Global fintech and funding innovation ecosystem

Globalizing Fintech In Action: A Discussion With Harinder Takhar of Paytm

Forbes | Alex Lazarow | Oct 27, 2019

Harinder Takhar PayTM - Globalizing Fintech In Action: A Discussion With Harinder Takhar of PaytmFintech used to be a local game. Increasingly, fintechs are taking a global stance. In my recent op-ed, I covered some of the drivers of this phenomenon, including an evolution towards regulatory openness, the rise of fintech enablers and a shift towards a more global outlook.

To dig deeper into this growing trend, I sat down with founders of leading fintechs who have successfully navigated multi-market expansions. The first in the series was with David Vélez, Founder and CEO of Nubank, an emerging markets financial services provider. Today, I sat down with Harinder Takhar, the CEO of Paytm Labs Inc., and former CEO of Paytm India.

Below we discuss Paytm’s multi-market lens, from starting out in India, to expanding across Canada, Australia, Japan and beyond.

Alex Lazarow: Could you tell us about your business?

Harinder Takhar: Paytm was founded in 2010 and is one of the first digital payment platforms in India. Not only does the company offer individual transactions, merchant payments and point-of-sale systems. It now also offers financial products such as credit cards and the first mobile-first bank with zero online transaction charges and no minimum balance requirement. Paytm has also invaded the ecommerce space with Paytm Mall, event ticketing services, wealth management, insurance and digital gold services.

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In 2014 we expanded to Toronto, Canada and started Paytm Labs Inc. We began as a research and development division of Paytm where we’ve applied big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning to Paytm’s data assets to provide optimal financial products to over 420 million consumers and over 12 million merchants in India.

In 2017, the Paytm Canada application launched and offers a consumer-facing mobile app allowing Canadians to pay their bills using multiple payment options and the ability to earn rewards via their smartphone. We are a registered Money Services Business (MSB), which is regulated by FINTRAC. As we continue to grow our operations in Canada, we opened an office in Montreal in the summer of 2019.

In 2018, we embarked in a joint venture between Paytm, Softbank and Yahoo! Japan; known as PayPay. Teams from three different countries came together to launch a QR-based smartphone payment settlement service in Japan offered to both merchants and customers.

Lazarow: How did you choose your first market?

Takhar: It was a tough personal decision to relocate to Canada. However, once I officially received an invitation to immigrate to Canada, I could not pass on the opportunity for myself and my family.

Upon settling into Canada, both myself and Vijay Shekhar Sharma (Paytm Founder) agreed that opening a research and development division in Toronto, Canada would be in the company’s best interest. With the some of the world’s best educational institutions located within the province of Ontario, offering the best computer science engineering programs, it was a quick and easy decision for both of us.

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Lazarow: What factors went into the decision to expand? How did you know it was the right time?

Takhar: Back in 2014, big data, machine learning and AI were still gaining traction. At that time, the Paytm app had ~22 million registered customers. While we were able to identify the problem, in our case fraudulent transactions, finding a solution was trickier. This is when we knew that we must develop a system internally.

And, we did just that! We built an in-house anti-fraud platform that uses machine learning to identify fraudulent transactions. It provides real-time streaming data processing engine that allows small business owners and larger retail merchants with the ability to build customer risk profiles. The profiles can be used to create rules and render a fraud action recommendation.

Today, this platform makes up to 50 million decision points per day, and over 130 billion in transaction volume per year.

Lazarow: How did you prioritize your next couple markets?

Takhar: We prioritized by the individual opportunity in the market, and the readily resources that are available to us.

Lazarow: What was required to expand in the new market?

Takhar: Whenever we enter into a new market, we start with looking at the infrastructure. We focus on getting to the core of the problem, building a solution that works for that market, and then using technology to solve that problem.

Team perspective is also very important to us. We look for and hire individuals that have passion and ambition. So, whether we are looking for buy-in internally, or building a new team in a that market, it’s important for the team to emotionally connect with the cause, so that they can help build the best solution.

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Lazarow: What were some of the biggest challenges in expanding to new markets?

Takhar: Naturally, each market has faced its own challenges. The key is to not get discouraged, but to look to the end-user and solve the problem that you know will help to simplify their lives.

Lazarow: How do you work with regulators in your new markets?

Takhar: It is important to work with the regulators in any new market. We make a point to get to know the key stakeholders, build a trusting relationship with them, finding out what it is that they require from us, and showing them what it is that we are trying to build.

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