AI & ML to Empower Digital Payments with Seamless Efficiency
In an exclusive conversation with TM Praveen of Opus Consulting, Faiz Askari of SMEStreet found some key insights of digital payments space. The interaction also explored the possibilities of AI and Machine Learning tools in this space.
In the last couple of years, India has witnessed a tsunami in the digital payments space domain. And now, we are looking at a lot of areas where digital payments can become more relevant and more efficient. In order to understand such market advancements, SMEStreet had an exclusive interaction with TM Praveen CEO of Opus Consulting, here are the edited excerpts of this interview.
Q: We are talking about AI-based applications on digital payment space. So what is your observation being a stakeholder in the market?
Ans: The western world is certainly looking at the trends in the Indian payments market. Our customer focus is primarily on U.S. & we are beginning to spread our wings in Canada & the United Kingdom. India is much faster at technology adoption than what we think. AI & ML powered solutions next, but my belief is blockchain is also going to pick up very soon. From a technology standpoint, large organizations at the end of the day want seamless consumer experience. So be it mobile or any other channel, the consumer should be able to have a similar experience across any channels of the platform. You can call it as an effect of Uberisation or something similar. How stuff works with so many technology options & such a large customer base, is not very clear to a large part of the world. But everything is very seamless. It is an eyeopener in India and you really need to have that. However, if you look at the other markets, the payment ecosystem is still evolving. In India, it is more of how you give a good experience and that is kind of the value proposition for everybody. But how do we go at the value chain that is going to be the key for now.
Q: Let us talk about the priorities of Opus Consulting Solutions. What are the areas where you are investing?
Ans: In the Indian market, we do not have too much of a presence from a customer point of view. We just have our operations here. Generally, in the Fintech or payments, one certain big trend that we are seeing is the entire aftermath of the virtualisation of payments. Today, everyone wants to look at a better consumer experience. Now you have to really know the systems, information, newer platforms, and newer technologies. There is a lot of fluctuation on all aspects, so, one important thing that we are focusing on is on Digital Payments. What I mean is that we are helping customers enable the systems/ platform/ cloud, making it API based and transforming it. We are also getting into a lot more micro-services so that the systems built are ready for rapid changes to make solutions scalable, with minimal architectural changes, helping our customers take their products to market faster. They are modified because there is so much evolution in the market. That is one big area that we are focusing on in terms of digitalisation of payments and then on the cloud/ open APIs. We are doing a lot of work in that space. The second area we are looking at is in terms of fraud prevention. Even with fraud, India has better controls in place. US is still adopting EMVs. It is a huge country, now EMV has come in and now suddenly the fraud has moved into the US e-commerce etc. Now with AI/ML, people are already looking at fraud also in real time. Some of the large things in the ecosystem are different, considering new technology. The cloud AI/ML, open APIs, Micro Services, are the three to four areas that we are readily focusing on and that is what the trend we are seeing in the market.
Q: As an organization, do you focus towards start-ups, because startups are finding these areas interesting and are trying to get into this domain, do you have any message for them?
Ans: Yes, the Opus Group has undertaken some angel Investments in the payments industry. We are open to small fundings if there are good ideas on the payments side. For the last 20 years, our focus has been payments, and it is most natural for our investments also to tilt that side but if there are good business ideas& opportunities in other domains, the group is ready to fund it, given that technology is evolving and every industry is undergoing a rapid shift. We have leveraged on a couple of angel funding opportunities of late. So yes, for start-ups that fit our vision & culture, we are more than happy but as I said specifically in FinTech, it is about what value they bring to the table. That is what makes it impactful amongst several start-ups.
Q: Now coming on to your India priorities, what kind of market investments you have made or what is the priority that you have for the Indian market.
Ans: The Indian market, as I said, is a very competitive market. There is a lot of FinTech happening. In the old days of Opus, we had our product Lectra card that we sold to MasterCard. We have done a lot of product implementation, for many banks in India, APAC and MEA. However, times have changed now. We already spoke about the technological progress India is making with Payments, given the government’s focus and push
For a company of our size & vision, we are clear that we want to focus more on American customers. India is our talent hub, I feel our location in Pune particularly, is ideal, and there are many FinTech companies and bank technology centre here, so we leverage the talent pool.
We have our business development engine, focused domain expertise in the US so that we can be close to our customers, and solve their problems in real time.
Q: So mostly, you have India as a development centre.
Ans: Correct, as I said, when I look at the market itself, there are a lot of things to be done generally in the US market and it is much more mature. It is a pretty huge country and a lot of innovations happening. Pretty much that is the reason why we focus on North America. I also said we are kind of growth in other regions as well like Canada and U.K. That is pretty much because of the customers out there. But India is mainly for our operations and development centre. We are trying to leverage the talent pool that is available.
Q: With regards to the Indian market or the digital payments market itself, security has been a critical element. So a lot of work has been done so far, but the threat or the cybersecurity attack or data breaches are also happening. With such a level of rapid maturity of cyber-attacks, how do you look at the whole situation? How do you look at the adoption level of digital payments getting affected with it?
Ans: Fraud is the biggest threat to the payments industry as a whole. I think it will take a while, frauds are much faster when something gets adopted. Much faster and easier to find out new ways to break into the whole system itself. Pretty much we are looking at saying that hopefully, the entire AI/ML space or technology could try to at least solve some of the fraud related issues. I mean that is the trend that we are seeing but I think that it is going to take at least two or three more years to figure out. AI&ML are mature but our customers are still evaluating their data strategy. Successful AI & ML-based outcome needs a lot more data, so I think our view is that it should be a good solution from the market perspective but it is going to take a while. Two or three years down the line, in terms of the frauds, at least some degree or level of the acceptance, rather than the way it has been calculated, from a customer-focused perspective. But I think that is a major threat for all payments companies. When I talk to customers, even some of them don’t want to move the platform in the cloud. They know it will lower the costs, but they don’t want to do it, because they are worried at the end of the day about how it is going to happen, what is going to happen. Certainly, it is worrying and I am hoping to change soon.