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Indian Mobile services provider Mahindra Comviva has outlined its vision for 2017 – and the benefits of its recently launched payment solution that is set to ‘digitalize’ rural India. The company supports the government’s strategic vision and initiative called ‘Digital India’ which aims to get vast parts of the Indian population digitized. Mahindra Comviva has recently launched an application specifically designed for consumers based in rural parts of India where internet penetration is extremely low. At Mobile World Congress, Telecom Review spoke to Mahindra Comviva’s Vice President, of its Mobile Financial Solutions, Vamsi Madhav, to explore what impact the application will have on rural regions in India and find out the complex challenges facing the organization in its attempts to ensure the innovative project is a successful one.

Can you outline to us why Mobile World Congress is such an important event from a marketing perspective for Mahindra Comviva?

Mahindra Comviva’s business revolves around proving value to mobile operators globally, across all different lines of business that mobile operators have been investing in. So for us, Mobile World Congress represents a great opportunity for us to meet with our customers to understand how all of them are making their strategic plans for the next few years. It’s also a great place for us to come and look at what’s new for us to invest in – and it’s one event where you get to see almost everyone in the industry over a 3-4 day period in which you can take back a lot of insights from – and it really is something we believe adds a lot of value to us on a year-to-year basis.

You recently launched the payPLUS Aadhaar Pay, which has been specifically designed for consumers in Rural India. Can you elaborate more about this product?

So what’s happening in India is that government has launched a ‘Digital India’ initiative which intends to get the vast population of rural consumers digitized. Aadhaar is one on the key enablers of ‘Digital India’. Aadhaar is a 12 digit unique-identity number issued to all Indian residents and linked to their biometric and demographics data. What we’re doing with payPlus Aadhaar Pay is providing an easy way for consumers in rural India who may not have access to smartphones – or who may not even own a smartphone as they walk up to a merchant to pay something. payPLUS Aadhaar Pay provides a simple way for consumers to pay merchants by sharing their Aadhaar number and authenticate themselves using their biometric fingerprint. The payment is automatically taken out of consumer’s Aadhaar linked bank account. So payPlus Aadhaar brings together the merchant, the device that the merchant needs to have – which is a very small low-cost device to take the consumers biometric fingerprint. These are the types of use cases you see in urban settings – so bringing this to rural India is a phenomenal push by the government.”

The challenges faced by both consumers and merchants in such a rural demographic have been well documented – do you think the payPLUS Aadhaar Pay solution can be a success in rural parts of India?

One of the biggest challenges in rural India, or anywhere rural is how good is your data connection and how stable is it? One of the things that the payPlus Aadhaar solution brings to the fore is a very lightweight application for the merchant - and a very low communication payload so the amount of data that needs to travel for the payment to be facilitated is kept to the minimum. The second aspect we’re bringing in with our telco experience is another product called ‘Infinity’. Infinity allows data in some sense to be gifted to merchants and consumers for specific use cases so they don’t feel the pinch for having to pay to become ‘digital’. The cost of moving from cash is OK, somebody has got to pay for the digital infrastructure – and one of the problems in rural India is that merchants may not really be in a position to want to pay for such things – because cash is still good consumer behavior for them. So with Infinity one of the things we’re doing is bringing banks and telco’s together – and we’re saying to the banks if you really want to get more of your own consumers to become digital and therefore reduce your cost in the long run – why don’t you tie up with telco’s using the Infinity platform to in some sense ensure that you pay for the data, which merchant uses to download the application and process the payments. So we believe the unique challenge in rural India in terms of 3G networks not being there everywhere is something that we’re uniquely positioned to solve – while continuing to use the rails the government has laid for the actual bank transfer app.

Do you think the Internet of Things will lead internet growth in India in 2017?

So, the Internet of Things is obviously another big, big investment area that all of our customers are currently investing in. Two specific segments of Internet of Things that are problems that need to be solved are Security and Interoperability. We’re placing our bets on finding out what piece of the puzzle in these two aspects Security and Interoperability can we pair all in. We certainly believe that if these two aspects are taken care of - there are enough compelling use cases in the Internet of Things to lead the next generation so to speak of internet proliferation.

Finally, what are your hopes and aspirations for 2017 – what would represent a successful year for Mahindra Comviva?

We’ve grown very successfully in the last decade or so, but we believe we’re at a reflection point where we really need to take our dream up to the next level in terms of overlaying technology trends with good use cases within our market base. We predominantly serve banks and Telco’s, so a good 2017 for us would be in terms of identifying the next three big things we’ve got to do as a company which brings in new technology, innovation and new use cases and lays the rails for the next ten years for us and our customers as a company – even as we continue to maintain leadership in our existing product portfolios.