As the post-Diwali haze settled over New Delhi, social media spoke out in outrage. People shared pictures of the smog, and of the pollution meters showing Delhi’s air to be dangerously contaminated. Conversations began on what could be done to fix Delhi’s horrendous pollution problem. One of the people who voiced their concern was Paytm CEO Vijay Shekhar Sharma.
No Facebook, it is not so. It is so depressing to drive in such smoggy view on Delhi roads. pic.twitter.com/iFspdIt6LQ
— Vijay Shekhar (@vijayshekhar) November 3, 2016
Sharma has been a long-time Delhi resident, having attended Delhi College of Engineering, and then headquartering his startup, Paytm, in the national capital.
Developing economy pay price. In early Industrial age, even in few US cities, people use to change shirts two times in day due to pollution!
— Vijay Shekhar (@vijayshekhar) November 2, 2016
Sharma’s tweets set off a series of conversations on Twitter. People chimed in with their recommendations – someone suggested that Paytm should use solar power in all its offices, someone else said that citizens should work closely with the government. Sharma even tweeted that he’d be ordering air purifiers for his office. But then he decided to take matters into his own hands.
“I would like to start off by investing Rs 10 crore of my personal money in startups that are interested in working on environment’s sustainability,” Sharma announced. And his largesse wouldn’t be limited to startups – he’d be willing to fund any ongoing government or private initiative working on the protection of the environment.
“We need to take a holistic approach towards curbing pollution. Alarming pollution level is not limited to the National Capital Region. It is a national phenomenon,” he said.
The Paytm founder, who’s also a prolific angel investor, realizes that getting results from this investment won’t be easy. “We are yet to structure the application and funding process. However, my investment will not be for return,” he says.
Now Rs. 10 crore isn’t a lot of money for Vijay Shekhar Sharma, whose net worth exceeds Rs. 2000 crore, but it’s a generous gesture. Lots of people have wrung their hands at the situation in Delhi; Sharma has actually put his money where his mouth is. And while time will tell whether this initiative can produce results, Sharma has acted quickly and decisively when he saw a problem. That’s a quality that probably stands him in good stead when he runs Paytm.