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Huge market potential for online transactions in India: Rob Reeg

Business Standard:  October 03, 2016

New Delhi: MasterCard, the multinational payment services corporation is betting big on India for business. In 2015 the company launched its tech centre in India. It is now focusing on government initiatives for cashless transactions and working with India's start up ecosystem.  Rob Reeg, president, operations and technology, in an interview with Hrishikesh Joshi about the plan and their outlook. Edited excerpts:

What is the update on tech centre over the last one year?

Last year, have invested $250 million in setting up the India development centre where we have two main sites —Pune and other in Vadodara, Gujarat. The Pune site has grown significantly faster than originally we planned. People here in Pune and Vaodadra are working on more advanced technical products like MasterCard identity check. There are 1800 people working at both the sites. Headcount wise we have very active programme on recruitment and one of the aspect is participation of women in technology. We have doubled the headcount in just one year. And our attrition level is extremely low, its even less than 10 per cent.  

Do you see payment wallets and UPI a challenge for MasterCard and does it have any impact on MasterCard?

UPI is just a payment platform. In a country like India, 95 per cent transactions are made in cash. It is an evolution that is going to happen over a period of time. We need more digitisation in India and for us, any competition is good, as it makes us all better in the long run. There is a space for everybody in the market and that is why payment wallets are so successful.  

How do you see adoption of plastic money in India and what is MasterCard doing to increase this?

We are looking for different markets and sectors. In India only five per cent transactions are being made cashless. There is a huge market potential. We are working in two different ways. One is developing low cost acceptance and second is contactless transaction for everyday usage. We are creating an ecosystem to provide safe secure and convenient transactions.  We are focusing on some government initiatives. For e.g., we are running National Skills Development Corporations' disbursement programme with Central Bank of India. These transactions are done only through MasterCard and Rupay. Plus, we handling entire Chhattisgadh Student Scholarship Programme where students get their transfers on prepaid card. We are also focusing on the SME sector of India which is a backbone of Indian manufacturing. With push from the government and consumers, the SMEs are now willing to pay electronically. We have done an SME business Index. Competition drives innovation, fundamentally in any part of the world. 

What is a your take on Block chain Technology? Is MasterCard looking for it?

It is an interesting technology and we are working on it. I personally don't care about Bitcoin but I do care about block chain technology.  We have got two pilots projects this. One is complete and one is going on. The one which we are looking for is a combination of private and public watching. And first pilot is a private watching solution. I think it is very early in the hype cycle. For company like us, while managing people's money and information security aspect of blockchain is little bit daunting. The idea behind blockchain is unregulated power but that is never going to be a first choice when the security is concern. 

But its being said that block chain is more transparent, faster and safer...

That is why these pilots will help us to understand. It important to see how we take this massively distributed environment. We have formed a customer advisory board or this and very soon MasterCard is going to discuss some of the case studies in block chain. We are dealing with people's money and information. We have found some good results in some of the case studies. We have done these with some of our partners and customers. 

How are you going to contribute in India's emerging start up ecosystem?

We have several different ways of investing in start ups. For any point of time, we are looking at 40 to 50 start up companies at different partnership levels and in different forms. India is a very vibrant startup market. MasterCard has invested in Razorpay, an online payment gateway solution for small and medium enterprises and platforms. We will continue to invest in companies like this. Some of our programmes offer equipments, mentorship, office space and seed investment. Under our 'Smart Path' programme, we partner with startups from around the world to help scale their businesses. The program enables companies to gain access to MasterCard’s global ecosystem and to break new markets through relationships with MasterCard and our customers.

Disclaimer: This information has been collected through secondary research and IBEF is not responsible for any errors in the same.