Band, baaja, bidai as the Paytm IPO lists at the BSE – The Hindu BusinessLine

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Paytm founder and CEO Vijay Shekhar Sharma, and President and Group CFO Madhur Deora hammer a gong to mark the listing of Paytm shares at the Bombay Stock Exchange, in Mumbai on Thursday, November 18   –  PTI

Wedding-like feel to the occasion even as shares crash 28 per cent

As Paytm ushered in the largest IPO India has ever seen on Thursday, the listing venue at the Bombay Stock Exchange was abuzz with anticipation and relief that a great milestone is achieved.

‘Wedding ceremony’

“It feels like a wedding ceremony,” said Paytm CEO, Vijay Shekhar Sharma, who had brought his family along to attend the momentous occasion. And it must have felt like a wedding.

The Bombay Stock Exchange International Hall was bedecked with white and yellow flowers and lit up in the iconic Paytm-blue. Sharma, who has nurtured the fintech start-up for almost a decade, must have felt like a father bidding his daughter bidai as he put the fate of his company in the hands of investors who would adjudicate the company by deciding its listed share price.

Images of Sharma dancing to a Bollywood number went viral on the internet.

Defining digital payments

In a speech ahead of Paytm’s listing, Sharma was overcome with emotions as he broke down on stage.

“Just saying the words, Bharat Bhagya Vidhata overwhelms me,” Sharma said while wiping his tears, adding, “It means the one who will define the fortune of this country and I can say with utmost conviction today that everyone working at Paytm has done exactly that.”.

Also see: MF investors too feel the heat of the Paytm IPO

With its debut in 2010, Paytm had indeed laid down the foundation for India’s digital payments ecosystem, becoming almost synonymous with digital payments itself.

Supportive presence

For attendees, investment bankers, Paytm executives and friends that came to provide support, the excitement was palpable and the joy was well deserved.

The former CEO of Paytm Payments Bank, Shinjini Kumar, came to support the country’s largest IPO at ₹18,300 crore donned in a traditional Bengali sari that boasted Paytm’s iconic white, light blue and deep blue colours.

Ravi Adusumali, Managing Partner at Elevation Capital and one of Paytm’s first investors, also attended the ceremony in a rare public sighting. Paytm’s investment bankers — including Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley — recalled their earliest interactions with the company and Sharma, remarking on how far he had come.

CFOMadhur Deora, with Sharma, lit the ceremonial lamp to usher the momentous occasion on an auspicious note as another Paytm executive called out koi shehnai bajao! (someone play the cabinet!).

Subdued performance

Celebration aside, the performance of the IPO itself was subdued, listing below par. It was subscribed 1.89 times — a number that is overshadowed by Nykaa’s 81.78x subscription rate. By Thursday afternoon, shares of the company had crashed by 28 per cent in a weak stock market.

Also see: Paytm: No cashback, only cash gone!

Photographs of the celebrations went viral on Twitter. Sharma’s photograph — of him wiping away tears when overcome with emotions — took an ill-fated turn as the Twitterati used it to represent the tears of investors subscribed to the IPO.

Long journey

The price revelation by the stock market must have put a dampener on the celebrations, but one invest banker attending celebrations remarked, “it’s okay…it is a long journey.”

Another attendee, a former executive at the company, mused, “For Paytm leadership and its team of employees, it is a milestone nevertheless. For investors and shareholders, the immediate listing results would be a cause of celebration or disappointment. However, being part of a start-up such as Paytm, you are accustomed to ups and downs. For the people who have given the company their blood, sweat and tears for a decade, today commemorates an achievement and a job well done.”

Sharma addresses critics

Addressing his critics who raised the usual issue against the company seeking higher valuations amid a business plan that fails to match up, Sharma said, “People ask me how I raise money at such high prices. I say that I never raise money on the price, I raise it on purpose.”

“Today’s share price is not a true reflection of the company’s opportunity to scale. It is merely a reflection of a few buyers and sellers in the stock market. It will take time for the stock market and investors to understand the company’s unique business model — being a payments company that offers financial services. Paytm has faced such scepticism earlier when launching digital payments and it has overcome,” said Sharma.

Also see: Paytm’s Sharma goes from ‘ineligible’ bachelor to billionaire

And so the celebrations continued.

The coming days will tell whether Paytm is able to deliver as a publicly listed company or whether the stock market’s appraisal will hold true. Sharma did not get the reception that founders such as Nykaa’s Falguni Nayar achieved with her IPO only two weeks ago. However, this IPO will certainly join the annals of history — for the right reasons, or the wrong ones

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