The Future of FinTech: Revolutionizing Financial Services & Payments Experience
Seven years ago, if you had told Indians that there would be flying cars in 2023, at least a few would have believed you, but most would never have believed that they would be paying even the pushcart vendors with their mobile phones. Smartphones, better internet infrastructure, and Bharat Interface for Money-Unified Payments Interface (BHIM-UPI) paved the way for an almost unbelievable transformation over the past decade. To put it into perspective, Union Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw recently stated at World Economic Forum (WEF) that India accounted for 40 percent of total global digital payments in 2021. In 2022, annual digital payments transactions amounted to $1.5 trillion, more than the US, UK, Germany, and France combined—an astonishing feat.
Rishi Chhabra, Managing Director & Country Head for India & Sri Lanka at Fiserv, engages in an exclusive interview with CEO Insights to navigate us through the current landscape of the fintech industry in India. With more than two decades of professional experience, Chhabra is an experienced product and go-to-market (GTM) executive with a proven track record of building, taking to market, and scaling multiple SaaS solution businesses.
In conversation with Rishi Chhabra, Managing Director & Country Head for India & Sri Lanka, Fiserv
What are the payments and FinTech market trends driving the financial industry currently?
The Indian digital payments ecosystem has been on a massive transformation curve over the past two years. The pandemic has been an obvious catalyst for adopting digital services, primarily because people couldn’t leave their houses. They became increasingly comfortable buying services digitally. On the other hand, digital acceptance on the business side grew, creating a robust payment acceptance infrastructure in India and beyond the border. The simultaneous evolution of both the consumer and business ecosystems paved the way for a robust payments landscape that is safer and more convenient. We can say that both the left and the right hand came together, and the timing was perfect. This has also triggered healthy competition in the industry, including smaller organizations and enterprises, to develop and adopt new technologies to meet consumer demand for convenience, speed, security, and adaptability. It is a great time to be in the payments and fintech world.
The ecosystem’s stakeholders, including banks and big-scale payment providers, are flexing their innovation muscles to make the entire payments ecosystem more seamless, secure, and safer
How do you perceive the evolution of the digital payments ecosystem in India? What are the payments and FinTech market trends that you observe?
The accelerated growth of the fintech ecosystem can be attributed to several aspects of the ecosystem coming together at the right time. First and foremost, there is more innovation happening in the segment. The ecosystem’s stakeholders, including banks and big-scale payment providers, are flexing their innovation muscles to make the entire payments ecosystem more seamless, secure, and safer. This starts with merchant onboarding that allows merchants that want to accept digital payment solutions, have a point-of-sale (POS) device, or accept payments from a website, to do so today without physically meeting a salesperson, and continues with the ongoing launch of new capabilities.
The stakeholders of the whole digital ecosystem have come together to drive massive growth. Whether a micro, small, or medium-sized business, or a large enterprise, they want to leverage these service avenues and propositions to make their business more seamless, elegant, and safer. They understand the importance of going beyond traditional cash-based transactions to accept credit and debit cards, wallets, and UPI, because it provides convenience to consumers, creating a high-value experience.
Furthermore, great innovations are happening on the technology infrastructure side as businesses move from on-premise data centers to running everything from the cloud. The cloud provides businesses with more tools and agility, and they can make more investments with the assurance of running at a lower cost. Additionally, there are enormous opportunities in the form of APIs and microservices. Third-party organizations can use otherwise unused proprietary data sources to provide more analysis of the data, create new products, and add more value for consumers. All the pieces of the puzzle are coming together to propel the industry’s massive growth.
Fiserv is a global leader in payments and technology. One of the most recognized and admired companies globally, with $17 billion in revenue and operations in more than 100 countries. How do you use this global perspective to create more value in the industry?
Given the global nature embedded in our DNA, we learn a lot from different markets across the globe, including our headquarters in the US. We closely study and analyze how everything from cloud-based technologies to digital banking, card issuance, mobile banking, POS systems, and different acquiring solutions are used in each market and strive to apply the best learnings to other markets. From a local market perspective, we are incredibly keen on relevance. We do what is relevant to the local market. On that note, there are a plethora of opportunities for us to solidify our foothold in the APAC region.
On the merchant acquiring side, we are looking beyond the point of sale to deliver a complete business management solution that small business owners can use to run the entire business. This comprehensive solution will provide the merchant with world-class analytics and dashboards. They will get real-time access to information, including the revenues coming in, their expenses and costs, and much more. Such priceless information will help businesses make better decisions and streamline and manage their operations. We also innovate around connecting our merchants with sellers and buyers, marketing, and loyalty programs. We provide our merchants with a 360-degree payment experience and a more extensive network, where even the smallest merchant benefits from the data and insights that the network provides.
Similarly, we have a comprehensive view of banking solutions. For instance, we constantly endeavor to take our banking clients’ credit card issuing platforms to the next level. We do this through our service-oriented architecture and open APIs that help facilitate rapid application development, enabling new capabilities to be brought to market more quickly at a lower cost while helping to ensure local compliance.
How would you define your leadership approach? What are the guidelines or methodologies you follow to lead your team?
I believe in three major aspects. One is leading with complete transparency and honesty. I am strictly forthcoming and honest with all the employees, ensuring they understand the bigger picture. Secondly, I believe in empowering and backing my team to make decisions and telling them it is ok when they are sometimes wrong. It helps them be more confident. At the same time, my doors are always open when they need to pick my brain.
The third is my belief in a culture of a cross-functional workforce. I believe no single person or team can get the job done end-to-end. Success comes out of the collaboration of different teams. Being a leader, ensuring teams work together in harmony by understanding each other’s perspectives and complementing each other is a big part of my job.
Acquiring the right talent is a significant part of any team’s success. What do you look for in a candidate?
As a leading technology company, we obviously look for technical skills. But beyond that, I look for the overarching aptitude. Are they in for the long run? Do they have the aptitude to be creative? Can they figure out ways to get the job done? Will they raise their hand at regular intervals and say I want to do more? Enthusiasm and excitement are of utmost importance. They should also be able to collaborate with the stakeholders, including different functional teams and clients, seamlessly.
You have been in the US for over 19 years before moving to India. How would you compare the two markets and their expectations?
The bulk of my career has been in the US, with a lot of learning. I think a lot of the fundamentals apply to India as well. A consumer is a consumer. Their expectations, like yours and mine, are changing daily. And funnily enough, the expectations are quite similar. Be it an Indian or US consumer, they want it fast and secure if it’s payments. If it’s a refund, they want it to be issued immediately. If they buy something, the purchase experience should be exquisite. If it regards updates by the merchant, they expect those SMS messages and emails at regular points in time. End consumers increasingly want to digitize their daily life, buy more online, and pay with different payment methods. From that perspective, even the vision of banks in both countries about how they want to grow, digitize, and impart experiences to their customers is similar.
We have a great platform in the US called Clover, which can enable the acceptance of business management. We are following the same approach in-house regarding learning, carrying out the processes, discipline, development, and innovation. The same goes for inspiring our team to achieve more incredible things and bigger goals.
What would be your advice to budding entrepreneurs aiming to make their mark in the FinTech industry?
Be always open to learning in this unique ecosystem and have a spark of innovation. It is also important to envision and foresee the possibilities in the next five to ten years. At the same time, don’t try to plan everything perfectly, as it seldom happens that way. The curiosity, excitement, and backing of your own instincts can make all the difference.
Favorite Travel Destination: “I would say Alaska.”
Favorite Cuisines: “I don’t think I have a specific cuisine which is my favorite. I enjoy my food, whether Indian, Italian, or Chinese.”
Favorite Movie: “I am an aviation enthusiast. The original Top Gun is my favorite movie of all time.”
Favorite Book: I haven’t read anything recently. But I would say ‘The Goal’ is my favorite book, which I read a long time back. It tells you about setting goals in your life and achieving them.”