By Elton Gomes
One97 Communications, Paytm’s parent company, has received $300 million (Rs 21.79 billion) in fresh funding from Berkshire Hathaway Inc. According to regulatory filings sourced from Paper.vc, One97 Communications has issued 1.7 million shares to BH International Holdings on September 27.
After the investment, Berkshire Hathaway will have around 2.9% holding in the Indian firm, and Paytm’s value will stand at Rs 731 billion ($10 billion).
In August, One97 revealed that Berkshire is joining Ant Financial, SoftBank, Alibaba, and SAIF Partners as key shareholders in the company. Todd Combs, the investment manager at Berkshire Hathaway, has joined One97’s board of directors.
“Berkshire’s experience in financial services and long-term investment horizon is going to be a huge advantage in Paytm’s journey of bringing 500 million Indians to the mainstream economy through financial inclusion,” Paytm founder and CEO Vijay Shekhar Sharma had said in a statement, the Hindu reported.
Berkshire Hathaway’s Combs stated that he was impressed by Paytm and was excited for being a part of its growth story, “as it looks to transform payments and financial services in India.”
How will the deal help Paytm
The infusion of funds comes as India is witnessing a digital payments war. Paytm’s near monopoly status is being challenged by players such as Google Pay, Amazon Pay, BHIM, and Flipkart-owned PhonePe. The entry of other players like WhatsApp’s payments service has also forced Paytm to better its offerings.
Berkshire’s first investment in India
According to media reports in August, Paytm said that Warren Buffett-owned Berkshire Hathaway Inc. has invested an undisclosed amount in the company. The deal was Hathaway’s first investment in India and was considered a rare deal since Buffett is generally known to avoid internet firms.
Industry experts and investors were surprised over Hathaway’s decision, as the company decided to invest in Paytm, even though the Indian firm had reported increasing losses. The deal is considered to be an endorsement for India’s start-up ecosystem, but experts feel it’s too early to gauge Buffett’s interest in India as an investment destination.
“This deal was largely about (Paytm founder) Vijay Shekhar Sharma and Paytm. Berkshire did not spend too much time doing diligence or carrying countless checks on the sector/competition as they are usually known to do,” a person knowledgeable of the matter told Live Mint.
How will the deal aid Digital India
Paytm witnessed enormous success after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced demonetization in India. Hathaway’s recent infusion will surely be envied by other tech companies in India. The deal comes a week after US retail giant Walmart acquired a 77% stake in Flipkart for $16 billion.
The sealing of the deal can be described as a “coming of age” for India’s fast-growing startup ecosystem and has sparked a discussion on the benefits of strategic investments.
Many entrepreneurs look at the investments as encouraging signs that more and more global players are ready to participate in late-stage financing for India’s startups. Investors and startups believe that original products and services, like Paytm, will be able to attract more capital from overseas investors who are seeking new and interesting business models.
Bengaluru-based ShopX, a B2B e-commerce platform, recently received an investment worth $35 million from Hong Kong’s Fung Strategic Holdings, the private investment arm of Hong Kong’s Victor and William Fung.
A growing number of Indian entrepreneurs believe that it is essential to attract investors who can take their business to the next level, not just in terms of capital infusion but also for knowledge exchange and the long-term vision of the company.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius
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