An Indian book seller sits next to a sign indicating Paytm Mobile Phone Payment Technology is accepted to receive payment from customers due to lack of Indian currency notes in a market in Mumbai India, Nov. 28 November.
Divyakant Solanki—EPA/Shutterstock


India’s digital wallet

With more than 350 million account holders, Paytm has matured into India’s biggest digital payments platform, expanding into everything from airline and movie tickets to gold. In September, it launched a new platform giving customers the ability to invest in mutual funds. Along the way, it has turned founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma, now 40, into India’s youngest billionaire. A critical boost came in November 2016, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi set a demonetization policy for India that declared all large bank notes invalid. The resulting cash crunch drove many to digital payments for the first time; Paytm added 20 million users in just five weeks. Sharma says the key to success is continual innovation. “It’s in our culture to embrace trust, openness and teamwork,” he says. Facing competition from popular Facebook-owned texting app WhatsApp, which is adding payment features, Paytm undertook a push to sign more merchants to the platform. Over 9 million Indian retailers now accept Paytm payments, up from 5 million in December 2017. Sharma’s ambitions extend well beyond India’s borders, though. Last year, it launched in Canada and will soon roll out PayPay, a barcode-based smartphone payment service in Japan in collaboration with Softbank. “We believe in the ‘Built in India, Built for the World’ philosophy,” Sharma says. —Naina Bajekal

TIME may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website. Offers may be subject to change without notice.