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Payment Power

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Zarin Bhathena, Senior VP and Head, HR, Wordline talks to Monarose Sheila Pereira about the payment industry, its relevance and growing acceptance in today’s times

What is the payment industry all about?
The payments industry is an exciting sunrise industry in India, revolving around payments of all kinds – personal, retail and business; cash, card and digital etc. This industry currently is working towards making payments in India digital and steering it towards becoming a less-cash society. Players in the payments space include banks as well as non-bank entities like NBFC, independent payment service providers, technology enablers, start-ups et al. For example, if you shop at a merchant outlet using your credit/ debit card, there is an entire process behind how the money gets deducted from your account and reaches the merchant’s account. It involves banks, payment processors, schemes and the underlying technology providers and yet takes a mere few seconds to complete. Ensuring that it happens smoothly without any risk to the customer’s or merchant’s money is the responsibility of all the players in the payment industry.

When did it start in India?
Payments have, of course, been around for a long, long time. But it is being recognised as an industry in its own right for the past 10-15 years. There emerged a class of customers who were technologically savvy, had access to credit and debit cards and Internet banking and grew comfortable making cashless payments, first at retail outlets and then online. This led to a wave of transformation as our heavily cash-dependent country slowly shifted towards online and card payments. With more players entering the digital payments market and new technology making its way in, this is only the beginning.

What are the benefits?
E-payments have a large number of benefits on a macro and micro-economic level. For the layman, it has become simpler and safer to carry a couple of cards instead of a wallet loaded with cash, whether just for shopping or long distance travel. He receives instant alerts and statements which help him track each expense. The ease of making a transaction simply by swiping/dipping a card has made e-payments the more convenient way to pay. Even when purchasing online, one can complete his transaction in a couple of minutes, instead of waiting for the delivery boy and ensuring that he has the exact change in cash when ordering by cash-ondelivery. As an industry, it has given way to many new small and big players to enter the market and grow with it. Technology, app development and infrastructure are all gaining along with the core industry of payments. This in turn helps the economy as a whole, which is evident from the fact that we have gone from being a 98% cash economy (2011) to an 87% cash economy

What are the difficulties the industry faces right now?
Right now actually, it is in a growth stage and is flourishing. Of course, there are some hurdles that are bound to be overcome over time. The regulator is encouraging the industry and bringing in proactive measures which is a good thing for the company and jobseekers. There are macro-level problems like penetration of payment acceptance infrastructure or interoperability of wallets that the entire industry is working towards. Semiurban and rural India is also becoming more digitally savvy and it is a matter of time before answers to problems emerge.

Is it accepted well in India?
E-payments are seeing large growth and acceptance in India, with progressive regulation and active involvement of the regulating bodies and government. The number of ATMs and POS terminals in the country have grown twofold in the past five years. Debit cards are being accepted greatly, backed by the government’s ‘Jan Dhan Yojana’. People are also spending more through plastic cards. Even online payments are witnessing a growth with online shopping becoming a convenience, and providing various incentives for shoppers. The ecommerce market is estimated to reach $102 billion by 2020, riding on new age technology, better adoption and greater reach. These indicators show how the change is happening, slowly but surely.

How will it benefit students?
Students who are looking for a career in epayments have a lot of scope for learning and development. As an industry on the cusp of growth, there is a lot of dynamism one can expect here. Many companies, especially start-ups are hiring management trainees from B-schools to bring in fresh talent, enthusiasm and broad outlooks. Also, technology is a field within payments that requires not just a specialisation or degree but the acumen to do something new, take ownership and create scalable payment solutions. Operations are also an important function within payment solutions providers and hold great prospects for students interested in it.

What qualifications do you need to be part of it?
Depending on which part of the vast payments industry one is a part of, skills and qualifications required will vary as per the role sought. Jobseekers with engineering degrees are preferred in technology-led roles at various levels. Graduates and post-graduates are a large part of this workforce. However, irrespective of one’s qualifications, a drive to learn, grow and work hard is the hallmark of this industry’s

What is the future of this industry in India?
Given the situation of India right now, the payments industry is set to grow exponentially. With various government impetuses like Prime Minister’s ‘Jan Dhan Yojana’ Digital India, direct benefit transfers (DBT) etc., the game has become bigger and more interesting. There are a number of players mushrooming right now and the field is open. Over time, there could be a certain amount of consolidation where exit barriers are low or bigger players acquire smaller ones. However, the future looks bright with more young, employable populace joining the workforce and job prospects becoming better every day.

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