A bustling e-commerce industry in India has naturally thrown up a vast market for e-payments. Although the presence of a huge consumer base without plastic money means new modes of offline payment have cropped up, e-payment is certainly the way to go as the market matures. Techcircle’s Online Payments & Loyalty Conference, held in Delhi on January 20, brought together the who’s who of the e-payment industry in India and saw them discussing some key and defining trends in this space.

The opening session on Online Payments Infrastructure, moderated by Vijay Shekhar Sharma of the mobile Internet firm One97 Communications, brought out the current trends such as the big switch (read – credit to direct debit as a payment mode), the nascent mobile payment environment and the security issues which still prove to be a hurdle in building consumer confidence.

According to Nishanth Chandran, CEO and co-founder of EBS India (one of the biggest online payment providers), the industry has evolved over the past few years as compared to 2005 when most of the people did not understand what online payment is all about. “Today, the status has considerably changed. The bottom line is that we have to make the process as easy as possible for the consumers. Otherwise, none of it would survive,” he said.

Similar viewpoints were echoed by other panellists who emphasised that gaining customer trust was the most important factor in online shopping. “What has actually changed is that now the base of shopping for commodities is broadening. People are ready to take the risk, but they only buy from the websites they trust more,” said MN Srinivasu, co-founder and director of BillDesk.

Another big change has also taken place in the online payment space. Initially, it was a credit card-based payment system which did evolve considerably with the development of more pre-paid or direct debit options.

Vivek Nayak, COO of Avenues India, which operates the country’s largest online payment gateway through CCAvenue, said five years ago, credit cards had the lion’s share of the market in terms of payment mode but today, debit cards are taking over.

He also went on to share insights into other modes of payment – cash cards are just new entrants in the market while mobile payment gateways have failed to take off in India as of now.

“Debit cards and net banking exceeding the popularity of credit cards has got to do something with the Indian mentality of using the money that is visible in the account, rather than buying things on ‘credit’. Also, the number of bank accounts is not necessarily equal to the number of credit cards in the country and at the end of the day, convenience matters most,” said Nayak.

The panellists also discussed security issues related to online payment, which have been a bane for the industry. However, the recent initiative by the Reserve Bank of India to introduce a one-time password (OTP) has gathered mixed reviews. While merchants argue that they lose business and face flagging customer interest due to the additional step, the counter-argument notes that it is just one additional step to ensure transaction security, which in turn, will actually benefit customers.

Chandran of EBS said, “OTP is a good thing from the security point of view but it does irritate consumers. Ease of payment is what matters most and OTP adds up to the number of steps that a buyer must undergo to complete an online transaction. Also, numbers say even if one step is increased in the whole process, sales go down by 20 per cent.”

When OTP was initially introduced, the industry witnessed a dip in transactions, but consumers started to accept it as a regular thing for ensuring security, he added.

According to Nayak, the key lies in educating customers about the security aspect and how it helps the whole online payment system. Talking about the emerging trends, he added that micropayments and government payments would be the big area for e-payments in the future.

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