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Now a millionaire, once Paytm founder walked 14 kms to save Rs 14: His journey in 10 points

India Today logo India Today 19-03-2017

Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma is on an adventure. For the last 30 odd years he has been on a journey that has rewarded him well, but at the same time it has also tested him. He comes from a very small town in Uttar Pradesh and although nowadays he is the toast of the town, with Paytm among the companies leading the charge for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Digital India vision, it has not been always this good for the plucky millionaire.

On Friday, while on the stage at India Today Conclave 2017, Vijay Shekhar talked about his journey from a dusty little town to big wide world of tech startups. Here are the highlights.

Vijay Shekhar is from Harduaganj, a small town near Aligarh. "Aligarh was actually a big city for us," says Vijay.

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Vijay studied in schools named like Madhyamik Siksha Parisar. All classes were in Hindi and facilities in the schools were bare minimum, or even nonexistent. "I was in a school where my class fellows didn't necessarily have chappals to wear," says Vijay.

The Paytm founder was always a good students, and fairly passionate about his lessons. This is one reason why he was in class 10 by the time he was 12 years old. Usually, in India most class 10 students are 14 or older.

Vijay Shekhar says that for some reason he never liked the attitude people had towards poverty in his town and school. "We in India love to enjoy the stress on us and poverty is something that people use as an asset, as a card to play for various reasons. That is the kind of school I come from, the attitude of people in those places was shocking to me," says Vijay. When he was in class 12, he wrote four line in Hindi, describing this attitude. "Mein garibi hoon; Mein tumhe pyar karti hoon; Mein tumhe chhod nahin sakti; Kyonki tum mujhe jyada pyar karte ho," he wrote in Hindi.

After completing his school, Vijay Shekhar applied to the Delhi College of Engineering. "When I took the engineering test, the questions were all in English and I wouldn't know them. So I read those objective-type answers and then figured out what the questions were ... thankfully I managed to get into the Delhi College of Engineering," he says. The college wasn't easy. All the teaching was in English. "I was a class topper in school and sat on front benches in college. But everything was English... teachers spoke English and I had those Pink Floyd moments... Your lips move but I can't hear what you say," jokes Vijay.

"I couldn't understand what teachers (in college) were saying and then started creeping towards the back bench... and then I would creep out of the class. But thankfully instead of getting into the bad boys club, I ended up into computer classes and then fell in love with computers," says Vijay.

Right now Vijay Shekhar has money. But it wasn't like that earlier. "There was a time when I didn't have money to even have dinner. There were days I would walk 14 kilometers so that I save Rs 14 so that next day I can have a (meal). Having two cups of chai was a big perk in winter for me," he says.

After completing his course at Delhi College of Engineering in 1998, Vijay Shekhar founded an internet start-up. This he later sold for Rs 5 lakh.

Paytm wasn't built in one day. It took a lot of efforts. And money problems were always there. "I reached a stage where I needed money badly and I had to sell 40 per cent of Paytm for Rs 8 lakh cash so that I could justify to parents that I am not blowing up money," says Vijay.

Vijay Shekhar no longer has money issues, not the personal ones. "Money doesn't matter. Money is not even a milestone, money is not even a mean, money is not even an absolute journey ambition, money is a check box that you have to tick so that you get a chance to talk to Rahul Kanwal on the stage sometime," Vijay jokes. But, on a more serious note, he says, "You need money so that you get an opportunity to bring the change that you want to bring in the world."

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