South Asia

India’s Paytm Contemplating US Expansion

While much ink has been given to the various U.S. companies trying to grab up a foothold in India, this week’s news seems to be flowing the other way across the sea. India’s largest payments player — Paytm — is eying the United States for its own expansion.

That comes straight from the mouth of Chief Executive Vijay Shekhar Sharma at The Wall Street Journal’s D.Live Singapore event. Sharma also noted that the goal is for international expansion writ large.

“I want to build a product made in India consumed by those … in the developed world,” he said.

The U.S. mobile payment market was worth around $112 billion last year, according to Forrester Research.

Paytm, for its part, is currently valued at $7 billion after a $1.4 billion fundraising round care of Japan’s SoftBank. But, as of yet, and despite being India’s largest mobile payment player by far, Paytm has not turned a profit.

Paytm is already live in Canada — and has been since March — and according to its CEO, that could serve a base of operations to bridge further North American expansion. The Canadian user base is small — as opposed to the service’s 260 million Indian users — but the average Canadian transaction is much larger than its Indian equivalent. Canadians can use Paytm to pay mobile phone, cable, internet and utility bills, as well as property taxes. They can also pay for insurance.

Paytm also signaled its willingness to work with Facebook Inc.’s WhatsApp, Sharma said, which would allow the messaging app’s users to plug into Paytm’s services. WhatsApp has no comment so far — and Paytm is working on developing its own messaging service.

Paytm’s expansion ambitions have been notable — particularly in the last 12-18 months, as it has expanded its purview from mobile payment to eCommerce and other payments services to opening a private bank of its own (to compete with state-owned banks) back in May. Demonetization — the move away from paper currency that India abruptly embraced last year — has also been a major boost to Paytm.

“India is itself a huge opportunity,” since many people still lack bank accounts and credit cards, the CEO said.

It’s an opportunity that Paytm, with its local knowledge, is well-positioned to tap into with services that other payments players might not think of, like the ability to buy gold.

“The country saves in gold and not in bank accounts,” he said, noting that bank deposits, at about $250 billion, are dwarfed by nearly $1 trillion in household gold holdings.

Paytm has plenty of funds for the years ahead, Sharma said, and no plans for an initial public offering, though it is always looking for “intelligent” investors to fuel its ongoing expansion project.

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