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Paytm founder among Time's most influential people

April 20, 2017 18:44 IST

As Indians scrambled to exchange the banned notes for new currency, Paytm, Sharma's digital payments startup, went on a promotional spree, inviting Indians to start using Paytm's digital wallet to pay for everyday goods and services.

Forty-three-year-old Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma and Prime Minister Narendra Modi were the only two Indians to make it to an annual list of '100 most influential people in the world' this year released by the Time magazine on Thursday.

The list features pioneers, artists, titans, leaders and icons from around the world honoured for "the power of their inventions, the scale of their ambitions, the genius of their solutions to problems that no one before them could solve."

Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani wrote that when India's government unexpectedly scrapped 86 per cent of the country's currency notes in November, Sharma "seized the moment".

As Indians scrambled to exchange the banned notes for new currency, Paytm, Sharma's digital payments startup, went on a promotional spree, inviting Indians to start using Paytm's digital wallet to pay for everyday goods and services.

"It worked. By the end of 2016, Paytm had 177 million users, compared with 122 million at the beginning of the year," Nilekani wrote.

Sharma had "catapulted himself into a nation's consciousness. It was a masterstroke by a small-town boy who studied in a Hindi medium school before conquering the country's Anglophone startup world," he wrote.

Paytm is now backed by the chief of China's Alibaba, Jack Ma, and Sharma is branching out into the more heavily regulated world of banking, with plans to offer digital accounts.

"He will face new challenges from deep-pocketed and more-experienced competitors. But knowing Vijay, he will win the next time around too," his profile read. PTI YAS ABH AKJ

Last year, Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan, Google's India-born CEO Sundar Pichai and founders of Indian e-commerce major Flipkart Binny Bansal and Sachin Bansal were among Time's 100 most influential people.

This year’s list also includes Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, and philanthropist Melinda Gates.

Photograph: Getty Images.

Yoshita Singh in New York
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