Vijay Shekhar Sharma graduated high school at the age of 14. By 19, he had a degree in Electronics and communication engineering. By 20, he’d sold his first company for a cool $1 million. He’s since become one of India’s richest men as the founding CEO of Paytm, India’s leading digital payment system and financial technology company. This month, he announced the next step in his journey after confirming plans to take Paytm public in what will be the biggest Indian initial public offering for over a decade. Find out more with these 10 things you didn’t know about Vijay Shekhar Sharma.
1. He’s a song and dance man at heart
If you come across a YouTube clip of Sharma shaking a leg, don’t be surprised. Although he admits he’s not the world’s greatest dancer, he can’t resist hitting the dancefloor when one of his favorite tunes comes on. Speaking to yourstory.com, he confessed that in another life, he’d have loved to have “sung on the stage like Bono and Chris Martin with a band – a Sanskrit band.” A lover of “360 degrees of music,” he’s a fan of everything from Indian classical, Sufi, Hindi, Punjabi, and dhinchak music to Chris Martin and Bono. He’s also a big fan of Elton John’s rocket hour on Apple Music.
2. He has a talent for predicting trends
As businessinsider.in writes, Sharma’s success all comes down to his ability to see where the wind is blowing, and then use that knowledge to his advantage. When he noticed how the ever-expanding influence of the internet was shifting the process of paying bills from physical outlets to online payments, he decided to milk the trend for all it was worth. In 2010, he established Paytm, a digital payment system and financial technology company that lets users transfer money quickly, easily, and at no charge. Today, the company has over 400 million users and ranks as India’s largest mobile payments and commerce platform.
3. He sold his first business for $1 million
Sharma was born in Aligarh, Uttarpradesh as the third of four children to parents Sulom Prakash, a school teacher, and Asha Sharma, a housewife. A child prodigy, he taught himself English by memorizing rock songs and reading translated textbooks. After completing high school at the age of 15, he won a place at Delhi College of Engineering studying Electronics and communication engineering. While still at college, he developed the website indiasite.net. It proved a huge success, and within two years, Shekhar had sold it for a cool $1 million.
4. It wasn’t always an easy ride
In 2001, Sharma took out a loan of 8 lakhs to launch One97, a company that offered mobile content such as news, sports scores, and ringtones. The initial few years were tough. When he started having trouble repaying the loan, he resorted to taking on small, part-time jobs to help make ends meets. His perseverance paid off – One97 is now India’s largest mobile marketplace, with Paytm as its flagship brand.
5. He’s the 62nd richest person in India
In 2017, Forbes named Sharma as India’s youngest billionaire with a net worth of $1.3 billion. Since then, he’s added another billion to his fortune and now ranks as the country’s 62nd richest person with a net worth of $2.3 billion.
6. Warren Buffett’s a fan
Warren Buffett is one of the most successful investors in the world. He’s got a net worth of $100.6 billion, a reputation for frugality, and a nose for knowing which businesses will succeed, and which won’t. Basically, if Warren Buffett decides to invest in your business, you know you’re onto a good thing, and if Warren Buffet decides to invest a massive $300 million in your business, you know you’re going to be in the papers the next day… which is exactly what happened to Sharma in August 2018.
7. He’s the recipient of Yash Bharati
Thanks to his accomplishments, Sharma is the proud recipient of Yash Bharati, the highest civilian honor of the Government of Uttar Pradesh. His list of honors doesn’t stop there. In 2016, he was awarded both the ET Entrepreneur of the Year by The Economic Times and the title of NDTV Indian of the Year. In 2017, he was mentioned in the list of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people; that same year, he ranked 4th in GQ’s listing of the 50 most influential young Indians. He’s also been awarded an Honorary doctorate from Amity University, Gurgaon.
8. He’s a breath of fresh air
Sharma is a self-styled hippy who litters his sentences with reference to Pink Floyd, loves vegetarian cuisine, is passionate about driving but hates cars (which he describes as “a rich boy’s hobby”), and is about as far away from most people’s idea of a typical CEO as it’s possible to get. In essence, he’s a breath of fresh air, and that’s exactly what he’s hoping to get for everyone else as the UN Environment’s ‘Patron for Clean Air’, where he advocates for the United Nations Environment’s global Breathe Life campaign.
9. Jack Ma and Masayoshi Son are his inspirations
These days, Sharma is the one inspiring would-be entrepreneurs to follows in his footsteps, but when he started out, there were two people in particular that inspired and influenced him – Jack Ma and Masayoshi Son. In case you don’t know the names, Jack Ma is the co-founder and former executive chairman of the multinational, technology conglomerate, Alibaba Group, and the private equity firm, Yunfeng Capital. Masayoshi Son is the billionaire technology entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist who made his name as the founder and chief executive officer of the Japanese holding company SoftBank, the CEO of SoftBank Mobile, and the chairman of Arm Holdings.
10. He’s taking Paytm public
This June, Sharma put an end to the endless speculation about Paytm’s future by confirming plans to file for an IPO. He’s since filed a draft red-herring prospectus to raise Rs 16,600 crore (approx. $2.2 billion) in what indiatimes.com anticipates will be the biggest Indian initial public offering in at least a decade.