Facing criticism over significant Chinese ownership, Paytm Founder and Chief Executive Vijay Shekhar Sharma has asserted that the payments and e-commerce platform is “as Indian as Maruti” and prides itself on being a representative of the “India story”. “We are as Indian as Maruti is…we are ‘India story’ in every sense whatsoever,” Sharma told media. The once-government controlled Maruti is now majority owned by Japanese carmaker Suzuki Motor Corp with a 56.21 per cent stake as its sole promoter.
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Paytm had hailed the ongoing demonetisation drive with advertisements displaying Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s picture, leading many critics to point out that its single largest shareholder is Chinese giant Alibaba, the world’s largest e-commerce player.
Sharma said Paytm goes out into the world as an Indian company that is of “pride” to India. “What matters to us is our customers, what matters to us is the law of land, regulator,” he said.
Alibaba Group and its affiliate Ant Financial pumped in USD 680 million into Paytm’s parent One97 Communications last year, taking its total shareholding to over 40 per cent in the country’s largest mobile wallet operator with close to 160 million customers.
The criticism over ownership, circulated widely through instant messaging apps, sought to pick up on sentiment of banning Chinese products. Sharma, however, appeared unfazed by the criticism, saying, “Everybody else has a way to say whatever they want to say. We don’t come to that level and reply.”
A recent report also said Chinese investors are looking to raise their stake to 70 per cent in the company, which is at the cusp of launching a payments bank.
Reserve Bank guidelines say foreign shareholding in payments banks would be as per the prevailing FDI policies for private sector banks, which currently stands at 74 per cent.
Sharma had on Saturday said that Paytm Bank, its payments bank offering scheduled for commercial launch next month, will not engage in a rate war with rivals like Airtel, which is offering 7.25 per cent interest on deposits.
“None of our products are driven by anything that anybody else does. I do not know the interest rates of my rivals. But I don’t think our product is built around the interest rate,” Sharma said.