Running a payments business in India is not cheap. Just ask Paytm. One of India’s largest payment companies reported a net loss of Rs 3959 crore ($549 million) for the financial year that ended in March, up 165% over Rs 1490 crore ($206 million) in the same period last year.
Undeterred from losses, Paytm said it would invest $3 billion in its business in the next two years.
During the same period, the company’s revenue rose to Rs 3232 crore ($448 million), compared to Rs 3052 crore ($423 million) in the year before. The firm’s debt also surged to Rs 695 crore ($96 million), One97 Communications, the parent firm of Paytm, told investors in its annual report.
One97 Communications also runs an e-commerce business, which recently raised money from eBay, and Paytm Money, which runs a mutual funds business. On a consolidated basis, the nine-year-old firm reported an annual loss of Rs 4217.20 crore ($584 million), up from Rs 1604.34 crore ($222 million) from the year before.
Indian news outlet BloombergQuint first reported (paywalled) the financial performance of Paytm.
The loss should worry Paytm, whose CEO Vijay Shekhar Sharma said in a conference last week that the firm would begin to work on going public in the next 22 to 24 months. The level of competition that Paytm faces today is only about to increase in the coming future, and unlike earlier, the Indian firm is not facing off financially weaker local rivals.
Paytm, which has raised over $2 billion to date from a range of investors, including SoftBank, Alibaba and Berkshire Hathaway, continues to be the largest mobile wallet app provider in India, but increasingly users are moving to government-backed UPI payments infrastructures. In UPI land, Paytm competes with Flipkart’s PhonePe and Google Pay, both of which are heavily backed.
As of July, both PhonePe and Google Pay commanded a bigger market share across UPI apps than Paytm.
Also in UPI land, you don’t make money on each transaction. So lately, every payments firm in India, including Paytm, has expanded it offering to include financial services such as a credit card, or loan, or insurance.
In many ways, this has created a level playing field for payment firms that did not dominate the wallet business.
In a statement, Paytm said it has been investing $1 billion per year for the last two years to “expand payments ecosystem in our country.” The company plans to invest a further $3 billion in the next two years.
“We believe India is at the inflection point of digital payments and Paytm’s sole focus is towards solving the merchant payments and offering them financial services. We will invest Rs 20,000 crore ($2.7 billion) in the next two years towards achieving this,” a company spokesperson said.
The biggest challenge for Paytm and other UPI payment apps has yet to emerge. Before the end of this year, WhatsApp, which has over 400 million users in India, plans to offer a UPI payment option to all its users in the coming month.