“Paytm* is like an early-stage startup now, but with a lot of money,” said a former Paytm executive. For a company that poured billions of dollars into becoming India’s payments leader, starting from scratch is a galling proposition.

The highs of demonetisation in 2016 set it up to become the country’s number one payments company. In the year ended March 2018, Paytm was firing on all cylinders. It had built a 10 million-strong merchant network, boasted 250 million users—80 million of which transacted monthly—and $20 billion in gross transaction value value Entrackr Paytm claims 2.5X jump in GTV in FY19; records 5.5 Bn transactions Read more . All of this culminated in annual revenue growth of 398%. The consolidated operational revenue for the Paytm Group, or One 97 Communications Ltd, was Rs 3,058 crore ($416 million). Paytm’s wallet and QR code business were on a tear.

With deep-pocketed backers such as Ant Financial—the world’s largest fintech and the crown jewel of Chinese conglomerate Alibaba—and Japanese VC SoftBank in its corner, payments was Paytm’s game to lose. Warren Buffett-led Berkshire Hathaway would soon get on the Paytm bandwagon, a further indication of faith in Paytm’s promise.

Cut to 2020, and all that promise has largely failed to materialise. Paytm’s payments core looks depleted. It is no longer number one, or for that matter even number two when it comes to Unified Payments Interface Unified Payments Interface UPI Real-time, mobile-based payments that allowed users to pay anyone using any payment app (UPI) transactions. Instead, with just 13% of the UPI market, according to a payments executive with knowledge of official data, Paytm was a distant third behind Google Pay (41%), homegrown rival PhonePe (35%) as of date. Even late entrant Amazon Pay with a 6% share is snapping at Paytm’s heels.

According to multiple current and former Paytm employees, its GTV has begun to stagnate. While it grew to $50 billion in the year year Economic Times Paytm hits $50 billion GTV in FY19 Read more ended March 2019, they claim that its GTV was just $60 billion the following year even as it set a $100 billion target internally. In an emailed response, a Paytm spokesperson, while not denying the $60 billion figure, claimed the company’s current GTV was “more than $100 billion”.

Current and former employees also claim that the number of users who transact each month on the platform has also fallen to less than 60 million. Paytm did not specifically address the veracity of this number, but claimed its annual transacting user base was 150 million.


Arundhati Ramanathan

Arundhati is Bengaluru-based. She is interested in how people use money in the digital age and how new economies will take shape based on that interaction. She has spent over 10 years reporting and writing on various subjects. Previous stints were at Mint, Outlook Business and Reuters.

View Full Profile

Available exclusively to subscribers of The Ken India

This story is a part of The Ken India edition. Subscribe. Questions?


Annual Subscription

12-month access to 200+ stories, archive of 800+ stories from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 2,750


Quarterly Subscription

3-month access to 60+ new stories with 3-months worth of archives from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 1,750


Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

Rs. 500


Annual Subscription

12-month access to 150+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 120


Quarterly Subscription

3-month access to 35+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 50


Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

$ 20



What is The Ken?

The Ken is a subscription-only business journalism website and app that provides coverage across two editions - India and Southeast Asia.

What kind of stories do you write?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics.

We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

What do I get if I subscribe?

For subscribers of the India edition, we publish a new story every weekday, a premium daily newsletter, Beyond The First Order and a weekly newsletter - The Nutgraf.

For subscribers of the Southeast Asia edition, we publish a new story three days a week and a weekly newsletter, Strait Up.

The annual subscription will get you complete, exclusive access to our archive of previously published stories for your edition, along with access to our subscriber-only mobile apps, our premium comment sections, our newsletter archives and several other gifts and benefits.

Do I need to pay separately for your premium newsletters?

Nope. Paid, premium subscribers of The Ken get our newsletters delivered for free.

Does a subscription to the India edition grant me access to Southeast Asia stories? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

Do you offer an all-access joint subscription for both editions?

Not yet. If you’d like to access both editions, you’ll have to purchase two subscriptions separately - one for India and the other for Southeast Asia.

Do you offer any discounts?

No. We have a zero discounts policy.

Is there a free trial I can opt for?

We don’t offer any trials, but you can sign up for a free account which will give you access to the weekly free story, our archive of free stories and summaries of the paid stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

Do you offer refunds?

We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Please write to us at [email protected] detailing the error or queries.