Mastercard has been an important contributor to creating the payments ecosystem in India from its inception and has worked closely with regional partners on cutting-edge payment technologies for the country. It has provided many solutions that improved the online transactions and the payments value chain, as well as innovations around mobile and contactless payments services.
The payment giant is looking for talent in AI and data science to meet the rising growth of digital payments in the country and help build data-driven solutions. Last year, the company set out a plan to invest about $1 billion in India over the next five years for building new technologies and products, which also includes creating a $350-million data processing centre — Mastercard’s first outside the US.
In 2015, Mastercard opened a new technology hub in India to improve global innovation in digital payments. The India Tech Hub is the company’s biggest technology research centre outside the US, and has played a crucial role in developing solutions in respect to payment safety, funds clearing, processing and payment gateway service.
To know more, we interacted with Sukanyya Misra, SVP and Head – India Technology Hub at Mastercard. Sukanya has over 25 years of global and domestic market experience in building advanced analytics and risk management solutions in payments, financial, insurance, research, consulting and manufacturing sectors for large global corporations.
Here is the interview –
How would you describe the journey of Mastercard Technology Hub in India since it was launched in 2015?
The India Tech Hub (ITH) is a testament to Mastercard’s commitment to making India a technology centre to support our global teams. It is Mastercard’s largest technology centre outside the US. Our employee base in Pune alone has grown more than six times since 2014, and currently, it houses around 2500 strong workforce in India.
Today, the India Tech Hub supports the global teams and plays an important role in respect of Mastercard’s digital payment solutions and technologies – payment safety, clearing solutions, processing, payment gateway services – as well as supporting Mastercard’s digital, marketing and loyalty programs and enhancing the employee digital experience. Here, we also work towards increasing Mastercard’s speed-to-market capabilities.
Tell us your leadership role at Mastercard in terms of the initiatives you are driving?
I am heading Mastercard India Tech Hub, and I am responsible for driving strategy and alignment with Mastercard’s local and global operations. I focus on the India Tech Hub’s growth and expansion, operational efficiency, talent acquisition, and development.
Can you elaborate on how TechHub is using new-age technologies to develop smarter payment solutions for the consumers?
To support the rapid growth of convenient electronic payment options for customers and merchants across the country and globally, we are investing in providing people with new ways to pay and introduce low-cost acceptance solutions. In line with this objective, the India Tech Hub is working to support the global teams on technologies and applications to facilitate faster, smarter, and safer cashless payments. We are continuously working with financial institutions and supporting merchant partners and the Fintech community to recognise and explore cutting edge technologies in areas like payments, blockchain, data analytics solutions, financial services, alternative payments, and digital security.
How important is the Indian market for Mastercard and its products/services?
Mastercard remains relentless in its commitment to the potential of the Indian market. We are expanding our efforts to ensure we continue to add value to the country. Our commitment to India reflects not just what we bring into India, but critically, how it is of service to the country. To help reboot Indian SMEs and enable business recovery from COVID-19, we recently committed INR 250 crores ($33 million).
Through our partnerships, we are supporting smart solutions that allow for easy and fast onboarding of merchants and also provide them with various value-added services and access to global markets. In the wake of COVID-19, we are working with partners and governments closely in the revival of the worst affected sectors and will be coming up with a comprehensive plan to help them sustain in the long run in conjunction with the government’s plans.
Can you discuss various steps the company has taken in recent time to fight against cyber threats?
There has been a notable rise in the number of digital payments globally with a 40% rise in cashless transactions since the start of the pandemic leading to increase in cybersecurity risks, such as phishing, virus attacks or malware. Mastercard’s security operations centre (SOC), vulnerability management, intelligence centre, and the messaging units are tracking and responding to pandemic-related cyber threats on a regular basis. We leverage the latest technologies like AI/ML that facilitate advanced intelligence to assess behaviour patterns and create a layered defence against the unauthorised person to access information and avert online frauds.
What are the technology areas in which Mastercard is currently hiring?
We continue to hire professionals wherever there is business demand. Recently, we onboarded 150 bright and young minds from some of the best institutes across India to support the India Tech Hub, our Data & Services CoE and Cyber and Intelligence teams. We are adding to our current workforce with a special focus on skill sets like data analytics, automation and software development, among other skills.
How is the company planning to operate within the thriving fintech ecosystem in India in the coming years? Also, any partnerships with fintech startups?
Mastercard has been operating in India for over three decades. We work closely with the startup ecosystem via our flagship Start Path program that supports them in developing next-generation, breakthrough commerce solutions. We have continually partnered with FinTechs to advance digital business and deliver innovative solutions to the market and going forward, this will only increase.
Through our flagship Start Path program, we have supported and grown technology startups like Tonetag, Zeta, Fluid AI. Given the potential of technology innovations in the payments industry in India, we have established an India Investment Fund with investments to provide early-stage startups with capital and access to Mastercard’s system and expertise; for example; we have invested in Syntizen, that delivers Aadhaar-based authentication solutions, we have also invested in Pine Labs, to offer a suite of value-added services and end-to-end stored value solutions.
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Vishal Chawla is a senior tech journalist at Analytics India Magazine and writes about AI, data analytics, cybersecurity, cloud computing, and blockchain. Vishal also hosts AIM's video podcast called Simulated Reality- featuring tech leaders, AI experts, and innovative startups of India.