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Paytm parent One97 adds top WhatsApp and Inmobi executives to its board

Naveen Tewari, Neeraj Arora & Ruchi Sanghvi

Naveen Tewari, Neeraj Arora & Ruchi Sanghvi

Mobile commerce and virtual wallet property Paytm has appointed WhatsApp’s global business head Neeraj Arora, InMobi founder Naveen Tewari and Facebook’s first woman engineer Ruchi  Sanghvi  to its board of directors.

“Ruchi, Neeraj and Naveen all come with tremendous internet commerce experience with highly renowned brands. We look to bring global talent and best practices for scaling to half-a-billion Indians on the Paytm platform. I can see our strong independent board helping us achieve that,” said Vijay Shekhar Sharma, co-founder and CEO of Paytm, which is run by Noida-headquartered One97 Communications Ltd.

The development was first reported by The Economic Times. 

Ruchi had co-created and managed the news feed feature on Facebook besides Facebook Connect and Facebook’s Developer Conference F8. She has led core areas of products such as Facebook Privacy, Notes, Homepage, Profiles and User Engagement.  In 2010, she quit Facebook to co-establish Cove, which was sold to Dropbox in 2012.

One of the best-connected Silicon Valley Indians, Arora is an M&A specialist who joined WhatsApp after being with Google. Arora has managed the business side as the mobile-messaging startup grew into a global phenomenon.

Harvard Business School graduate Tewari has spearheaded InMobi into one of the largest mobile advertising networks in the world.

The Paytm board already consists of Vijay Shekhar Sharma, co-founder and CEO, One97; Ravi Adusumalli and Vivek Mathur of Saif Partners in addition to Jai Das of Sapphire Ventures, Kunal Bajaj of Analysys Mason and venture investor Michael Levinthal.

Founded in 2000, One97 Communications is a leading mobile-internet company in India that offers digital goods and services to its mobile consumers under the Paytm brand. It also provides mobile advertising, marketing and payments for merchants. In April this year, the company also opened its platform for small and medium-scale enterprises as well as individuals to display their products. In addition, it has a partnership with existing lead investor SAIF Partners where it invests in early stage mobile internet startups through One97 Mobility Fund. The company aims to build 100 million wallets by 2015-end.

In February this year, Ant Financial Services Group, China’s leading online financial services company that owns AliPay (Alibaba group’s separate payment unit), had said it will invest $575 million to acquire 25 per cent stake in One97. The financials of the deal were not disclosed.

The Alibaba deal would value One97 at around $1.5 billion pre-money or just over $2 billion, post-money. This would make it the second most valued internet related firm in India, behind Flipkart. On the other hand, Snapdeal was valued lower than this in the last funding round led by SoftBank. The other three listed internet ventures Info Edge, Just Dial and MakeMyTrip are all valued under $1.7 billion, currently.

PayTM had previously raised funding from SAIF Partners, Intel Capital and Silicon Valley Bank. It first raised Rs 26 crore (around $6 million then) in March 2007 from SAIF and SVB. It got Rs 10 crore ($2.5 million) more from the same investors at the end of the same year through convertible securities. A year later, it scooped just under Rs 50 crore ($10 million) from Intel Capital and SVB.

One97 had also filed to go public, where it sought to raise Rs 120 crore. It had received a go-ahead from the market regulator SEBI and had originally planned to list by December 2010. But it had decided to shelve the proposed domestic IPO plan and rope in a new private investor.

Both Flipkart and its closest rival Snapdeal have been strengthening their senior management teams over the last few months.

Flipkart had roped in Sudhir Sitapati, a vice president with consumer goods giant Unilever, as an advisory board member for its commerce platform last week. Sitapati is the first appointee to a four-member advisory board that is being constituted to accelerate growth at Flipkart’s commerce platform. The company said the other three members of the advisory board will be identified in the next few months. Recently, Flipkart appointed IT industry veteran Ravi Garikipati in a newly created position – entrepreneur in residence.

In March, it hired Punit Soni, a Google product management executive and former vice president of product management at Motorola, as chief product officer. In April, it roped in Hari Vasudev (Yahoo), Anand KV (Hathway) and Manish Maheshwari (txtWeb), to spearhead supply chain, customer experience and seller ecosystem verticals, respectively. Earlier, the firm had named Saikiran Krishnamurthy from McKinsey as the chief operating officer (COO) of its commerce division.

Snapdeal, run by Delhi-based Jasper Infotech Pvt Ltd, recently roped in former Bharti Airtel senior executive Anand Chandrasekaran as chief product officer. This is the latest in a series of top level appointments by Snapdeal in the past 12 months and the second from Bharti Airtel. Snapdeal had recently brought in Jayant Sood as chief customer experience officer from the telco. Sood was last working as head-contact experience at Bharti Airtel.

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