The 2000 plus people at TechSparks on 5th October who watched Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Founder and CEO of Paytm, field a host of questions, including a few googlies, will agree that it's not an exaggeration when I say – ‘He came, he spoke and he conquered’.
We all know the entrepreneur, but what makes him VSS. Often painted as the man who lives life king-size, it was an attempt to deep dive into the life of the force behind Paytm, to understand what defines entrepreneurs who have achieved size and stature such as his company has. And in our quest to do that we discovered some aspects of the entrepreneur.
If not the man behind the digital payments revolution, Vijay claims he would have been a nomad, doing something Chris Martin and Bono did. The closest he comes to defining what his life would have been, if he had not jumped on the entrepreneurship bus, is best captured by the Hindi word “yayawar” - which means a nomad.
Having seen videos of him shaking a leg, my next question was rather obvious - “So you sing?”
“I can’t dance either, because that is a talent you have probably seen in videos around. I don’t sing, but I wanted to sing on the stage like Bono and Chris Martin with a band - a Sanskrit band.”
Vijay loves music and he says he enjoys the “360 degrees of music” literally all kinds of music- from Indian classical, Sufi, Hindi, Punjabi, dhinchak music, to Chris Martin and Bono. And then he says he particularly enjoys Elton John’s rocket hour on Apple Music.
Vijay’s major love is driving, but interestingly, he is not crazy about cars. “It’s a rich boy’s hobby, and Delhi is not a driving city.” It's not the vehicle, but the driving that really gives him the kicks. While driving, he enjoys a good conversation or his music. And traffic jams are used up for long-pending conversations.
Vijay’s extensive travel routine allows him to actually take to the road abroad, and that’s where he says he loves to drive. He has driven in most cities he has travelled to such as Toronto, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Madrid – well, the list is just long.
It is also his favourite team building activity. “We go to a country where we don’t know the culture and the language, and the team has to discover a way to connect and talk together. There is one rule that we follow - we don’t spend more than one night at a place.”
He recalls how, when in Spain, he would translate for the entire team to help them order, and soon, the waiters had caught on to this and would come and stand next to him knowing he would place the orders. “We would all start laughing when it happened,” he says.
Talk about travel, work and routine and VSS, as he fondly called, says that “if you do something that you are really interested in doing and like doing then it is called passion. If you are asked continuously do things that you aren’t interested in, then that is stress.”
“Passion and stress are the same things in a 180-degree refractive way, and both take a lot of time.” For Vijay, his work is all about passion and hence there is never a moment of stress or discomfort.
Vijay loves the serotonin rush and says he can wake up pretty much any time. He woke up at 3 am to be at TechSparks, he says. “I have 15 alarm slots before 6 am on my phone.” With all the travelling he does, he recalls how in one day, he has checked into two countries thousands of kilometres apart, and taken four different international flights - all in a day’s work.
“If you want to do it, it’s fun and if you don’t want to do it it’s stress,” he says. And that is as simple or complicated as it gets depending on where you stand.
Vijay is a vegetarian. And the Delhiite surprisingly loves dahi-batata-puri. A hobby he has developed is going to restaurants and mixing food to create his own dishes. “I would take beans at a taco shop, mix it with yoghurt and a few more ingredients to make it into a chaat.”
Reading menus is another favourite hobby and Vijay claims he loves to understand the food and its vibe. He also loves to order for his friends.
He has learnt the art of surviving as a vegetarian in the world. “I can speak vegetarian in multiple languages,” he says. Mean feat, I think, but he is quick to clarify that basically, he knows how to say the word, “vegetarian” in multiple languages.
“The problem of my being horizontally challenged is that I live in a no-metabolism sequencing world time zone. But I am happy.”
And the bit about being happy is much like the mic drop. You can’t buy happiness, but for pretty much everything else, there is Paytm.