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Trust plays a crucial role in the easy adoption of digital payments: Rajesh Mani, SVP, Head of India Tech Hub, Mastercard

Mastercard's India Tech Hub plays an important role in supporting the payments innovations used around the world. Rajesh Mani, SVP, Head of India Tech Hub, Mastercard explains how the teams at the India Tech Hub work closely with their global counterparts to support the development of cutting-edge payment technologies aimed to bring about a cashless world

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What have been the key achievements of Mastercard Technology Hub since it was established in India?
The India Tech Hub has supported the Mastercard Group in bringing the digital payment solutions and technologies to life. Today, the India Tech Hub is Mastercard’s largest technology hub outside the US. Since its inception in 2014, India Tech Hub has made important contributions to building, updating and maintaining the payments ecosystem in India by supporting closely with global partners on cutting-edge payment technologies.
Our employee count has grown multifold from 300-400 in 2015 to over 5,000 technologists. Over the years, the Tech Hub’s capabilities have grown significantly and today it has talent across various domains such as operations and technology, cyber and intelligence, data and services to name a few.

How are you driving cutting-edge innovation in digital payments?
The pandemic led various sectors to embrace digitisation to meet the unexpected needs of customers. For example, before the pandemic, small businesses and merchants in India largely depended on cash. However, in the wake of COVID, micro and small and medium enterprises (MSME) adopted digitisation to stay afloat and benefitted from it by acquiring new customer and by an increased number of transactions from existing customers.
At Mastercard, through our collaborations, we’ve supported in making the payments ecosystem stronger in many ways. For instance, we’ve supported in improving the digital acceptance, enhanced safety and security and enhanced consumer experiences. As more and more consumers embrace new payment methods on e-commerce sites, and spend more time online, cybersecurity becomes critical to safety and security. Today, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are being leveraged to mitigate cyber frauds. At Mastercard, tools such as EMV 3D-Secure 2 protocols is being used to enable banks to ensure seamless mobile transactions, authenticate over 95 per cent of such transactions, and identify unusual transactions by consumers. The sophisticated AI in Decision Intelligence solution examines how a specific account is used over time to differentiate between normal and unusual shopping behaviours.
Further, support has been extended to enhance technologies and applications that facilitate faster, smarter, and safer contactless and real-time payments. From open banking, mobile wallets, and digital currencies to multi-rail solutions, Mastercard continues to explore technologies which it believes have practical use-cases across its payments network.

In which way is Mastercard India Tech Hub supporting global operations of the company?
In 2014, Mastercard invested $250 million in its India operations and set up facilities in Pune and Vadodara. Mastercard’s India Tech Hub plays an important role in supporting the payments innovations used around the world. These centers work closely with global teams to support the development of cutting-edge payment technologies aimed to bring about a cashless world.
The teams at the India Tech Hub work on cutting-edge tools and processes, supporting the global and regional technology and business teams. Teams at the India Tech Hub work across a host of services such as payment safety, clearing solutions, processing, payment gateway services; powering Mastercard’s digital, marketing and loyalty programs and enhancing the employee digital experience.

What, according to you, has been your (i.e. Mastercard’s) contribution in creating a safe and smart digital payment ecosystem in the country?
As more consumers shift to digital payments for more types of transactions, merchants have the opportunity to provide secure and seamless payment options that improve the customer experience and help create long-lasting customer relationships. Trust plays a crucial role in the easy adoption of digital payments.
It is a global priority of Mastercard group to deliver the global standards of safety, security and a best-in-class user experience . We (i.e. Mastercard group) follow a ‘no-compromise’ approach and have implemented multiple layers of protection to significantly reduce the risk of fraud. These include:

• EMV 3D-Secure 2 protocols allow banks to authenticate over 95 per cent of transactions
• Safety Net leverages global network to identify potential attacks even before the bank, processor, or merchant is aware of them.

We are also working very closely with all stakeholders in the ecosystem towards the implementation of Card-on-file tokenisation introduced recently by Reserve Bank of India that provides advanced security and reduces checkout errors.

As part of group’s global priority, we’re focused on protecting SMEs from cyber-attacks in the accelerated shift to digital caused by the pandemic. We’re doing this by leveraging our global network Safety Net which lets us identify unusual behavior and potential attacks before a bank, processor, or merchant is aware of them. Another acquisition – RiskRecon, monitor the cybersecurity performance of organisations using open-source intelligence by deploying passive, non-interfering techniques to discover organizations’ public systems and to analyse the cybersecurity risk posture of those systems.

How are you leveraging emerging technologies in this space?
Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), cloud and voice commerce are being applied across the industry today to build simple, safe, and smart solutions for consumers.
Mastercard group has undertaken strategic acquisitions in companies that provide cutting-edge technologies and brand-agnostic solutions for payments made outside Mastercard’s network. For example: Ethoca helps merchants and financial institutions collaborate in real-time to quickly identify and resolve fraud in digital commerce. Similarly, NuData and Brighterion use advanced intelligence to assess patterns of behaviour, detect botnet automation, and determine devices’ reputation to identify patterns of fraudulent activity and take preventive action.
While 3D secure technology improves authentication for e-commerce and m-commerce environments, algorithms powered by AI/ML proactively pick up any irregularity in the payment flow and alert a bank in real-time.
We are also enhancing our Tap on Phone product by introducing Cloud Point of Sale (POS). Cloud PoS empowers ecosystem partners to develop and implement their Tap on Phone offering, saving both cost and time.

As the new Head of India Tech Hub, what is your strategic focus for the future?
As the lead for India Tech Hub, I am focused on driving tangible business outcomes while enabling our teams and tech talent to achieve their highest potential. To this effect, I work with teams across our Tech Hubs to design and implement programmes that strengthen our culture of innovation and multiply opportunities for cross-functional collaboration and learning.
I also partner with global and local teams to build strategic engagements, driving alignment with Mastercard’s business and technology objectives. These efforts aim to enhance business impact, increase operational efficiencies across the hub and improve processes and systems that support the development of Mastercard products and solutions.
Last, but not the least, I focus on driving best practices to optimise talent attraction, boost talent development and enhance inclusion and diversity in the workplace and beyond.
My goal is to lead our journey to be one of the best and most innovative tech companies in the region while adding immense value to our employees, customers, stakeholders and society at large.

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