SMBs will power growth of India business: Worldline India CEO Ramesh Narasimhan

Ramesh Narasimhan, CEO of Worldline India, says the payments company is working towards innovations to bring more SMBs (small-to-medium businesses) on board and is not too bothered by emerging startups in the space.
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French payment and transaction multinational Worldline expects its India expansion to be driven by the small and medium businesses (SMBs), a sector that has been growing at the rate of 50 percent year-on-year. 

In an interview with YourStory, Ramesh Narasimhan, CEO of Worldline India said that the platform, with a merchant base of seven lakh in the SMB segment, will look to expand its base to 10 lakh over the next few years. 

The company, which has nearly 1.5 million merchant touchpoints in India across online and offline businesses, wants to leverage its acquisition channels to expand the merchant base. 

Worldline has had operations in India for the last 11 years and employs nearly 2,000 people across 12 states.

While the payments and fintech space has seen a rise in the number of unicorns with the likes of Razorpayand Pine Labs, CEO of Worldline India Ramesh says that the company is in it for the long run and is not too worried about the competition.

“I would like to differentiate our business from the startups a little bit–we are all in,” he says, adding that the objective of the company was to run this business profitably.

Excerpts from the interview:

YS: Could you tell us a bit about the scale of Worldline’s operations in India?

RN: In India, Worldline has partnered with over 20 banks, e-commerce companies, utility players, financial services as well as other industries.

 

Worldline India offers 360-degree payment solutions, ranging from terminals, Soft PoS (Point-of-Sale), contactless payments, UPI (unified payments interface), BQR (Bharat QR), BNPL (Buy Now Pay Later), EMIs, online payments, and others.

We have over 5,000 marquee clients in India, ranging from e-commerce, SMBs, insurance, direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands, and others. We also help merchants tap into cross-border payments and provide access to nearly 170 countries with a single integration.

YS: We have seen multiple payments unicorns emerge over the last two years. How do you view the competition?

RN: Thanks to the active startup ecosystem, a lot of payments companies in India have come up which has led to a lot of innovation. We are on our toes due to the competitive nature and are working on more solutions.

 

I would like to differentiate a little from the startups as we are all in and we have to do this business profitably. Being a global company, valuations are far away from our minds. 

We have to grow our revenues and grow them profitably. That is a challenge we see in the market as the number of companies which will be profitable in the space will be few in number. 

Competition is healthy as long as there are serious players who are going to be here for 10-15 years.

YS: What is the product roadmap for India for the coming year?

RN: Our SMB business has been growing by 50 percent year-on-year and that is a huge area of focus and growth for us. 

We have about seven lakh merchants on our platform today across SMBs and we want to grow this to 10 lakh over the next few years. 

Our solutions across the board have seen the biggest growth coming from SMBs – from the launch of Soft PoS, and cross-border payments – these are all geared towards the SMBs. We work with multiple channel partners to onboard merchants, including banks. 

We also offer plug-ins through e-commerce enablers Shopify, Magento, Woocommerce, and others. Most SMBs have digitized their processes and payments as part of the pandemic. 

YS: Which SMB sectors have seen a better uptick in adoption of these services and what are these services?

RN: A couple of segments are fast emerging in our SMB play such as Software-as-a-Service. This is a tremendous opportunity and these companies can sell anywhere in the world. 

If a company is selling in 10 different geographies, they use our cross-border play where we offer them a single integration. Even for small exporters, we help them bring the forex back home. Similarly, we work with a lot of D2C brands which sell outside of India.

The other proposition for cross-border payments is providing service to merchants who want to sell digital goods and services to India. For example, in the edtech sector–if you want to do a particular course from a specific university, we help you pay for it in local currency using UPI, netbanking or credit card. 

YS: How big a role do you see for Soft PoS in the adoption of digital payments in India?

RN: Offline PoS is an important part of our business and we have launched our own Soft PoS. We see it as a significant play, especially in the SMB space where you don’t have to go through the hassle of installing a machine, getting KYC done and then start accepting payments.

However both offline PoS and Soft Pos are digital modes of payment. In a country like India, there are significant places where digital payments don’t work. The multiple modes of payment including offline PoS, Soft PoS, QR code, etc will continue to co-exist.

If you take a look at the newest innovation by the NPCI (National Payments Council of India), it talks about UPI on feature phones – the aim is to do more with the existing feature phone users.

Edited by Affirunisa Kankudti

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