When industry talk turns to the global potential for the payment facilitator model, perhaps no place generates as much buzz as India. 

During a panel discussion at PF WORLD 2019, expert speakers shared their perspectives on the Indian payments landscape, from what is driving the digital payment boom in India – including both macro trends and government policies – to what the future holds.

Moderated by Anthony Hayes, vice president of product development for Mastercard, the conversation included Vikas Saraogi, head of acceptance in South Asia for Mastercard and Sampad Swain, CEO and co-founder of Instamojo.

Saraogi set the stage by describing the primary differences between the U.S. and Indian markets – and what that means for payment facilitators.

India is a developing economy and a market that is maturing in terms of payments, he said. Without the legacy infrastructure that the U.S. has progressed through in a linear way, the country has leapfrogged to embrace newer technologies, such as laptops rather than desktop computer and mobile phones rather than landlines.

“The same thing can also now happen in payments, and I think is likely to happen,” he said.

He also discussed the similarities between the two markets. Those include the fact that they are large democracies, without the tight regulations of a market like China. 

“What that means is, whatever solutions are getting built in India can be made for the world and for the U.S., and vice versa,” he said.

Swain detailed the market trends that drove Instamojo to become a payment facilitator. Those include the fact that many millennials are drawn to become entrepreneurs and small business owners, as well as the rise of both the gig economy and the consumer expectation that needs should be met on demand.

The convergence of those factors “means everything should be simple, fast and cheap,” he said. To Instamojo, that meant that the traditional system for getting a merchant account no longer worked. His company knew it would be important to complete the process more quickly.

To do that meant moving beyond a legacy system with handwritten signatures and significant paperwork to onboarding new merchants in less than two minutes, he said.

Saraogi also discussed the role that the Indian government’s demonetization policy has had on digital payments in that country.

“We overestimated what it could do for India in the short run, but I’m very sure, if you look at 10 years hence, we will find that that was one of the watershed moments in the history of digital payments,” he said. 

“Because what it has done is change the consumer behavior, or merchant behavior, or changed the psyche of that consumer to move toward digital payments and move away from cash.”

Saraogi also said that significant opportunity remains for payment facilitators who want to enter India’s payments space. He pointed out that there are still more than 50 million merchants who do not yet accept digital payments. But not just any PF solution will be able to thrive there, he said.

“Firstly, it has to have a local flavor to the entire business model. It has to start ground up. It will require local partners … and secondly, a whole lot of customization based on the requirements from an Indian SME,” he said.