India has a singular technological alternative

According to the billionaire of one of the country’s most successful startups, India’s entrepreneurs have a unique opportunity to shape the future of technology not just in their own country but around the world.

Vijay Shekhar Sharma, CEO of financial technology company Paytm, said the acceleration of internet adoption amid the pandemic has increased the need for new, technology-based tools in developing countries – a market India is well positioned to serve.

“It’s a unique opportunity for entrepreneurs to build this on this side of the region,” Sharma said at the Singapore FinTech Festival on Friday.

Realizing India’s Potential

Today’s technology is primarily designed for discerning users in rich countries, according to Sharma.

That could fit around 1 billion people, he said. However, the rest of the world’s 4.6 billion internet users (and the census) will need new, bespoke solutions as internet usage becomes more common.

This is where entrepreneurs in Asia – and India in particular – could come into play and leverage their physical and social proximity to developing markets, he said.

We as Indians, we as startups and technology companies in India have the chance to make a world class impact.

Vijay Shekhar Sharma

Founder and CEO of Paytm

“Technologies and methods developed in Asia will serve the next 5 billion customers worldwide,” said Sharma. “I believe these significant (numbers) of them are being built in India.”

Sharma itself is evidence of this. The 42-year-old, an engineering graduate, took advantage of the country’s growing internet market in 2010 and launched Paytm to help small merchants accept digital payments. In 2019, the company demanded around 350 million users in Germany.

Such opportunities have grown over time with the introduction of technology, he said.

“We as Indians, we as startups and technology companies in India have an opportunity to make a world-class impact,” said Sharma.

A $ 100 billion chance

Today India is the second largest internet market in the world after China. According to the latest government data, India had nearly 750 million internet users in June – a number that is projected to reach 1 billion by 2025.

The country’s growing tech scene has long led international companies to set up regional offices in India to take advantage of the country’s sizeable pool of tech professionals.

Still, many of their products and services are not necessarily aimed at new users in emerging markets.

“You can’t expect a company far away to understand the needs of our employees,” said Sharma. “And we don’t see them doing it either. If we don’t build it, we’ll just let the land become someone else’s market.”

Grab, Gojek, Paytm, Ola, Flipkart … show the world that there are big companies that can be started locally.

Vijay Shekhar Sharma

Founder and CEO of Paytm

A number of domestic tech startups already exist in India and Southeast Asia, four or five of which have the potential to reach a “$ 100 billion” valuation, according to Sharma.

“Grab, Gojek, Paytm, Ola, Flipkart, all of these companies are showing the world that there are sizeable companies here that can support the region,” he said.

But that shouldn’t scare younger, emerging entrepreneurs, Sharma said – there are many ways to get around.

“Remember, you are not competing against a big company, but against opportunities, against the mindset of this country, against a customer base that has not yet turned into technology champions, and you have a full chance,” he said . “You have as many chances as anyone else.”

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