We want to handhold fintechs who continue to push the ‘innovation’ envelope: Visa’s Arvind Ronta
The Visa Everywhere Initiative (VEI) is a leading global innovation programme that tasks startups to solve the payment challenges of tomorrow, further enhance their own product propositions and provide visionary solutions for Visa's vast network of partners. Launched in India last year, the programme invited fintech startups from across India to provide innovative solutions in the areas of digital issuance, small merchant growth and B2B payments value chain.
Visa identified startups from around the country through roadshows in Mumbai, Gurugram, Bengaluru, and Hyderabad, with innovations relevant to the Indian payments industry. YourStory recently caught up with Arvind Ronta, Head of Products, India and South Asia, Visa, to discuss the selected problem statements and the rationale behind each of them.
YourStory (YS): Can you quickly give us an introduction on VEI? Why did Visa decide to bring it in India?
Arvind Ronta (AR): Visa Everywhere Initiative or VEI, a key initiative we launched for fintechs, is a leading global innovation programme started in 2015 in the US. It recognises fintechs that create cutting-edge solutions to digital payment challenges faced by the industry. The programme has been rolled out in 100+ countries in 6 continents and has engaged over 6,000 startups that collectively raised $2.5 Billion in funding.
Back home, as India sees a new wave of digital payment growth, our clients and customers are demanding safe, secure and seamless solutions. Fintechs in India continue to push the ‘innovation’ envelope across consumer and commercial payments – powering new use cases to fuel the digitisation of consumption in India.
As the world’s largest payments network, we operate as a platform that delivers multitude of capabilities, form-factors, technology depth and solutions relevant to our diverse set of clients. Indian fintechs are already tapping into our platform assets to access Visa’s global network of Merchant and Issuer partners – to deliver differentiated experiences and capabilities both in India and abroad. Such a vibrant landscape makes it the right place to launch the VEI programme this year.
YS: What are the three challenges presented to the participating fintechs? What was the thought process behind selecting the three specific challenges under Visa Everywhere Initiative (VEI) 2020?
AR: Let me talk about the thought process first. We launched VEI in India to promote greater collaboration with fintechs and solve for adoption challenges to digital payments in India.
Naturally, the shortlisted themes had to be in sync with the biggest roadblocks to digital growth. Keeping this thought in mind, we chose the following challenges:
- Digital issuance for driving access to payments and credit to ease customer onboarding and financial inclusion
- Drive small merchant acceptance growth to ease onboarding of merchants and enhancing payments’ experience at points of sale
- Digitally transforming B2B payments value chain by digitising account payables, receivables and supply chain financing for various sectors
YS: What kind of response have you received for this programme? Can you provide some insights on the kind of fintechs that have enrolled for VEI 2020?
AR: We are very excited with the response that we have received for the first edition of VEI in India. We were deliberate in adapting the VEI format for the India fintech ecosystem – for example, the roadshows held across the country helped us receive over 400 registrations. The highest numbers were witnessed from Mumbai and Bengaluru, closely followed by Delhi NCR and Hyderabad. This is our best showing with over 400 fintechs, outside of the US.
Interestingly, we had the largest number of fintechs solving for customer onboarding and furthering financial inclusion – with over 70 percent of applications focused on improving consumer payments across issuance and acquiring. We also witnessed fintechs solving for digital lending, analytics and business process automation.
YS: Apart from the monetary benefits, how else do these fintechs benefit from Visa?
AR: Monetary benefits are just one part of the whole process. There are many other benefits such as access to Visa’s platform assets, mentorship programme we provide and the visibility at a global stage through this programme. The participating fintechs get to utilise any of our 90 APIs that we have enabled on our Visa Developer Platform. Additionally, we have also enabled some of our partner banks’ APIs that can be used to stitch a solution around each of the challenge areas.
Several fintechs who work with us tell us they benefit from Visa’s approach to enabling its partners – an open and collaborative model to solve problems for partners, not only in India, but globally – as fintechs expand beyond Indian borders.
YS: We are noticing a trend where an increasing number of established financial players are collaborating with fintechs. Why do you think this is happening/needed? Do you see this gaining momentum in the coming years?
AR: We are definitely witnessing a higher number of collaborations across the industry. Banks are collaborating with fintechs to accelerate their customer facing innovations, given the limitations of their own tech stacks and compliance processes. Neobanking and alt-lending models are two examples of how traditional financial institutions are looking at fintechs to drive new acquisitions (of customers) and distribution (of existing products), respectively. Traditional financial institutions have fundamentally been known for their brand recall among customers, legacy and trust, while fintechs bring in incredible technology stacks and solutions to provide for better customer experience. Across the globe, Visa is facilitating this collaboration between traditional banks and fintechs, and we see how it can be transformative for payments and commerce. We expect this trend to grow in the coming years with more banks and fintech players coming together to innovate.
YS: Can you give a few examples of interesting ideas that you noticed from the participating fintechs during the roadshows?
AR: We saw a bunch of interesting and novel ideas that have come from these emerging fintechs. There was one that focused on digital issuance through video-based KYC, and how it can speed up the process of issuing payment credentials digitally. Another that comes to mind is “tap to phone” and the use of a smartphone as an acceptance device using contactless/NFC technology. While contactless card issuance is already at an accelerated pace across the country, the ubiquitous smartphone can now enable asset-light, contactless acceptance for merchants. There are a few more ideas around agri-tech, insure-tech, lending and commercial payments that we see potential in to scale up in India.
YS: What is the future of VEI in India? Will we see a second edition of the programme?
AR: We are very excited about VEI in India as we have received an overwhelming response of 400+ fintechs in the first year of its launch.
With the Indian fintech ecosystem growing at a fast pace, we are confident of hosting future editions of VEI.
At the same time, we have a strong pipeline of fintech partners, and we will stay focused on nurturing these partnerships to bringing new capabilities to Visa customers – you can expect to see more digital product offerings enabled through fintech and bank partnerships. The future for fintech is exciting and we will continue to foster new partnerships.