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Paytm files for India’s biggest tech IPO on record

<i>Indranil Aditya/NurPhoto/Getty Images</i><br/>Paytm digital barcode scanner can be seen in Kolkata
NurPhoto via Getty Images
Indranil Aditya/NurPhoto/Getty Images
Paytm digital barcode scanner can be seen in Kolkata

By Diksha Madhok, CNN Business

This is turning out to be a landmark week for Indian startups.

Digital payments firm Paytm is planning to raise as much as 166 billion rupees ($2.2 billion) in an initial public offering in Mumbai, according to a draft prospectus filed on Friday. This comes just two days after food delivery giant Zomato began raising $1.3 billion from its share sale.

The Zomato IPO is the largest tech offering India has seen to date, according to data from Refinitiv, but Paytm would set a new record. The IPO would value Paytm at $25 billion, Reuters reported, citing sources.

Backed by investors such as Softbank, Berkshire Hathaway and Alibaba-affiliate Ant Group, Paytm plans to use the money to strengthen its payment services and for new business initiatives and acquisitions. Valued at $16 billion at its last private fundraising in 2020, the Noida-based company is one of India’s biggest startups, according to CB Insights.

Its IPO will be keenly watched by investors in the country. India has a ton of tech unicorns — companies that have reached a valuation of at least $1 billion — but Zomato is the first one to go public.

Analysts have expressed concern that Indian startups — many of which have raised hundreds of millions of dollars from private markets at extremely high valuations — need to start showing consistent profits and healthy exits for investors.

Paytm’s journey began back in 2000, when Vijay Shekhar Sharma founded its parent company, One97 Communications. One97 started as a mobile services platform offering horoscopes to cellular network providers before expanding into other services like voice-based gaming and customized ringtones.

Paytm came a decade later, launched in 2010 as a platform for buying prepaid cellphone plans and paying cable bills online.

In 2012, Paytm got approval from India’s central bank to launch the mobile wallet that now forms the core of its business. In 2014, it partnered with Uber to become a payment provider for the company’s cab rides across India, and in 2015 it snagged another big partnership with the online booking portal for Indian Railways, which sells nearly 25 million tickets a year.

But the app really exploded in November 2016, when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi suddenly banned the country’s two biggest rupee notes — around 86% of the country’s cash at the time — with the aim of cracking down on tax evasion and illegal wealth.

The move shocked India’s economy, where the vast majority of transactions were made in cash. Millions of people spent weeks lining up at ATMs to exchange their notes just so they would have enough money for everyday expenses.

But many of India’s hundreds of millions of smartphone users started switching to mobile payment apps, and Paytm was primed and ready. The app signed 10 million new users within a month of the cash ban, going from adding tens of thousands of people a day to around half a million.

The company currently has 114 million people using its payment service each year.

— Rishi Iyengar contributed to this report.

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