Visa's newly established Bangalore-based technology development center is rebuilding Visa's presence in India, bringing fresh ideas to some older projects.
The center's first task is the revival of the mVisa brand, which previously belonged to a branchless financial services product Visa tested in Rwanda. The new mVisa will take the place of Modiva, a recently discontinued joint venture of Visa and Monitise.
Visa will rely on local ties to ensure the success of mVisa, which begins testing in September. More than 20,000 merchants are on board with the project, which also has the support of Axis Bank, HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank and SBI.
"This will help enable secure digital commerce experiences, tailored to specific needs of Indian consumers," said Rajat Taneja, executive vice president of technology at Visa and a graduate of Jadavpur University in India.
Taneja is helping build the technology development center, which will house 2,000 full-time Visa employees. While one of Visa's goals is to expand mobile solutions to international markets, leveraging local developers and business partners creates a distinct perspective on demand, plus it brings fresh talent with a perspective that can spot different opportunities, Taneja said.
"India has fast become one of the world's eminent technology epicenters with an impressive pool of technology talent," Taneja said. "In addition to our recruitment efforts, we look forward to engaging with established technology leaders, financial institutions, merchants and the vibrant startup community."
Visa discontinued the Movida program to work directly with banks on mobile payments initiatives in India, and is no longer working with Monitise. Monitise did not return a request for comment by deadline.
The new mVisa allows consumers to take a picture of a QR code or use a separate code to push a Visa payment to a merchant, utility company or friends and family. It's the first of many new products that the card network hopes will come out of the development center as it looks to cut into the large percentage of cash payments that remain in IndiaTaneja said about 80% of Indian payments are still cash, and the convenience of the new mobile pay model can cut into that.
"Every market is different and local consumers need tailored solutions that best meet their unique needs," Taneja said.
For example, in developed markets, mobile payment technology focuses on enabling contactless payments at the point of sale; such products include Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay. In emerging markets, the focus of mobile technology is on migrating from cash to digital commerce and person-to-person payments, Taneja said. "At the end of the day these innovations create a virtuous cycle and can augment solutions in every market."
The Bangalore development center will build open application programming interfaces that are designed to make it easy for third parties to access Visa's commerce platform to build and test their own applications, Taneja said.
Rival card network MasterCard is also expanding its technology efforts in India.
While it's not absolutely necessary for a company to have developers on the ground in a new market, a local presence can be of great benefit, said David Bozin, vice president of business development for Bindo, which is working with partners such as Powa to market its point of sale technology in international markets, including India. Bindo maintains an office in Hong Kong.
"Launching a product requires a deep insight into the market and your end users," Bozin said. "These implicit considerations that a team has to bring to implementation are most easily derived by being physically present."
A local view also helps spot the startups coming out of a market, said Ben Wong, vice president of marketing for Bindo. Wong has worked in locations such as San Francisco, London and Hong Kong and has helped lead Bindo's Asia-Pacific expansion.
"In many Asian countries, the birth of a unicorn (a billion-dollar startup) often spurs development of further startups as other people try to replicate its success," Wong said. "This in turn creates more talent, such as Saas specialists, digital marketers and more software engineers. Many regions in Asia have traditionally not started out as tech hubs, but several successful startups have accelerated the development of local ecosystems."