ONDC & CBDC to be major catalysts for shaping payment industry landscape in 2024: Vishal Maru, EVP, Worldline India

The digital ecosystem is evolving and Worldline India is spearheading the revolution in the digital payments industry. However, there are challenges galore. Worldline realises that strong partnerships and innovations are the cornerstones to success.

   
Vishal-Maru-Worldline-India

Worldline India is working closely with its partners, focusing on addressing the evolving requirements of its merchants across diverse sectors.

SME Futures spoke to Vishal Maru, Executive Vice President (EVP) of Financial Institutions and Merchant Services at Worldline India, delving into innovations in the payment industry, covering matters ranging from the impact of digital payments on the MSME sector to the global adoption of UPI and his vision for the future of the payment landscape in India.

Here are the excerpts:

Please share some insights into how your team collaborates with financial institutions and merchants to drive innovation in the payment industry?

Worldline has been at the forefront of the digital revolution in India for over 26 years now. We are teaming up with partner banks and government associations to drive digital payment acceptance across the country. We have strong partnerships with 30+ banks in India both from the public and the private sectors, the National Informatics Centre (NIC) and the ERP players. We work closely with them to cater to the growing need of their merchants across various categories that include government sectors like ULBs, police, excise and beverage corporations, transit, parking tickets, donation collections, and private sectors like retail, grocery and pharma.

We empower our bank partners with our embedded solution in Worldline Android PoS terminals, offering custom business solutions for merchants. This streamlines operations, reduces cash dependency, and enhances the overall customer experience through seamless digital payments.

Some of the key solutions that we can highlight are the entire payment collection and transaction management process for the Panvel Municipal Corporation, the Madhya Pradesh Police, the J&K Police, and many other state departments across India. Recently, we enabled our Android PoS terminals for village panchayats across 12,500 villages in Tamil Nadu to collect taxes in partnership with Indian Bank and NIC.

With your significant experience in payments and the merchant industry, how do you see the growing preponderance of digital payments influencing the financial system, particularly the MSME segment?

We find the MSME segment really exciting because of the sheer size of the market. I see a huge opportunity in this segment. The most important and attractive part is the growth in the MSME sector, which is far more than what we see on the enterprise side. This is because MSME’s are not just in-store anymore and are moving towards online transactions.

There is a government push too, be it Digital India or all the new mandates which are coming in from the regulator. What we are doing at Worldline is trying to empower MSMEs with digitisation with a powerful single application that can organise their businesses and give them the tools to make them profitable.

The government and the regulators are doing an excellent job in creating digital infrastructure and the responsibility of creating options lies on people like us.

You recently launched the BOSS application. Could you elaborate on how this initiative aligns with the government’s Digital India vision and contributes to the empowerment of merchants?

Let me take you back a year when we started to approach this pragmatically in terms of understanding what the real requirements of MSMEs are. We did extensive market mapping to understand the MSMEs needs and wants. What we realised is that one of the biggest problems was that there was no single ecosystem which could actually help them to grow their businesses and profits.

A micro entrepreneur would have five or six vendors for different sets of requirements. Hence, it was important to get everything under one umbrella which would enable them to just latch onto a platform easily which would help them to grow their businesses and increase their profits.

There are a lot of enterprising young tech-savvy business owners who have taken over the businesses started by their fathers or grandfathers. They are open to technology to run their businesses and create programs like loyalty, inventory management, etc.

Another hurdle are the challenges that MSMEs face in managing compliance, particularly with regulations, statutory requirements, and data protection.

After analysing all the key problems, we introduced BOSS – Business Ka One Stop Shop, a smart business solution available for Android PoS that goes beyond the world of payments and enables MSMEs to manage their business like a boss! In fact, the Android PoS terminal is a complete package. It gives you all that you need to grow your profits and manage your business.

With UPI receiving international attention, how do you see global UPI adoption influencing the payment sector, and what difficulties or possibilities do you see in this global expansion?

We are happy to see UPI going international. Worldline and NPCI International had also partnered last year. As part of the partnership, Worldline will bring more convenience to Indian customers in the European markets by allowing merchants’ point-of-sale (POS) systems to accept payments from UPI, an instant real-time payment system, as well as from RuPay, NPCI’s proprietary card payment network solution. This will result in a multitude of customer-related merchant benefits due to an increase in footfall and spending from Indian tourists.

The UPI One World Initiative is a significant step towards making UPI a global phenomenon. However, as the initiative expands its horizons, it faces several technological challenges that need to be overcome to ensure its success. It is imperative to focus on varied compliances, data security, scalability and user experience which would be very different from India.

As technology advances, worries about data security and ethical use increase. How does the payment industry strike a balance between innovation and solid security, particularly with the introduction of advanced technologies?

Data security is of paramount importance. A successful innovation in our industry is the one which is secured, scalable and seamless. Our government has played a significant role in the growth and adoption of digital payments by constantly trying to eliminate the barriers in between. With the increase in digital transactions, we also saw an increase in fraud in 2022-23 as per the RBI Annual Report.

A regulation like the DPDP Act puts a framework around the collection, usage, storage and transfer of personal data, thereby giving everyone the freedom to have a say in and control over their personal information. For businesses, this will drive accountability in how such sensitive data is handled and force them to build similar barriers around their supplier ecosystems.

Collaboration is essential in tackling industry-wide challenges. How can the payment industry foster collaboration among its stakeholders, including competitors, regulators, and technology providers, to collectively address common threats and promote innovation?

Collaboration is the key to success and the payment industry acknowledges the need for partnerships. There will be competing companies, but cooperating is the way to go by utilising each other’s strengths. We have seen many such collaborations between fintechs and banks. Let me highlight one example of Worldline’s deep partnerships with the Bank of India and the Tamil Nadu Government. We have deployed our Android PoS terminals across 12,500 village panchayats in Tamil Nadu to collect taxes. It is a shining example of the implementation of a payment solution to digitise citizen-centric services and tax collection. Such initiatives have enhanced trust and transparency and increased the convenience for citizens.

Looking ahead, what do you see as the most exciting and challenging trend in the payments industry?

Several exciting and challenging trends are poised to shape the payments industry. The shift towards an asset-light model is a notable development, emphasising efficiency and flexibility. Merchants’ increasing demand for a digital ecosystem is expected to drive growth. Initiatives like ONDC (Open Network for Digital Commerce) and CBDC (Central Bank Digital Currency) are anticipated to be major catalysts for change, shaping the industry landscape. Companies that prioritise compliance and data security are likely to thrive in this dynamic environment, as the importance of trust and regulatory adherence continues to rise.

Additionally, the formula for success is expected to revolve around simplicity in innovation, highlighting the significance of user-friendly and streamlined solutions in the evolving payments landscape.

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