Paytm introduced a stand that displays QR check-out codes that comes with a calculator and USB charger, a so-called sound box that provides voice confirmations of transactions, cloud software to streamline inventory management, and a point-of-sale device with built-in scanner and printer. The latter accepts payments through debit and credit cards as well as as Paytm and rival apps.
The new products signal a shift in strategic focus to merchants rather than person-to-person transactions. Paytm’s brand became synonymous with digital payments in India after the government banned high-value currency notes at the end of 2016, a “demonetization” exercise intended to stymie corruption. But the likes of Amazon.com Inc. and Alphabet Inc. are now expanding their rival services aggressively and have begun to encroach on its market share.
“Paytm is already bigger than all other players combined in merchant mobile payments,” Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder of Paytm parent One97 Communications Ltd., said during the product launch in Bangalore. “We account for about 5 billion of the total 9 billion merchant payments in India.”
Paytm raised $1 billion from SoftBank’s Vision Fund and other investors in November to compete against deep-pocketed rivals in an increasingly heated competitive landscape. That funding valued the startup at $16 billion. Bloomberg News previously reported that the company also plans to raise $1 billion via debt, mainly to extend its reach to small and medium-sized businesses.
“Ultimately, startups have to make money and as recent attempts to go public in the U.S. show, investors want to see a clear path to profitability,” said Infosys Ltd. Chairman Nandan Nilekani, who unveiled Paytm’s all-in-one retail device. “Only then can startups take charge of their own destiny.”
India’s payments market could reach $1 trillion by 2023, according to a report by Credit Suisse, as a youthful population adopts smartphone apps and online services. India will not be a two-player market like China and will have at least four or five key competitors, Sharma said in an interview with Bloomberg Markets magazine last year.
Digital payments in India’s smaller cities are growing faster than in the 10 biggest urban centers, Sharma said, as users pay for restaurant meals, movie tickets, gas and groceries. More than 16 million merchants, both online and offline, use Paytm’s business platform including online brands such as ride-hailing service Uber, food delivery service Swiggy and budget accommodation provider Oyo.
—Saritha Rai (Bloomberg)