Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma
For controversy’s favourite child Vijay Shekhar Sharma, the CEO and founder of country’s largest mobile wallet Paytm, 2018 was more bitter than sweet. After Alibaba and SoftBank Group, Sharma managed to rope yet another big name investor — Warren Buffett-led investment firm Berkshire Hathaway Inc, which bought close to a three per cent stake for $300 million.
But the rest of the year has been mostly about fire-fighting and damage control.
In May this year, the company was hit with a sting operation, which showed Ajay Shekhar Sharma, Vijay’s brother and a senior vice president in the company, claiming that the government had asked for the personal data of some Paytm users in the aftermath of stone-pelting incidents in Jammu & Kashmir last year. He also went on to talk about his and Vijay’s deep-rooted connections with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
But the biggest scandal broke in October, when Ajay Shekhar lodged an FIR with the Noida police about his brother getting extortion calls threatening to leak the founder’s personal data. Sensationally, the investigations led to Sonia Dhawan, Vijay’s private secretary and the company’s vice president of corporate communication. Sharma has maintained that he is shocked and wants answers. “I have always believed her [Sonia Dhawan] to be trustworthy. It is possible that she has been used as a conduit. Cops will unearth the truth,” he told Business Standard.
From allegations of harassment, pressure to sell an employee stock ownership plan, to not one but two different extortion calls, the case surrounding Sharma’s data theft seems to be getting murkier. As things stand, Dhawan is still in jail and her lawyer plans to file a fresh bail appeal following a charge-sheet filed by the Noida police.