When a 15-year-old boy reached the campus of the prestigious Delhi College of Engineering, nobody had any clue that someday the kid would own India’s largest online payment processing company. I know many of you might have guessed who I am talking about. It is no brainier, the person in question here is Vijay Shekhar Sharma, CEO of PayTM. Admittedly, articles about him flood the internet space, however, we are going to look at his journey holistically, delineating why he is a true genius. We are going to analyze the arduous process that Sharma undertook to build PayTM. So let’s begin.
Hailed as a child prodigy, Aligarh born Sharma cleared his 12th standard exam at the age of fourteen. And after that, his road to India’s finest engineering college was filled with roadblocks. Essentially educated in Hindi medium, Sharma struggled with English and had to literally translate his engineering books using Bhargav dictionary. This experience, however, was a blessing in disguise. Now Vijay can read two books at a time. Lost in the strange ordeals of the engineering college, he was disinterested in his own stream of study – Electronics Engineering. He spent most of his time loitering in the avenues of Kashmiri gate where he stumbled upon an international magazine that featured news from the Silicon Valley. While flipping through the pages, Sharma was inspired by the success of newfangled firms and pledged to build something of that sort in India. He pulled up his socks and learned to code in his colleges’ computer center. And in that process, he built a content management system that many in the US and even Indian Express started using. He named it XS Communications and the venture started earning him money. And this was way back in 1995-96, almost a decade before WordPress came into existence.
From the psychological viewpoint, Sharma showed signs of genius through his ability to think differently early on. He was able to conceive an idea, sitting in his hostel room that wouldn’t cross our minds. Pick out an example in the history, every genius observed a common phenomenon but viewed it differently. It was evident that Sharma had it in him and signs were showing.
One97 Technologies, the parent company of PayTM, followed next for which he took a loan of INR 800,000, which anyone would have termed a blunder considering there were slim chances the venture would succeed. But Sharma did not believe in chances but in hard work and with that zeal he steered his firm towards success, often skipping meals and walking long distances for business meetings. One97 Technologies flourished at a tremendous pace and the company was quick enough to cash in on the emerging mobile payment space, thanks to Sharma’s leadership and sharp vision. In fact, to persuade the board of directors to nod in favor of what we know as the PayTM app today, Sharma had put his two percent share in the company – then valued at $2 billion – at stake. And what had ensued since then is history. Today PayTM is a houselhold name. Such rock solid belief in ideas coupled with risk-taking is a definitive sign of a genius.
The PayTM story becomes much more interesting with Sharma’s incredible journey. He single-handedly has built an empire from an idea that had clicked while reading a magazine. Another sign of a true genius. And this is why I believe Vijay Shekhar Sharma was, is, and will always be a genius.