Startup success: 6 tips from Anupam Pahuja of PayPal


PayPal is at the cutting edge of the digital payments movement. It is headquartered in San Jose, California; its European headquarters is in Luxembourg and its international headquarters is in Singapore. PayPal has over 2,500 engineers across its Asia Pacific centers in Singapore, Shanghai, Chennai and Bangalore.

Anupam Pahuja, General Manager for Technology at PayPal Asia-Pacific in Singapore, joined the company as General Manager of its India Development Centres, and has been instrumental in making it one of the best places to work in India six years in a row, according to surveys conducted by the Great Places to Work Institute. Previously, Anupam was India Managing Director for the NASDAQ-listed e-learning firm SumTotal Systems.

Way back in 2000, when mobile startups were barely emerging, Anupam founded MobiApps Inc, a mobile-focused company, where he played the role of CTO and COO and sold the company in 2006. He then founded SeaKey, a startup for boat communication using satellite phones, which failed in 2008. Anupam holds an undergraduate degree in Computer Science from Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania and an MBA in International Business from Georgetown University.

YourStory caught up with Anupam during the recent NASSCOM Product Conclave for a chat on the growth of PayPal and its activities in promoting the next wave of startups.

On some unusual stories of customers using PayPal

A Rajasthani village potter exports her wares and gets paid for it, thanks to PayPal. So does a photography equipment maker in Amritsar, a horse saddle designer in Patna and a suit-maker in Mumbai’s Dharavi slum! We create an equal playing field, and our customers trust our connected commerce model.

On the current status of PayPal’s payment business

Founded in 1998, PayPal is at the forefront of the digital payments revolution, currently processing almost 10 million payments per day. There are over 150 million active digital wallets of PayPal, and our payment products are spread across 203 markets and 100 currencies.

PayPal revenues for Q3 2014 were $1.95 billion, growing 20% year over year; we transacted $7,118 in Total Payment Volume every second in Q3 2014. PayPal’s 2013 annual revenue was $6.6 billion, and our international business accounted for more than half of total revenue in 2013. Approximately 25% of PayPal’s business is cross-border trade.

On mobile’s share of digital payments

Mobile accounts for over 20% of PayPal’s total payment volume today; we processed $12 billion in mobile payment volume in Q3 2014. Looking back to last year, PayPal processed $27 billion in mobile payment volume in 2013, up 99% over 2012.

On future trends in digital payment

We will see much more creativity and innovation in the field of digital payment. There will be more change and experimentation in digital payments in the next five years than in the last 50 years. Who will gain the most from this? Consumers of course! From realtime price comparison to immediate ordering on mobiles, we are seeing the balance of commerce shifting more and more to consumers.

On how PayPal is itself promoting the next wave of startups

We have a startup incubator called Start Tank. Its motto: Enabling entrepreneurial endeavors! We have the incubator in three cities: Boston, Chennai and London. Our partner in Chennai is TiE Chennai. Start Tank is a part of our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program.

The Chennai Startup Incubator was launched in October 2013. It provides a cost- and obligation-free environment for the selected startups to evolve. We offer technology mentorships, access to investment networks, entrepreneur mentorships via TiE, and training in leadership development. The tenure of the program is 12 months. Current incubatees are Fantain (sports fan engagement), Kobster (office supplies e-commerce), HeyFeedback (customer interaction tool) and Do PartTime (job platform for part-timers). We are just finalising our next round, see eligibility details online. Follow us on Twitter at @StartTankIndia for updates!

On messages, tips and advice to startups

1. Be humble. Look what happened to the once-mighty Nokia, Motorola and Blackberry when Apple entered the mobile phone game in June 2007! They all laughed at Apple, but look who’s laughing now.

2. Forget what you know. You must not become a prisoner of your old knowledge no matter how successful you are; you must keep re-inventing. You may make the best axes – but a chain-saw is that much more efficient!

3. Think big. While India was launching Ambassador cars, Lambretta scooters and the Rajdhani express, America was sending people to the moon. Look at Elon Musk today – he is talking about creating anti-gravity tunnels to improve transportation.

4. Take risks. Think beyond corporate jobs, create jobs! Take the road less traveled, even if you have to crawl on that road – later you will walk and run.

5. Simplify everything. Sometimes a pencil can do what a fancy pen cannot do. Think beyond what techies like, explain your product in ways which your customer will also like.

6. GSD: Get S*** Done! Don’t just talk endlessly, go out and do it – execute on your ideas, deliver on your promises. Don’t fall victim to paralysis by analysis.

On his pick of inspiring quotes for innovators

Albert Einstein: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

Alvin Toffler: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

Mark Zuckerberg: “Move fast and break things. Unless you are breaking stuff, you are not moving fast enough.”