Visa, the global leader in digital payments, is collaborating with Hatch to launch the ‘Visa Fintech Initiative: Sri Lanka’ to empower local fintechs to build payment solutions that solve digital payment challenges and drive the adoption of digital services. Visa will also enable access for local fintechs to industry-specific engagements and partner networks
Visa Fintech Initiative: Sri Lanka, is a series of virtual events or webinars hosted by Visa and Hatch. Each webinar will focus on a vital aspect of digital payments and familiarise fintechs with Visa’s suite of products and solutions. Visa has worked with numerous fintechs from across the world, from digital banks, wallets and cross-border payment services to incubators and fintech enablers – empowering them to launch card programmes, certify their payment solutions, find the right partners and build on Visa APIs to create disruptive solutions
Avanthi Colombage, Visa Country Manager Sri Lanka and the Maldives, and Jeevan Gnanam, Co-founder of Hatch, share insights into the Sri Lankan fintech industry and what the Visa Fintech Initiative: Sri Lanka hopes to achieve.
Can you give us an overview of Visa Sri Lanka and how it is helping to transform the payment ecosystem in a digital era?
Avanthi: Visa has been operating in Sri Lanka for almost 35 years now, with the introduction of ATM transactions. To strengthen the Sri Lankan digital payments ecosystem, we opened our office here in 2016 and have a dedicated, growing team in Sri Lanka to better support our partners, clients and the ecosystem in this transformational journey.
Visa is deeply entrenched in the growth story of Sri Lankan digital payments. As the global leader in digital payments, we believe innovation allows us to enable money movement for everyone, everywhere and needs a favourable thriving environment to flourish. Working closely with clients, merchants and the regulator, we pioneered Contactless payments, QR payments (as well as supporting international transactions), and Network-led P2P (peer-to-peer) payment services and have empowered our clients with superior fraud detection and monitoring tools. As consumers use digital payments increasingly, Visa continues to empower them with top-class payment products and solutions to make their experience safe, convenient and secure.
Tell us about the Visa products and solutions you intend to introduce to the Sri Lankan fintech and startup community.
Avanthi: Fintechs are no strangers to Visa, and we have had a slew of focused programmes for the community over the years. Most recently, PAYable became a part of our Acceptance Fast Track Programmes in the Asia Pacific. Now through the Visa Fintech Initiative: Sri Lanka, we are bringing a more interactive experience of Visa’s products and solutions to fintechs and strive to showcase the suite of products from Visa that can help enhance their propositions. Some of them are:
E-commerce: Visa has a wide range of payment solutions for eCommerce merchants through its subsidiary, Cybersource. These webinars will introduce Cybersource’s capabilities and dive deep into its suite of solutions. With these solutions, Sri Lankan eCommerce merchants stand to gain several options to process local and international payments while offering a seamless experience to consumers. Further, Cybersource also has payment solutions for physical payments, such as QR code payments.
BNPL: A trending phenomenon in fintech is the concept of Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL), where consumers can split their purchases into convenient, deferred payment options. This offers several benefits for all stakeholders – merchants benefit from higher value sales, and customers enjoy greater flexibility in splitting their purchases. With its expertise, Visa can enable fintech partners to implement BNPL into their solutions rapidly. Some notable Indian fintech startups which have partnered with Visa for its BNPL solutions are Slice and LazyPay
Visa Direct: Another capability from Visa that fintechs learn about at these webinars is Visa Direct, a real-time payments network for businesses and person-to-person (P2P) payments. Since its launch, Visa Direct has helped institutions and fintechs alike to allow their customers to transfer funds to and from their debit accounts easily. Today, Visa Direct supports several fintech use cases such as P2P payments, settling credit card bills, loading digital wallets using debit cards, or any other form of push payment.
Value Added Services: Visa also offers several services for partners to leverage its data and expertise in digital payments. These services help companies prevent fraud while also improving their operational efficiency. A notable example of Visa’s risk management capabilities is its solutions that allow merchants, issuers, and fintechs to set clear fraud detection rules – such as detecting unusual patterns and restricting card activity or flagging them for issuers to act upon in real to near-real time.
Can you highlight the use cases for each of these products and solutions?
Avanthi: While we have highlighted some of the solutions we bring to fintechs, some of our most recent partnerships in this space include:
DirectPay – who is our first partner in South Asia to launch Business Payment Solutions (BPSP). BPSP bridges the gap between buyers and non-Visa accepting suppliers, enabling B2B supplier acceptance.
WEBXPAY – has partnered with us under the Visa Acceptance Fast Track programme to expand the scope of the country’s digital economy by enabling seamless and sustainable digital payment acceptance solutions for small and medium businesses (SMBs) across the island.
Under the Visa Fintech Fast track programme, we are also working closely with app providers in the travel, delivery and telco space to enable a stronger ecosystem to further enhance new products, programmes and solutions.
Why is this the right time to introduce these to the Sri Lankan market? What is your outlook for the fintech/startup sector?
Avanthi: The fintech community in Sri Lanka can grow exponentially with the right tools and expertise and we feel that as a global leader in digital payments, we are well placed to do so. The Visa Fintech Initiative: Sri Lanka provides a boost to fintechs to achieve their goals of empowering digitalization island-wide while offering them access to Visa cardholders across the globe. This in turn will increase scalability for Fintechs and consequently rebuild and increase sales to and increase loyalty among consumers; all while offering their customers a friction-free digital payment experience.
As fintech look to insert themselves into the payment value chain, they can contribute to greater expansion of the local digital payments ecosystem and play a transformative role in the growth of Sri Lanka.
Can you give examples of how Visa’s products and solutions have impacted fintechs and startups in other markets?
Avanthi: In India, Visa has recently partnered with Open – Asia’s first neo-banking platform for SMEs and start-ups. We have enabled Open to launch a suite of innovative products that include a business credit card for SMEs, payment gateway acquiring and real-time payments.
Visa has also enabled fintech partners such as NIYO SOLUTIONS Inc. to bring highly innovative travel products to their customers. The fintech launched Niyo Global Cards to cater to the rapidly growing forex card market in India. It also launched the Niyo Benefits Card to make expense reimbursements and saving on taxes easier for users.
In Bangladesh, we partnered with TallyKhata in the second cohort of the Visa Accelerator Programme this year, to enable and enhance wallet and credit capabilities for small and micro-businesses. Visa will help TallyKhata partner with leading banks in Bangladesh to introduce Visa virtual cards for small businesses.
How are you planning to roll out your fintech/startup solution in Sri Lanka?
Avanthi: The Visa Fintech Initiative: Sri Lanka has been launched after a successful run in India. Visa aims to work closely with partners like Hatch to establish a dialogue with Sri Lankan fintechs and find synergies for collaboration and growth. In addition, Visa aims to provide mentoring and support to these organizations, to apply for its other partner programmes and accelerate their growth trajectory; chief among them are the Visa Fintech Fast Track programme, Visa Ready and the Visa Accelerator Programme. While such programmes will support fintech startups in different ways, the common thread is the support from Visa to help them overcome barriers and attain scale.
What is the impact or outcome you envision Visa will have on the fintech/startup community in Sri Lanka?
Avanthi: Visa comes with its experience of over 60 years in the digital payments and fintech space. We have not just provided solutions to fintechs but partnered with them to attain scale, service markets beyond their borders and partner with leading financial institutions across the world. In Sri Lanka too, we believe fintechs will benefit from this wealth of knowledge and solutions from Visa and over time, consider us as the partner of choice when it comes to digital payment solutions for Sri Lanka.
A few years ago, the fintech and startup industry was at a nascent stage of development. Where is the industry today?
Jeevan: The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the development of the fintech industry as market demand for their expertise grew. For example, the need for eKYC has accelerated digital adoption within the banking system, increasing the demand for fintech solutions.
However, while banks are increasingly digitalizing their products and solutions, a lot needs to be done to improve financial literacy and inclusion, and that is where fintechs can make a difference.
What are the gaps in the Fintech industry compared to other parts of the region?
Jeevan: There are big gaps in the market, particularly around what I call social inclusion. For example, not many people understand the concept of insurance or use Insuretech to look at the risk in their lives and health for themselves and their families. We also don’t see farmers using digital technology to manage crop cycles and nor do they use digital channels for their financial needs.
What do you hope the Hatch-Visa partnership would achieve?
Jeevan: With the Visa Fintech Initiative: Sri Lanka, we aim to expose Sri Lankan fintechs to global perspectives and Visa’s suite of products and expertise, enabling them to fast-track development. I think the Hatch Visa partnership is needed in the industry, simply because we can expose a lot of startups to the different Visa platforms. And that will accelerate innovation because Visa is a huge global platform player, any payment you make today is probably hitting one of their networks somewhere, or they are enabling those payments to happen. Getting that kind of perspective from a global payments provider for our startups is necessary and hopefully, the platforms that they bring, as well as the domain expertise they can share, would be hugely beneficial to the industry. Our objective is to enable fintechs, not to just scale but even go global.
This also ties up with the tech industry’s vision to build Sri Lanka into a startup nation. There’s an opportunity to differentiate Sri Lanka from the rest of the countries in South Asia and say, ‘Hey, Sri Lanka is a startup-friendly nation’.