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Last Updated : Feb 18, 2017 01:47 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Rags to riches: How this Mumbai-based startup made its peon a millionaire

Kumar, a migrant from Uttar Pradesh was the first employee of CitrusPay and amongst the 50 odd people who got benefited from ESOP of the company.

Priyanka Sahay

A Barbie doll, a make-up box, new dresses and several trinkets. Wishlist of six-year-old Anya's birthday which falls on the 31st of the coming month is quite exhaustive this year.

Having stayed in a 10x10, one room set in a crowded urban slum in Malad, Mumbai along with nine other members including grandparents, an uncle and aunt and their children, the six-year-old had learned to compromise on her birthday demands each year.


Her family would divide sleeping space by drawing curtains in between the room.

However, 2017 is different.

That's because Anya's father, an office boy at payments gateway startup CitrusPay has become a millionaire.

South African-firm Naspers-backed PayU acquired Mumbai-based CitrusPay for USD 130 million in September last year, in an all-cash deal.

The 42-year old office assistant Shyam Kumar, who was the first employee at CitrusPay has earned Rs 50 lakh in cash as a result, making him a millionaire.

Kumar, a migrant from Uttar Pradesh was the first employee of CitrusPay and amongst the 50 odd people who got benefited as a result of the employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) of the company.

Joined the startup at a salary of Rs 8,000 a month

Kumar's story is different from other top employees who also benefited from the ESOPs.

Not because he was an office boy with a meagre income, running a family of ten and living in a Mumbai chawl. But because he saw the payments startup grow -- brick by brick, with every new employee adding soul to the establishment.

(Shyam Kumar Singh at work)

In 2010, in a candid conversation with his younger brother who was a driver to a senior executive at a private bank in Mumbai, Kumar asked for help to find him a job.

His brother discussed this with his boss, who was a very close friend of Jitendra Gupta. As e-commerce has started to bloom in India, Gupta was trying to establish a company called Citrus Pay.

One meeting with Gupta and Kumar landed the job.

No work at CitrusPay for hours

Every morning at 10 o'clock, Kumar had to land up and unlock a single room basement office in Santa Cruz. He used to sit there for hours even as CEO Jitendra Gupta would mostly be out for meetings. He would then shut down the office and go home, sometimes even at 1 o'clock in the afternoon.

"At times I would be scared and skeptical of what business it was," said Kumar in an interaction with Moneycontrol.com adding that though Jitendra had taken the pain to make him understand what payment gateway is all about.

"He would tell me that you would understand it slowly," he said.

The salary of Rs 8,000 was a "decent hike" from his previous job at a security firm. Tough he knew nothing about ESOPs, he was happy that Jitendra was offering him something 'that will help him in the long run'.

"He said it is a good thing. It will help you going forward. I was happy to hear that," Kumar revealed to Moneycontrol.

Gradually, more people started to join. Jitendra would introduce each one to Kumar.

Amrish Rau, who now is the chief executive officer of PayU, joined Citrus in September 2014 from First Data Merchant Solutions as its managing director.

By now Kumar had become the go-to person for everything big or small inside the office.

Both Rau and Gupta used to appreciate his hard work.

Wife found difficult to believe of Rs 50 lakh

Five years passed just like that. Meanwhile, Citrus Pay got investments from investors such as Sequoia Capital, Ascent Capital, eContext Asia and Beenos Asia, among others. It received USD 2 million from Sequoia in March 2013 which was followed by multiple rounds. Ascent invested in the company in October 2015 in a USD 25 million round, according to media reports.

(Shyam Kumar Singh with his family)

CitrusPay also signed on customers such as Indigo, Go Air and Amazon India.

When Naspers buyout of CitrusPay got finalised Gupta called Kumar in his cabin. Gupta explained to Kumar what an ESOP is and that his shares would fetch him Rs 50 lakh in cash.

It was difficult for Kumar to believe the news.

Kumar went home and told his wife. She gave him a snide remark -- "Tell me when the money is in the bank".

It was November 30, when suddenly Rs 26 lakh appeared in his bank account.

"It was only then that the wife got convinced," Kumar said.

According to the Rau, Kumar has been helped with some tax planning and thus he will be paid the rest of the money in a couple of installments.

Offered prasad to Sai Baba, bought insurance

After offering prasad to Sai Baba for the sudden windfall, Kumar bought a health insurance for his family. The rest of the money, he made a fixed deposit.

Kumar's son who is studying in class ninth has suggested him to buy a house while his daughter wants him to have a new phone.

For now, a house in Mumbai is still out of budget. The family thus is considering to buy one in the outskirts.

In order to give his children some space, he has moved his family to another one bedroom flat which is often visited by his mother and brother's family.

Kumar couldn't continue his studies after his father got tuberculosis. He would remain ill for months and Kumar had to quit in order to start earning to take care of two sisters and the younger brother.

Class 12th pass, Kumar wants to give the best of education to both his children with the money.

He dreams that one day both of them will become doctors.

The two children are studying in a convent school in Mumbai.

Like daughter, Kumar too has a few wishes for 2017. One of them is to take his wife to Goa this summer.

"She has always wanted to go to Goa. So Goa, it will be," Kumar says with a conviction.

First Published on Feb 17, 2017 11:17 am