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India has a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ technology opportunity

India’s entrepreneurs have a unique opportunity to shape the future of technology, not only within their own country but across the globe, according to the billionaire founder of one of the country’s most successful start-ups.

Vijay Shekhar Sharma, CEO of financial technology company Paytm, said accelerating internet adoption under the pandemic has increased the need for new, tech-enabled tools in developing countries — a market India is well-placed to serve.

“It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for entrepreneurs to build this in this side of the region,” Sharma said Friday at the Singapore FinTech Festival.

Tapping into India’s potential

We as Indians, we as start-ups and technology companies in India, have an opportunity of a world-class impact.

Vijay Shekhar Sharma

founder and CEO, Paytm

“The next 5 billion customers in the world will be served using the technologies and the methodologies that are built in Asia,” said Sharma. “Those, I believe, significant (numbers) of them will be built in India.”

Sharma himself is evidence of that. An engineering graduate, the 42-year-old seized on the country’s growing internet market in 2010, launching Paytm to help small merchants accept digital payments. In 2019, the company claimed some 350 million users domestically.

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

“We as Indians, we as start-ups and technology companies in India, have an opportunity of a world-class impact,” said Sharma.

A $100 billion opportunity

Grab, Gojek, Paytm, Ola, Flipkart … are showing the world that yes, there are sizeable businesses that can be created locally.

Vijay Shekhar Sharma

founder and CEO, Paytm

Already India and Southeast Asia are home to a number of homegrown tech start-ups, four or five of which have the potential to hit a valuation of “$100 billion,” according to Sharma.

“Grab, Gojek, Paytm, Ola, Flipkart, all these companies are showing the world that yes, there are sizeable businesses that can be created locally here that can champion the region,” he said.

But that shouldn’t deter younger, emerging entrepreneurs, Sharma said — there’s plenty of opportunities to go around.

“Remember that you are not up against a large company, you’re up against opportunity, against mindset of this country, against a customer base which is yet to convert into a technology champion, and you have a full chance,” he said. “You have as much of a chance as somebody else.”

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