to curb [usage of] black money. It takes a bold man, it takes a person who is ready to let go of every body’s ‘advice’ – and take a single shot [at black money]. I do not have better words or even words enough to describe how incredible our prime minister has been. This is the time for India to take and embrace digital [money] and this is the time to say no to cash, and so no to corruption.
How do you see the whole thing panning out?
It will be a few initial days of pain and then massive gains for the economy.
Do you see more players like Paytm mushrooming up as a result?
This is the age of digital [economy] and this is the age of financial services. So, many; welcome everybody!
What are the practical difficulties of exchanging the notes?
Everything will get sorted in the long term.
How do you see the acceptance of this move from say, a small-scale grocer to a big business operator?
We at Paytm have a zero percent MDR (Merchant Discount Rate) payment acceptance in digital format for every shop. And with the intent that cash cannot be taken of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000, I believe we will have an incredible uptick; even faster than we have seen in the past. This nudge from the government will take everyone in a positive spin.
Would you be reaching out to the PMO’s office… [cuts]
I want to say ‘Thank you so much Mr Prime Minister. You are so incredible. You are the truest sponsor of ‘Digital India’ in every sense we could have imagined. This country has never seen a man with such resolve.
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