The Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM), a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) affiliate, has decided to study the Chinese connection of Paytm, a company that has reaped huge benefits from the Narendra Modi government's demonetisation exercise, a report in The Economic Times has said.
The payment solutions company is 40 percent owned by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba group and SJM has told the newspaper that it wants to ensure that "data shared by Indians is safe".
"No Indian company should be sharing data with foreign companies and the investment routes should be made very transparent," Ashwani Mahajan, co-convener of SJM, has been quoted as saying in the report.
The SJM's move comes at a time when Paytm is seeing its business swell due to the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, which has resulted in forced digitisation of payments in the country.
After the move by the government on 8 November, there has been a surge in mobile and online payments for transactions as there is a severe crunch in cash in the system after the withdrawal of the existing Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.
Paytm on 21 November said it has been witnessing over 7 million transactions worth Rs 120 crore a day, helping it cross $5 billion gross merchandise value sales, four months ahead of its target.
The company said it was doing more transactions than the combined average daily usage of credit and debit cards in the country.
After the demonetisation announcement on 8 November, the company had placed full page ads with prime minister Narendra Modis' face on front pages of newspapers, raising a controversy.
Not just Paytm, all mobile wallet companies have seen manifold growth in transactions and new users coming on board with people turning to digital platforms, as serpentine queues outside ATMs continuing to hassle cash-strapped public.
With Modi making a pitch for switching to less-cash economy in his speech on Sunday, the importance of these firms are only going to increase. An earlier report in The Economic Times had said the rural ministry has sought the help of companies like Paytm and Oxigen to help digitise cash transactions in rural areas.
Seen in this context, SJM's move to study the Chinese connection of the company is interesting since it goes against the spirit of the initiative taken by the government.
SJM and a few other groups have been in news recently for campaigning against Chinese imports that they claimed is killing the domestic manufacturing. Some of them had even suggested a ban on these imports.
Meanwhile, Paytm founder and chief executive Vijay Shekhar Sharma has told PTI that his company is "as Indian as Maruti" and prides itself on being a representative of the "India story".
"We are as Indian as Maruti is...We are 'India story' in every sense whatsoever," Sharma has been quoted as saying in the PTI report.
Alibaba Group and its affiliate Ant Financial pumped in $680 million into Paytm's parent One97 Communications last year, taking its total shareholding to over 40 percent in the country's largest mobile wallet operator with close to 160 million customers.
The criticism over ownership, circulated widely through instant messaging apps, sought to pick up on sentiment of banning Chinese products.
Sharma, however, appeared unfazed by the criticism. "Everybody else has a way to say whatever they want to say. We don't come to that level and reply," he told PTI.