CEO Q&A: a conversation with Anirban Mukherjee from PayU India

What drives our company leaders to bring out the best in themselves, and in their employees? In other words; what really makes them tick? In this Q&A we ask ten big questions to Anirban Mukherjee, CEO at PayU India.

PayU is the payments and fintech business of Prosus, and its vision is to build a world without financial borders where everyone can prosper. This drives everything PayU does, from investing in technology entrepreneurs to offering credit to underserved individuals, to helping merchants buy, sell and operate online. PayU reaches more than 2.5 billion people in 50+high growth markets, providing the financial services and products they need to thrive.
As India’s leading online payments solutions provider, PayU empowers a wide variety of businesses through its cutting-edge, award-winning technology. PayU’s credit arm provides affordable loans to millions of first-time borrowers that would otherwise not have access to formal credit. By supporting entrepreneurship and increasing access to financial inclusion for both businesses and individuals, PayU is helping to grow the Indian economy. In its next phase of growth, PayU aims to develop a full-fintech ecosystem in India providing multiple digital financial services in one integrated experience.

  1. What problem/societal need are you trying to solve? Why is your approach unique?

"We hear a lot about the success of the Indian internet and digital growth story. But even as recently as 2019, with 700 mn internet users in India, only 11% were comfortable shopping online. Of these, the majority preferred paying cash on delivery. The current pandemic has made people and businesses more open to e-commerce and digital payments, but sustaining this momentum requires a trustworthy, reliable payments infrastructure -- especially for India’s 63 million SMEs. This is where we at PayU come in.
Many Indian businesses and people use informal or traditional payment and credit methods, which aren’t the best solutions to their problems. Our payment arm provides safe, efficient, and convenient payment methods that help businesses transition from offline to digital payments. Our credit arm provides affordable loans to millions of first-time borrowers who might not have access to formal credit. By supporting entrepreneurship at the bottom of the pyramid and increasing access to financial inclusion for both businesses and individuals, we at PayU are helping grow the economy. An incredible example is how one micro-business which deals with mostly rural customers was able to increase its revenues when PayU improved its rate of successful transactions.
At the heart of our approach is our vision to respond to the unique needs of the Indian market by developing one platform which meets all the financial needs of consumers and merchants throughout their lifecycle. We all know that the vast majority of India’s businesses and citizens might not have the resources or may not know how to deal with multiple financial or payments products. So we aim to be the one platform that anybody in India can trust and use to meet all their payments needs. An aim, by the way, in which we are succeeding."

  1. What or who inspired you to join PayU?

"My decision to join PayU was driven by two main reasons. One, of course, is the exceptional growth of fintech in India and the vast opportunities that exist in this space. It is the most exciting place to be for me. The opportunity to be involved in this action, to develop innovative products and lead businesses is immensely exciting. I could not pass up the opportunity to drive truly impactful change which would further both, the country’s digital and financial inclusion agenda.
The second reason was PayU itself. As a company, PayU strongly encourages entrepreneurial thinking and innovation. Despite being one of the largest fintech and payments companies in the world, it’s amazing that PayU still manages to retain the nimbleness of a start-up. It is also a truly “glocal” company, with a global reach but very responsive to local needs. I believe these attributes put PayU in a unique position to make a significant meaningful impact in every country, especially India. So, when the opportunity came to join PayU’s global leadership team, it felt like the right next step in my journey."

  1. What has been the hardest challenge and the most pleasant surprise along the way?

 "Fintech is a complex sector. The regulations are forever evolving, and it is important for us to stay compliant and maintain trust. Data security is the top concern and the cost of making a mistake is huge. Earning and keeping customer trust is an ongoing exercise. Building world-class platforms at a fraction of global costs to provide viable price points and solutions for everyone is also a fundamental business challenge. Balancing all these practical realities, while ensuring that we continue to innovate and deliver for the customer, to my mind is the hardest challenge. But that’s what makes this space so interesting.
We all know that for a company to achieve success, having a supportive team and thriving work culture is essential. What pleasantly surprised me when I joined PayU was how every leader and team member lived by these values and were completely aligned with each other and the vision of the company. Everyone pulls together as a team. What was even more surprising was how, at the same time, independent thinking and risk-taking was encouraged and supported. So you have this amazing culture where everyone is working towards the same goal but is allowed to do it in a manner that might be new or innovative. What you get then is an incredible number of entrepreneurs and a lot of entrepreneurial thinking at PayU. Think of it as a world cup winning football team. Everyone has a role to play and they are in charge of their respective areas, but everyone also works together and supports each other towards that one goal.
The other most heartening aspect of this culture is workforce diversity. Close to 30% of our workforce are women, and we are continuously working to ensure that we are the best place for women employees."

  1. As a leading technology company, what opportunities does PayU offer its employees?

"It is only possible to drive a leading company when it is powered by the right people, which is why PayU invests heavily in employees. Our employees get the opportunity to work at the very cutting edge of fintech, payments, data, and technology. Given our in-house talent pool, being part of Prosus is also an incredible opportunity to learn from the very best in this field. When you speak to our tech teams, you can see that there are professionals who are open to taking risks, experimenting and owning their work, which is great.
Upskilling is also a core component of our employee strategy. We want our employees to keep learning and evolving not just as professionals – which is essential, but also as individuals. PayU leverages its global network to ensure that our employees have access to the best opportunities to develop their skills, especially in emerging technologies. For example, we have a global AI Learning Strategy that helps employees build solid technical AI skills and get industry-valued degrees that make them more marketable. I think as Indians we place a lot of emphasis on education. It doesn’t surprise me to see many Indian employees taking up these self-learning opportunities."

  1. What are the future implications of the technology you are developing? What talent are you looking at to build this technology?

"At PayU we are actively trying to leverage the power of Big Data, AI, and ML to create next-generation financial solutions that are highly customised. This will enable more financial inclusion, encourage greater adoption of digital payments, and increase prosperity. To give you an example, traditional lending models are based on people’s creditworthiness. But how can someone even build a credit score if they aren’t ever extended any credit? More often than not, it’s women, or marginalised communities, that remain underserved by traditional, formal channels. PayU’s technology seeks to change this status quo. At our credit business, for example, we are using robust algorithms and technology to assess the creditworthiness of individuals who have never taken a loan. These could be women, small traders, or fledgeling entrepreneurs. Bringing such people into the fold of formal credit solutions is a powerful, impactful development for the country, and it is gratifying to know that you’re helping to create this positive change.
To fully leverage these technologies, PayU has focused on hiring the best global talent in these fields. We have a clearly defined strategy of developing talent in-house, by holding training programmes to upskill. We also keep our talent fighting fit with continuous brown bag sessions, product-theme-based days and hack days, which help keep their skills sharp."

  1. How do you stay one step ahead of the competition?

"We stay ahead because of PayU’s tech stack, which helps us offer market-leading products to merchants. Our in-house talent and its iterative approach towards our tech capabilities ensure that our products remain robust and ahead of the curve. As a result, we have been able to build one of the most stable and scalable platforms in the country which caters to about 4.5 lakh businesses. User centricity is a thread that runs across all our solutions. We invest great time and effort to listen and respond to the pain points that our partner merchants face. We develop solutions in-house and strive to innovate and develop better products for our partners. To do this, we have partnered with and brought on-board some of the best talents in the industry."

  1. What top tips for success would you give to upcoming tech start-ups?

"My advice is that it’s all about the core product which must solve a fundamental pain point of the customer you are trying to serve — and they will only adopt when your product is 10x better and easy to adopt. This is something that we take very seriously at PayU. As a payments and fintech company, we continuously work to embed cutting-edge tech in all PayU operations. This we do to improve the end-to-end merchant experience.  Also, PayU’s success — since the beginning — has been based on its ability to anticipate, innovate and bring new products to the market.
My second tip would be about culture. We have seen that developing a product and tech-oriented company culture is crucial if you’re going to succeed. So, PayU’s ‘product first’ culture has enabled our employees to come up with the best solutions that have helped us scale rapidly. We are proud to have built an environment where product associates, engineers, data scientists and other employees can brainstorm, test the market needs and create great products that suit these needs."

  1. As a part of Prosus, how has the group helped your business to flourish?

"Prosus is a global consumer internet group and one of the largest tech investors in the world. It has a proven track record of using technology to solve large problems and takes a very long-term view of opportunities. As a strategic investor as well as an operator, Prosus has nurtured PayU through different business stages. As our parent company, it has helped us tap into a global network of experts across a range of subjects like legal and compliance, AI and ML, privacy and cybersecurity, and communication and public policy. Prosus has also guided us in developing principles for our core values. Prosus has been one of the biggest and earliest backers of India’s internet economy. As a group, it has fuelled PayU’s ambition to build local business backed by global scale. In turn, PayU has adopted Prosus’ belief of building leading companies that empower people and enrich communities. That’s a powerful vision to be part of!"

  1. How will digital payment technology impact our future?

"India’s demographic dividend is its greatest advantage. There are millions of millennials who are now migrating to digital and mobile-first platforms. They want access to state-of-the-art digital payment infrastructure. So when I say infrastructure, which represents what their generation is all about, it means convenience, speed, safety and security -- all of which PayU is well-equipped to address.
Globally, we can see that the digital payments sector is going through a rapid state of transformation, with the help of AI, advanced analytics and IoT. These trends will shape the future of digital transactions in India as well. They will give rise to the Internet of Payments, where emerging tech such as wearables and blockchain will be adopted at a wider scale to improve lives. Eventually, this will also result in better-functioning businesses. So, more people will use formal financial services because they would be more accessible. More Indians will be insured and they will have better access to credit and financial planning. Most importantly, they will have convenient payment options." 

  1.  What is your favourite city to visit and why?

"Udaipur in India and Washington DC in the United States. Udaipur because of the rich history, culture and great architecture. DC because of the museums and the cherry blossoms. Plus, I lived there some days of the week for many years during a formative stage of my life. The cultural and intellectual melting pot I experienced there was amazing."


About Prosus:

Prosus is a global consumer internet group and one of the largest technology investors in the world. Operating and investing globally in markets with long-term growth potential, Prosus builds leading consumer internet companies that empower people and enrich communities.

The group is focused on building meaningful businesses in the online classifieds, food delivery, payments and fintech, and education technology sectors in markets including India, Russia, and Brazil. Through its ventures team, Prosus invests in areas including health, logistics, blockchain, and social commerce. Prosus actively seeks new opportunities to partner with exceptional entrepreneurs who are using technology to improve people’s everyday lives.

Every day, billions of customers use the products and services of companies that Prosus has invested in, acquired or built, including 99minutos,  Airmeet, Aruna, AutoTrader, Autovit.ro, Azos, BandLab, Bibit, Biome Makers, Borneo, Brainly, BUX, BYJU'S, Bykea, Captain Fresh, Codecademy, Collective Benefits, Creditas, DappRadar, DeHaat, Domofond.ru, dott, EduMe, ElasticRun, eMAG, Endowus, Eruditus, EVERY, Facily, Flink, Foodics, Good Glamm Group, GoodHabitz, GoStudent, Honor, iFood, Imovirtual, Klar, Kovi, LazyPay, letgo, Luno, Mensa Brands, Meesho, merXu, Movile, Oda, OLX, Otodom, OTOMOTO, PaySense, PayU, Pharmeasy, Platzi, Property24, Quick Ride, Red Dot Payment, Republic, Shipper, ShopUp, SoloLearn, Stack Overflow, Standvirtual, Superside, Swiggy, Thndr, Tonik, Ula, Urban Company, Wayflyer, and Wolt.

Hundreds of millions of people have made the platforms of Prosus’s associates a part of their daily lives. For listed companies where we have an interest, please see: Tencent, Delivery Hero, Remitly, Trip.com, Udemy, Skillsoft, Sinch, and SimilarWeb.

Today, Prosus companies and associates help improve the lives of more than two billion people around the world.

Prosus has a primary listing on Euronext Amsterdam (AEX:PRX) and secondary listings on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (XJSE:PRX) and a2X Markets (PRX.AJ). Prosus is majority-owned by Naspers.

For more information, please visit www.prosus.com.

About Prosus

Prosus is a global consumer internet group and one of the largest technology investors in the world. Operating and investing globally in markets with long-term growth potential, Prosus builds leading consumer internet companies that empower people and enrich communities.

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