Harinder Takhar has joined Paytm*, a One97 Communications incubated online mobile recharge company as its CEO. Speaking with MediaNama, Takhar said that his role as CEO will be continue the current business and define the new direction that it will take, and while the business has been incubated at One97, operating out of its premises and with shared resources, it is a strategic opportunity and needs focused attention. According to his LinkedIn profile, Takhar was previously a product manager with Research In Motion, prior to which he was with Nokia, as a Business Development Manager. Interestingly, this is a return to the One97 fold for him, since he was with the company between December 2001 and July 2003, and had also co-founded Xs! Corporation with One97 founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma.

Paytm will be looking at additional categories, Takhar said, adding that “we have a bias towards digital goods. Other than that, there is one founding philosophy – we are an enabler of e-commerce. We started with online recharge, and figured out that the customer finds making payments online painful, and we have an OCD around making that easy.” PayTM claims around 1.4 million registered users, and a run rate of Rs 15 crore in recharges this month.

However, the company does appear to be spending massively on marketing its service across radio, online and events is looking at the company from a strategic perspective. Do the returns justify this expenditure? Takhar says that “What might look massive is small on a per-customer acquisition basis. When I look at the customer acquisition costs of an e-commerce website, it is a few hundred rupees, which makes me nervous. At Paytm we have a strong discipline on marketing, and we’ve figured out the lowest cost of marketing and retaining customers. We are disciplined financialy, and users are also coming in via word-of-mouth. We spend nearly nothing on retaining customers, and our interface makes sure of that.”

So, given that Paytm has focused primarily on making transactions easy, why doesn’t it position itself as a payment gateway instead of an e-commerce venture, and address the payment gateway issues being faced in the market? Takhar is non-commital: “In the spririt of ‘never say never’, it is possible, but it’s not something we are working on right now.”

*Disclosure: Paytm is an advertiser with MediaNama