Mastercard has introduced two initiatives to support the PF community in South Asia. It plans to launch an awards program and a payment facilitator council this year.

The global card brand announced the programs at a payments acceptance conference it hosted earlier this month in India.

Vikas Saraogi, head of payments acceptance for Mastercard in South Asia, said the event was the first of its kind. It was geared to the acquiring and payment facilitator community across South Asia, including India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Maldives.

Saraogi cited the PF model’s crucial role in expanding payments, particularly in South Asia, as the reason for hosting the conference now.

“Payment facilitators are an important channel to grow acceptance, and they can help grow in under-penetrated merchant segments and geographies by addressing some of the pain points of the SME market,” he said.

Mastercard has expressed ongoing support for PFs as a critical part of its ambitious goal to reach 10 million merchants in India by 2020.

As we’ve noted before on PaymentFacilitator.com, PFs are uniquely able to help distribute payments solutions to underserved populations globally, including within Asia.

Over the course of the three-day conference in Bangalore and Mumbai, 250 attendees from India and Nepal joined a deep dive into the opportunities facing the industry.

Conference presenters shared best practices as well as information about Mastercard resources that are available to PFs.

According to Saraogi, the new annual awards program will recognize payment facilitators for implementations or programs in seven categories: QR codes, NFC, e-commerce, new merchant categories, innovation, B2B acceptance, and South Asia expansion.

The new PayFac Council will be composed of leadership from payment facilitators operating in the region. The group will meet twice a year to discuss challenges and the support needed to grow acceptance in the region, Saraogi said.