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Google not interested in becoming a financial provider: Diana Layfield

LiveMint logoLiveMint 19-09-2017 Gopika Gopakumar

Mumbai: With the launch of its payment app, Tez, Google is looking to enter the payments space, riding on the success of the Unified Payment Interface (UPI), which allows people to send and receive money into bank accounts, Diana Layfield, vice president of product management at Google, said in an interview. Edited excerpts:

Do you see technology firms displacing banks in the payments business?

I don’t see that happening. The absolute core of our app model is to collaborate with banks and help them. We are the first one in India to launch with the multi-payment service provider model. We are working with four of India’s largest banks. Obviously, Tez works for more than 55 banks in India as it works on any UPI-enabled account, but our payment service providers are the four largest banks and we are closely partnering with them. So I do not see tech firms replacing banks in the payment space.

Will you look at getting into lending?

We will have no interest in becoming a financial provider as we think banks do a terrific job at what they do. If there are opportunities to work with banks in the credit space as the app evolves, we will be happy to look at that. We will be focusing on the technology space.

Currently, we have UPI, Bhim, Bharat QR, Aadhaar Pay, etc, apart from banks, payment banks and fin-tech firms. Isn’t there enough competition and aren’t customers are spoilt for choice?

The environment is very nascent for the payments business in India. For us, the competition is cash; not the other players in the system. Also, if you see the proportion of India’s economy that is cash-based, the potential for innovation is huge. We feel people need not be pushed. We believe in building an exciting app with enough innovation.

On different methods of payment, you mentioned about Bharat QR, UPI, Bhim—three of those are the same. Bharat QR is not yet fully operational, but when it does, we will support it on our platform. Bhim is merely an application interface on UPI. These are all things which operate on UPI infrastructure. We see ourselves as a neutral platform. Starting with UPI payment, we will bring other forms of payment to the table.

We have seen credit card usage is yet to pick up. Aren’t wallets and mobile apps far away?

I think it’s not going to happen overnight. It’s a long game. That’s why our commitment to this space is very long term. You will see ways of adoption. I believe there are people who find this easier than the others. But what we see with the rise in smartphone penetration in India, people will become more comfortable with technology. If you look at our Internet banking programme, taking phone and web technology to rural women, people are capable of picking up digital. It’s just a matter of time.

Literacy is challenging in some areas, but I don’t think it’s an overwhelming issue.

What are the problems in the payment industry Tez will look to solve and the unique solutions which you will offer?

It could be quite complicated to make bank-to-bank transactions. So we designed the user interface which makes it simple. You can make the payment quickly and simply and you can have a beautiful record of that transaction. The first problem we have tried to solve is payment—whether that payment is made to someone readily or whether it is to your family on the other side of the country.

The second problem is what we call proximity payment. When you are close to someone and pay someone in cash and you don’t want to share details and they are not in your guest book. We solved the problem with what is called cash mode, the pairing of phones and the transactions offline.

Third problem we have tried to solve is a clumsy online payment method where you will have to click out and go to other pages. You will have to enter login details. We have created a float which is beautiful and simple. You don’t have to jump a lot of pages and you don’t have to enter a whole lot of details. We are looking to provide more functionalities to merchants and users. For users, we will look at integrating cards, wallets and hyper local products with their interaction with nearby merchants.

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