Contactless payments revolutionising the way people transact

by  — 5 May 2015

In an exclusive interview with The Edge, Rahul Joshi, Visa’s country manager for Qatar, talks about the trends in the card payments industry, what sets Visa, apart as a company from its peers, and what plans they have in the region and in Qatar in 2015 and 2016.

Tell us about yourself – your educational background, your professional stints prior to Visa and what brought you to Visa.

I joined Visa in 2012, as part of the Business Development team for Qatar and Oman. In 2014, I was made the country manager for Visa’s Qatar operations, and I am currently spearheading Visa’s growth in share and products in partnership with various banks in Qatar.

My experience predominantly lies in the cards payment industry, having worked for over a decade in this field, with banks such as Barclays, Standard Chartered, ABN AMRO and ICICI Bank. I have an MBA in Finance and Marketing from the Management Development Institute, one of the premier management institutes in India.

What are the factors that, according to you, set Visa apart from other such companies?

Visa is a global leader in electronic payments with a wide-reaching presence and impact in the industry.  Our foremost differentiator is Visa’s strong identity and global brand, which our stakeholders – consumers, governments, merchants and financial institution clients – associate with trust, convenience, reliability and empowerment. As a brand, we strive to give consumers peace of mind, a sense of control over their transactions and the freedom to enjoy their lives by empowering them to have more meaningful experiences and achievements.

We have secured this global acceptance and trust through Visa’s unique global payments processing platform – VisaNet – that has been the basis for our growth and innovation for over 50 years. VisaNet facilitates the secure transfer of value and information between each of our stakeholders.

In addition, we offer our stakeholders access to advanced electronic payment solutions through a range of Visa-branded prepaid, debit and credit products and innovations that deliver greater choice, convenience and security. For financial institution clients, Visa offers superior products and value-added propositions. While on the other hand, we ensure consumers enjoy the convenience of using our products at tens of millions of merchants worldwide, as part of our vision to be the best way to pay and be paid for everyone, everywhere.

Tell us three top payment sector trends that have shaped the sector in the recent past.

The electronic payments sector is seeing general improvement the world over in recent years. According to a study of over 50 countries (2008-2012) by Moody’s Analytics, commissioned by Visa and published in February 2013, consumer retail card payments alone grew by an average of 7.7 percent since 2003. In 2012, over 32 percent of consumer retail spending was found to be card based. This confirms the gradual consumer migration from traditional cash payments to electronic alternatives.

Some of the drivers of this trend include government initiatives, in both developed and emerging markets, to go cashless, and effectively drive gross domestic product growth. The Moody’s Analytics report shows that government adoption of electronic payments – debit and credit card usage – contributed USD983 billion (QAR3.6 trillion) to the global economy between 2008 and 2012, while bringing more citizens into the financial mainstream.

The new wave of technological innovation in electronic payments from mobile wallets to contactless payments is also driving a rise in consumer acceptance. Secure and convenient technology-driven solutions that allow for easier circulation of money are proving to be beneficial for all segments of society around the world.

Where do you see scope for improvements in the sector in the region?

Electronic payments in the Middle East have taken a turn for the better in recent years. Even so, there is scope for improvement, especially in terms of changing mindsets and helping consumers see the benefits of card purchases.

This translates into raising card acceptance in new sectors with high potential for card payments, such as small merchants and public transport networks. In addition, there needs to be greater intervention to bring about conversion of cash payments to card purchases at the point of sale in merchant locations.

Where does Qatar figure in your corporate plans? What is the market size of Qatar as far as Visa goes?

Qatar is certainly high in priority in terms of Visa’s engagement in the region, especially given the fact that Visa card spending is on a definite growth path in the market. The scope for rolling out innovative payment technologies is also great in Qatar, as it enjoys high penetration of online consumers and smartphone users who are open to adapting new, progressive forms of payment.

The growing affluence of Qatar’s residents additionally points at the possibility of the market emerging as one of the highest card spenders in the region.

What do you tell merchants and financial institutions when you are entering into a tie up with them? Why should they opt for Visa and not any other?

Visa offers the promise of safe, secure and convenient payments across the globe. We have charted out our successes by raising the bar in terms of innovation in payment solutions.

For merchants, we guarantee immediate payments, besides helping to improve customer experiences through innovative, seamless payment methods. For example, one of the latest innovations, Visa payWave, enables greater speed and convenience at checkout, which helps in increasing customer loyalty and sales. In addition, we have launched the Visa Explore mobile app in this region, which connects cardholders to all merchants that offer Visa deals and privileges, which adds to consumer engagement.

If you were to talk of Visa’s regional plans for 2015 and 2016, what would you say?

Over the next two years, Visa will primarily focus on driving new technologies and innovation in the region. Making a Visa payment is no longer limited to a plastic card at a physical retailer, but possible everywhere – with mobile devices, at kiosks, in subways and buses, and even for home deliveries. At our core, Visa aims to support our clients to offer consumers a safe, simple and consistent purchasing experience, regardless of where they are and what device they are using.

Contactless payments have been revolutionising the way people transact across the world and Visa will be looking to bring this to the Middle East region through Visa payWave. Visa payWave is becoming the norm at many merchant locations worldwide, especially at fast-food restaurants, convenience stores and public transport, but this trend is still to fully take off in the Middle East. We are positive that greater confidence in Near-Field Communication technology will change this perception in the near future.

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