Vijay Shekhar Sharma, the founder of One97 Communications that owns India’s biggest digital payments company Paytm, makes no secret that the next big wave for him to catch is banking. Today’s launch of Paytm Payments Bank is a stride in that direction.
And, he has chosen a colleague of 11 years to head it up: Renu Satti. Few outside Paytm — not even many in the digital payments ecosystem — know of Satti.
Before going further, a quick disclosure: Sharma is an investor in SourceCode Media Pvt Ltd, the company that owns FactorDaily.
Paytm, which is migrating its nearly 200 million customers to the payments bank, declined a request for an interview with Satti. FactorDaily spoke with four people who know her for years for this profile; all four wanted to stay anonymous since she doesn’t like being in the media.
Satti, in her late 30s, sounds like she has the traits of most corporate fast-trackers: loves challenges, knows details, gets along with people, doesn’t think twice before venturing into a new business, and, most importantly, has the trust of her boss
Satti, in her late 30s, sounds like she has the traits of most corporate fast-trackers: loves challenges, knows details, gets along with people, doesn’t think twice before venturing into a new business, and, most importantly, has the trust of her boss.
Sharma, who first hired Satti in 2006 as a human resource professional, is entrusting her with his biggest ambition to date. Last Thursday, while announcing a $1.4 billion fund raise from Softbank, Paytm said it would invest Rs 10,000 crore over the next three to five years to “enable half a billion people to join mainstream economy”. Numbers were not disclosed but sources say the biggest chunk of this will be in the payments bank business.
Payment banks are designed to reach banking services to micro businesses and low income households in India. Central bank and banking regulator Reserve Bank of India (RBI) permits such banks to accept up to Rs 1 lakh deposit from a customer, which cannot be issued as loans but only be invested in government securities. Many believe that payment banks will be allowed to become full-fledged banking entities in future.
Airtel Payments Bank was the first one to launch services in January this year followed by India Posts Payments Bank in the same month. The 4% interest rate on deposits announced by Paytm Payments Bank is the lowest among the three payment banks so far; Airtel offers 7.25% and India Posts 4.5 to 5.5%.
Others like Aditya Birla Nuvo and Vodafone M-Pesa are among payment bank licensees.
Satti has replaced Shinjini Kumar, who was earlier designated as the CEO of the Paytm Payments Bank. It’s not clear why Kumar didn’t take the role.
The oldest employee in Sharma’s leadership team, Satti was the one who set up Paytm’s human resource function. After six years, she moved out of the HR department to handle business operations.
“Renu (Satti) is a hustler, she is a silent worker, never comes to the forefront, and has high execution skills” — a person who has known her for a decade
“Renu (Satti) is a hustler, she is a silent worker, never comes to the forefront, and has high execution skills,” says a person who has known the new CEO for almost a decade. “Every time I meet her, she is heading a different business inside Paytm, and she loves to take up the biggest challenges.” This person requested staying unidentified in this story.
In her last role before becoming the head of payment bank, Satti was heading the movies and events business at Paytm. Under her, in less than a year, the movie ticketing business went from zero to over two lakh tickets a day.
Before movies, she was handling sellers acquisition on its ecommerce platform.
A Paytm executive at the senior leadership level said Satti is the “right-hand woman of Vijay (Shekhar Sharma)”, and that she likes to keep low and do her work.
Another person who has worked with Satti in two organisations said that she is diligent and hardworking. “She never says ‘No’ to a job. If she doesn’t know about it, she will learn it, she won’t hesitate going to people who know it and learn from them. She will always find a way.”
A Paytm executive at the senior leadership level said Satti is the “right-hand woman of Vijay (Shekhar Sharma)”, and that she likes to keep low and do her work
One such instance was when she was working with American recruitment firm Manpower Inc. The company acquired ABC Consultants in October 2008. What followed was integrating a couple of hundred people. Satti made sure that there was no duplication of job assigned to employees. She called each person who came through the acquisition and explained him or her the role expected.
“She has a great eye for detail… That is why she moved out of the HR function long ago,” said a source, who does not want to be named.
Some say that Satti’s first love is work. She stays with her mother in Delhi and spends most of her free time with her sisters.
Satti also loves to set the agenda, not by commanding but by doing it herself first. “If she wants her teammates to work for eight hours, she will herself work for 12 hours,” one of the people quoted earlier said.
Paytm Payments Bank employees know what to expect.
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Images: Renu Satti's Linkedin profile Updated at 9.05pm on May 23 to correct the caption and credit for the inside image. Disclosure: FactorDaily is owned by SourceCode Media, which counts Accel Partners, Blume Ventures and Vijay Shekhar Sharma among its investors. Accel Partners is an early investor in Flipkart. Vijay Shekhar Sharma is the founder of Paytm. None of FactorDaily’s investors have any influence on its reporting about India’s technology and startup ecosystem.