On the heels of large investments made in Flipkart and Snapdeal, another e-commerce juggernaut in India is closing in on an outsized round of funding to tap into India’s fast-growing, smartphone-fuelled economy.
Paytm — a catch-all digital commerce platform that lets users create online and mobile digital wallets and use its e-commerce platform to pay for goods, services and bills — has confirmed a mountain of funding, $60 million, from Mountain Capital, the investment arm of Taiwan’s semiconductor company Mediatek. The strategic funding was made at a $4.83 billion valuation, and Paytm plans to use to launch one more financial service, a digital bank for consumers both to save and borrow money.
“We have raised $60 million from Mediatek’s Mountain Capital at a valuation of $4.83 billion,” Paytm’s founder and CEO Vijay Sharma told TechCrunch.
Two separate sources close to the company further confirm to us that the $60 million is part of larger, intended round that will be around $300 million and likely to close in the next couple of months, with participation potentially from existing investors Alibaba and Alibaba’s payments arm Ant Financial, as well as other Chinese firms: VC firm SAIF Partners, Foxconn and Fosun. The $4.8 billion-plus valuation is a premium on Paytm’s valuation of $2.8 billion from a year ago.
The news today comes on the heels of an unconfirmed report yesterday in Bloomberg that alleged Paytm is raising $300 million, and some six months after we reported that Paytm was looking to raise around $400 million to build out and launch its online bank.
Economy of scale is everything in e-commerce, and that is exactly what One97 Communications, the parent company of the Paytm consumer brand, is playing into with this round of funding.
The company says it has two aims for the money.
The first is to invest into “expansion and scaling up” of its existing lines of business in payments and commerce. Today, that business includes the ability to book and pay for events, your utility bills, your on-demand ride, your hotels and flights, and a plethora of physical goods in an Amazon-style marketplace. The second aim is to use the investment to build and launch its newest service: Paytm Payments Bank, a new online bank that the company has quietly been working on for many months now.
The bank is a logical progression for the company: if you are already using Paytm as a way of holding and spending your money for specific services and goods, Paytm can expand its one-stop-shop presence by also creating a place to save or borrow money, too.
It will go hand-in-hand with an intended reorganization at the company, where Paytm will split off its payments and financial services business into one entity, and its e-commerce sales platform into another, both to be owned by One 97, and also planned for a couple of months from now.
Paytm has been around since 2010, and it has capitalized on trends that are unique to developing markets like India: a rapid growth of smartphones, and generally improving economies with more disposable income per capita.
India is a country of over 1 billion people, but there were only around 21 million payment cards in circulation as of the end of 2015, underscoring the major gap in the market that existed for effective digital wallets that you could access via smartphones.
At the same time, bank accounts are also an opportunity for Paytm to tap: Sharma says that there are only around 300 million bank accounts in place today. “Financial services companies have not reached or even tried to reach the majority of the population,” he said. “They are too hard and expensive to service.”
So far, Paytm’s bet that you can use newer technology like smartphones to bridge the gap has paid off.
The company today has 135 million digital wallets in use — again, a small proportion compared to the wider population in India, but also twice as big as its two nearest competitors combined, and accounting for 75% of all the country’s current digital wallets. It sees some 3 million transactions per day. This lays down a track record for the company — and its investors — to believe that it can strike it big again in banking and, crucially, loans.
Paytm is not the only one hoping that its existing success tapping into smartphones will extend to new business. Sharma tells us that Mediatek’s investment is a strategic one both for the chipmaker and for Paytm.
India, with a population of 1.2 billion, is currently the world’s second-biggest smartphone market after China, with over 220 million users.
“The majority of smartphones in India today are sold with Mediatek chipsets,” Sharma said. “So Mediatek wants to expand into security and services because they believe that from chipsets they can grow into services. We can expand our business by integrating into Mediatek’s smartphones, and Mediatek can grow its business by offering security integrations to us and others.”