Meet the Paytm 'mafia' who have set out to carve their own path

There is something about Paytm. The Indian multinational technology company has encouraged the spirit of entrepreneurship, pushing its team members to think big and out of the box. The outcome is several start-ups spawned by their former senior executives.

June 17, 2021 / 02:46 PM IST
Paytm provides an incubation ground for budding entrepreneurs. (Image: Shutterstock)

Paytm provides an incubation ground for budding entrepreneurs. (Image: Shutterstock)

Globally there is the PayPal Mafia; closer home are the Flipkart and Zoho mafias.

At a time when the home-grown digital payments firm Paytm gears up for an initial public offering (IPO), here's a look at the Paytm mafia.

According to people in the know, at least 30 senior executives have exited the two-decade old company to start-ups.

How did it manage to churn out so many of them?

Well, safe to say that with its intrapreneurial culture, Paytm provides an incubation ground for budding entrepreneurs.

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Besides, the company has also created multiple liquidity events, which has boosted the morale of the employees to start something of their own.

"During my tenure I saw at least 3-4 liquidity events," says Deepak Abbot, former senior vice president of Paytm, who stayed at the company for almost three years before launching his start-up, Indiagold.

"It looks like a big organisation with thousands of employees but in every function, there are no two people working on the same product. That was Vijay's (Vijay Shekhar Sharma) philosophy. You just have to build, launch and run the product. Once you work in Paytm, it becomes difficult for you to pick up a job in another company. The company gives you that high no matter how harsh or tough it is," he adds.

Here is an account of who some of these founders are and what they have built so far.

SimSim: This video-based commerce app was founded in 2018 by Amit Bagaria and Saurabh Vashishtha. Bagaria left Paytm after serving the company for five years. His last role was that of the Senior Vice President (SVP). Vashishtha on the other hand was the SVP of business at Paytm and worked with the company for three years. SimSim also has a third founder, Kunal Suri, who had earlier worked as the Chief Operating Officer (COO) and Managing Director of food-tech firm, Foodpanda. The Delhi-based company has so far raised $16 million from marquee investors such as Accel Partners, Shunwei Capital and Good Capital.

The start-up enables community opinions to drive sales of products. Recently, it also launched a new product that allows users to send personalised video messages and tips recorded by celebrities and influencers for their close ones.

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Park+: Smart parking solutions provider Park+ was launched in 2019 by Amit Lakhotia, former vice president of Paytm Payments. It has raised $11 million funding in a round co-led by Sequoia India and Matrix Partners India.

Angels such as MakeMyTrip Founders Deep Kalra and Rajesh Magow, Cred Founder Kunal Shah, BookMyShow Founder Ashish Hemrajani, and Snapdeal Founders Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal also participated in the round.

Pocket FM: Vernacular audiobooks and podcast marketplace Pocket FM was launched in 2018 by Rohan Nayak. He had earlier worked with mobile tech firm Cube26, which was acquired by Paytm in 2018.

Nayak stayed with Paytm post the acquisition for a short while before starting his own venture. It has raised around $7 million so far from marquee investors like Tencent, Times Group and Lightspeed India.

Indiagold: Founded by Senior Vice President of products at Paytm, Deepak Abbot and Senior Vice President and business head of Paytm Nitin Mishra, Indiagold is trying to digitally transform lending against gold in India.

The company has raised around $2 million in a round led by Leo Capital.

Raise Financial: A fintech startup founded by former Paytm Money Chief Executive Officer, Pravin Jadhav, Raise Financial offers a money management platform. It also plans to foray into insurance distribution. Launched in 2021, the company has raised an undisclosed amount in a seed funding round from Mirae Asset’s early-stage fund, US-based Social Leverage and Blume Ventures Founders’ Fund, among others.

Junio: Digital pocket money start-up Junio, which focuses on children, was founded in 2020 by Shankar Nath and Ankit Gera. While Nath was the Chief Marketing Officer and Senior Vice President of Paytm, Gera was the head of user growth.

Junio offers a smart card that allows children to make physical and online purchases through its app.

Junio has raised around $2 million from Venture Catalysts, and angel investors like BharatPe founder, Ashneer Grover, Cred founder and Kunal Shah.

Unnati: Launched by Amit Sinha, the former Paytm Mall Chief Operating Officer in 2017, the agritech start up offers agricultural loans to farmers.

It also connects farmers to local retailers to procure agri-inputs such as sugarcane, corn, paddy, soybean, wheat, and vegetable, thus acting as an e-commerce platform.

Unnati has raised around Rs 15.3 crore from Nab Ventures, a fund backed by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard) and Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder of Paytm, besides other investors.

Hospals: Launched by second time entrepreneur and Paytm's ex-VP, Danish Ahmed, Hospals offers medical tourism. It has raised around $1.5 million led by Spiral Ventures and Venture Catalyst. Ahmed had first founded fashion portal Yebhi.

Kratical Tech: The cyber security solutions firm was founded by former Paytm product manager Dip Jung Thapa in 2016. The company offers end-to-end cyber security solutions such as vulnerability assessment and penetration testing services as well as security auditing.

It has raised $1million in a round led by Dubai-based Gilda VC.

Daalchini: Food-tech start-up Daalchini was founded in 2017 by two former Paytm executives, Prerna Kalra and Vidya Bhushan in 2017.

Kalra was with Paytm for over six years with her last role as the general manager of products at Paytm Payments Bank. Bhushan on the other hand stayed with the company for a little over a year as product manager of the offline payment.

ClearDekho: Focusing on rural healthcare, the start-up offers affordable eyeglasses. It was launched by Saurabh Dayal, former payment Business Head of Paytm for North India.

The company has raised Rs 2 crore from incubation platform Venture Catalysts.

Some of the other notable names are -- Hunter Games founded by ex-senior VP of Paytm Dushyant Saraswat and app marketing agency Studio Mosaic set up by Akhil Chandra who worked with Paytm in the marketing and strategic alliance segment, and ed-tech startup Fun2Do Labs founded by former VP of Paytm Saurabh Jain.

Short video-based hiring platform HYRR is also founded by Paytm's former AVP of Human Resources, Manav Jain.

Says a Paytm spokesperson: "At Paytm, we have always encouraged the spirit of entrepreneurship. We push our team members to think big and out of the box, while also giving them a flexible work environment to grow individually. We are grateful to have had such people associated with us, who have contributed to our growth and are now making further inroads in innovation for India."
Priyanka Sahay
first published: Jun 17, 2021 10:34 am

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