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We collaborated with NPCI to allow UPI Autopay for users: Ramkumar Venkatesan, CTO, Cashfree Payments

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Technology has transformed businesses today while digital innovations have even touched people at the grassroots level. e-Payments are one such exemplary portrayal of how technology is evolving our day-to-day lives. However, what goes behind this revolutionary technology and how fintech see the future of the industry shaping up, is vividly described by Ramkumar Venkatesan, Chief Technology Officer, Cashfree Payments at an intriguing interaction with Express Computer.  

How are you building the payment infrastructure of today and tomorrow? Also, how did Cashfree Payments manage to stand out and get an edge over the competition in a highly competitive space like e-payments?

The digital payments industry has seen substantial expansion in India in recent years. According to the Press Information Bureau (PIB), the number of digital transactions has expanded dramatically over the past nine years, rising from 127 crore in 2013–14 to 12,735 crore as of March 2022. This was a more than 100-fold increase. The spectacular growth of this transformation was fueled by a variety of factors including new firms entering the payments ecosystem, technology improvements, customer convenience initiatives, and forward-thinking legislative measures.

Our API-first product suite is a complete and unified set of products that addresses a broad spectrum of payment use cases in areas such as Collections, Disbursals, Verification, Payment Risk, etc. This approach enables our customers to address their most pressing needs and rapidly expand further seamlessly. We continue to build newer products in terms of online and offline payments, cross-border payments, payments orchestrator, One Escrow, etc. We are indeed a one-stop shop for all our customers’ payment needs across all industries and domains.

Being a leader in the payments platform, our commitment is to provide the most innovative, user-friendly, secure products with the highest transaction success rate and uptime along with world-class customer service.

In your perspective, what are some major bottlenecks that startups in India face during their digital transformation journey? 

India is a huge market and growing rapidly. This presents a tremendous opportunity for all the startups. The startup industry in India has been witnessing a major boom in numbers with about 90,000 startups active in the country currently. With such a huge opportunity comes intense competition, which in turn drives the need for acceleration and acquiring market share. 

One challenge for startups is that they might have a digital presence for doing business, but not everything behind the scenes is digitised. When the company experiences growth and they scale its operations in terms of customer base, geographic expansion, and more, failure to digitise these hinders speed and increases the cost.

Companies might see their topline increase but ensure stagnancy or a drop in their bottom line. This may be attributed to the increased cost, reduced scalability in terms of personnel and resources, churn due to lower customer satisfaction, and more. Hence, at a certain point in the company’s growth journey, investing in digitising such departments reduces the turn-around time in various workflows. This enhances operational speed at lower costs.

Another challenge is deciding what to build in-house and what to outsource. Our approach has been to look at it from the angle of what is at the core of the business and what is not. What is core has to be nurtured in-house to differentiate from competitors. Depending on the available in-house expertise, using open source, allows one to remain vendor-neutral and achieve a better total cost of ownership (TCO). When it comes to other aspects, one can compare the ROI and opportunity cost to decide.

‘No Code Low Code’ platforms pose a lucrative choice for startups these days. What is your perspective on this? Do you think such platforms compromise the data security of the company?

It is true that ‘No Code Low Code’ platforms present a compelling proposition for startups. These platforms accelerate application development, enabling us to swiftly bring innovative solutions to the market. They empower teams to create and design software without extensive coding expertise, fostering agility and drastically reducing time-to-market. However, the pull of rapid development must be balanced with strong security. 

As India’s leading payments and API banking solutions company, safeguarding customer financial data and maintaining compliance with stringent regulations is paramount for us. We offer expert technical reviews of our merchant’s integrations to ensure that their integration using Cashfree Payments’ No-Code Low-Code solutions remains secure end to end. We also have the technology to go beyond our infrastructure and extend it to secure certain data belonging to our merchants that are outside of our systems.

Hence, the security measures these platforms provide must be thoroughly assessed. The key lies in thorough due diligence and partnering with reputable vendors that prioritise security.

What importance does cloud computing hold for Cashfree Payments’ business model and data management?

We currently run all our products on the public cloud which offers better data management, scalability, agility, and security. The cost of public cloud services is a significant factor and we do compare the TCO of running it in a private cloud. There will be a break-even point in the future where both options can be attractive. Beyond a certain scale, when operating one’s data center and the organisation to manage it becomes feasible, it has the potential to save costs.

Adopting a multi-cloud or a hybrid cloud strategy helps companies quickly take advantage of innovations happening in different clouds. Such a strategy will provide a better disaster recovery architecture. However, there will be a cost to make things multi-cloud compatible. This has to be assessed concerning the company’s scale and its specific business priorities.

As loads of financial transactions are done daily on your platform that require critical data of the users, how do you manage to ensure data security and secure transactions? 

At Cashfree Payments with over 3,00,000 merchants, we processed around $50 billion worth of payments and approximately 2 billion transactions in the last financial year. 

Due to the heavy dependence on technology today, it is crucial to ensure data security. To support this, we invest heavily in cybersecurity infrastructure, fortifying our platform with the latest encryption protocols, firewalls, and intrusion detection systems. All sensitive information remains fully encrypted during transmission and storage.

Security is baked into our product during the development process. It is continuously checked and fixed in every stage of the software development life cycle (SDLC).

We have an in-house security team named the ‘Paranoids’, and they are passionately paranoid about security. The team consists of dedicated security engineers and other engineers from different teams who have a keen interest in securing our cyberspace, processes, and transactions. They use a combination of tools and manual penetration testing to find vulnerabilities in our products as early as possible in the software development life cycle.

We have an active ‘bug bounty program’ wherein ethical hackers collaborate with us to figure out the strength of our security measures. If any security issue is found, we reward them for the same as it helps us look at our security framework better and make us a secure platform. 

Another important process we follow is ensuring personnel training and awareness. Our employees are trained to identify and respond to potential cybersecurity threats promptly. Although a fintech company, we keep in check our workforce to maintain a vigilant stance against cyber threats. 

We are an RBI-regulated entity and as part of that, we have quarterly audits of our products, infrastructure, and processes by reputed external auditors.  

What new features and innovations are you planning to bring out in the upcoming year?

We recently launched a ground-breaking new product in collaboration with NPCI that allows customers to subscribe with UPI Autopay through QR code. This supercharges merchants’ subscription businesses with seamless acquisitions and connected CTAs (Call To Action) for easy and fast subscriptions.

We have a unique Payments Orchestrator (Router) product that puts the power of Payment Orchestration in our merchant’s hands. It enables them to have control over their data, better control over the optimisations to optimal payment gateways and has superior disaster recovery. 

We have released modular and customisable Embedded Platforms for Payments, Disbursals, and Verification use cases. This will have a multiplier effect where our customers and partners innovate and offer a seamless financial services experience to their customers.

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