Abstract: Paytm is a payment app in India providing e‐wallet services; it is also the most prominent mobile e‐commerce app in the world’s third‐largest economy. This article uses Paytm as a case study to better understand the global platform economy and its implications for social and economic inequities. We contextualize the emergence of Paytm by drawing attention to its relationship with India’s developing digital infrastructure and marginalized populations—many of whom are part of the platform’s user base. We use a political economy lens to investigate Paytm’s market structure, stakeholders, innovations, and beneficiaries. Our research is guided by the question: What resources, infrastructures, and policies have given rise to India’s digital payment ecosystem, and how have these contributed to economic and social inequities? Accordingly, we audited the international and Indian business press and Paytm’s corporate communications from 2016 to 2020. Our analysis points to the tensions between private and public interests in the larger platform ecosystem, dispelling notions of platforms as neutral arbiters of market transactions. We argue that Paytm is socially beneficial to the extent that it reduces transaction costs and makes digital payments more accessible for marginalized populations; it is detrimental to the time that it jeopardizes user data and privacy while suppressing competition in the platform economy.
Keywords: digital wallet; financial inclusion; multi‐sided market; network effects; platforms