A startup sale made this low-level employee into an Indian millionaire

Hard-earned riches.
Hard-earned riches.
Image: AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi
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Loyalty pays, and Shyam Kumar is proof.

When Mumbai-based mobile wallet startup Citrus Pay was sold last year to PayU, the payments subsidiary of South Africa’s Naspers, it made a millionaire out of many of its staff members—including one low-level employee who had been with the company since its inception in 2010.

After his father fell ill with tuberculosis, Kumar had to support his brothers and sisters, but the school-dropout couldn’t get a steady job. Kumar’s brother, who worked as a driver in Mumbai, asked his banker boss to help Kumar out. The boss was a close friend of Citrus Pay founder Jitendra Gupta at a time when e-commerce players were setting up shop in the country. After a meeting with Gupta, Kumar bagged a job running errands around the workplace.

Kumar, originally from the eastern state of Uttar Pradesh, joined the budding startup with an initial monthly salary of Rs8,000 ($120). As one of the first employees, Kumar was signed up for the employee stock ownership plan. He didn’t fully understand how it worked, but did grasp that it might yield long-term benefits. ”[Gupta] said it is a good thing. It will help you going forward. I was happy to hear that,” Kumar told Moneycontrol.

When PayU, headquartered in the Netherlands, acquired Citrus Pay for $130 million, the now 42-year-old’s options were worth Rs. 5 million ($75,000). When Kumar told his wife, she didn’t believe him. But when Rs2.6 million ($39,000) appeared in Kumar’s bank account on Nov. 30, there was no denying the hefty payout.

Kumar has lived in a 100 sq. ft. one-room shanty for the last seven years with 10 family members, in a slum in the suburbs. With his newfound wealth, a house in the city is still unaffordable, but Kumar plans to purchase one on the outskirts of Mumbai. He also got his family health insurance.