Paytm’s IPO Gambit: Go Big or Go Home

Even as it faces competition from rivals with unlimited access to capital, Paytm has been busy reducing losses the last three years. But with flat revenues and its financial services businesses yet to scale, can Vijay Shekhar Sharma pull off India’s largest IPO?

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By 

Pratik Bhakta

June 07, 2021

13 Min Read

It was exactly a decade ago, in the summer of 2011, that One97 Communications was planning a public share offering to raise Rs 120 crore (about $27 million). Then a mobile value-added services company, One97 had filed for its IPO in 2010 and had already delayed the listing once because of “market volatility.” By the end of the summer, One97 Communication and its founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma had decided to delay the IPO again. Instead, the company raised a private funding round at a valuation of Rs 1,200 crore ($163 million). 

There was another reason for the change of heart besides the volatile markets. Sharma had realized that One97 needed to become a full-fledged mobile internet and ecommerce player. He doubled down on Paytm (Pay Through Mobile), a service for bill payments launched a few years earlier. Over the last decade, Sharma has built Paytm into a household brand. Paytm now sells everything—from movie and plane tickets to mutual funds. It has also secured a payments bank license. 

The company is now busy making another transition—from a mobile commerce platform to an online financial services business with a presence in lending, insurance and wealth management. Perhaps even a digital bank, if regulators give it the approval. 

These potentially higher margin services are being built on top of the large customer base Paytm has attracted from its payments business, through which monetization is a tough proposition.

In the midst of this transition, it is looking for an ambitious $3 billion public offering, the biggest IPO in India’s history, valuing the Noida-headquartered company at $25-30 billion, according to multiple reports. Paytm was valued at about $16 billion during its previous major round of funding in late 2019.

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