Interview with Divyesh Dalal, Managing Director & Country Head Global Liquidity and Cash Management, HSBC India

1. What is the purpose behind HSBC Edge?

An International Data Corporation (IDC) study commissioned by Microsoft predicts that approximately 60% of India’s GDP will be derived from digital products or services by 2021. We are seeing our corporate clients rapidly embarking on the digital journey across areas from how they sell products, to how they engage with their suppliers. We want to be at the forefront of this digital transformation and help our corporate clients stay ahead of the curve when it comes to making and collecting payments, thereby enabling them to sell more and make payments more efficiently. The FinTech and startup ecosystem is buzzing with innovation. With HSBC Edge, we are looking to tap this innovation ecosystem and partner with startups & FinTechs to develop solutions for a set of identified problems.

2. Could you provide a few examples of digital solutions provided by HSBC to its corporate clients?

Our digital solutions for our corporate clients are built to enable a seamless experience for our client’s end-customers. Customers of one of the largest telecom operators in India can now make mobile bill payments effortlessly using the Unified Payments Interface (UPI), thereby reducing the use of cash. Other UPI-based digital payment solutions include movie ticket purchases at a cinema chain, airline ticket purchases, etc. On the payments front, our smart routing solution – built using the IMPS and NEFT rails – has enabled one of the largest microfinance Institutions in the country make instant loan disbursals to its customers, many of who hail from the bottom of the income pyramid. This again reduces the usage of cash and brings these borrowers into the financial system.

3. Could you talk us through the thought process behind the choice of the problem areas for HSBC Edge?

The problem areas selected are focus areas for our clients or us as their bank. Converting last-mile payments from cash to digital is a key challenge our clients face across sectors, which is reflected in our first problem statement on developing ‘sector-specific last-mile payment solutions.’ Both B2B and C2B payments are areas of direct relevance to our corporate clients business. UPI 2.0 and wallet interoperability guidelines throw open a plethora of opportunities. These are reflected in our problem statements around ‘Universal Payments Platform’ and ‘Consumer Payments.’ ‘Big Data’ as a theme was selected, since we believe we are now in the age of information aggregation and can add value to our corporate clients’ businesses by providing intelligent insights from the large amounts of data generated as we process transactions. While the first four problem statements focused on domestic payments, we also cater to cross-border payments for our corporate clients, which is reflected in our final problem statement.

4. Could you talk us through the application process for HSBC Edge?

Interested startups/FinTechs can complete the application form here. We will go through the applications and shortlist startups/FinTechs whose solutions we want to understand more in detail. Shortlisted startups/FinTechs will be invited to the Pitch Day, which will be held in Mumbai in the second week of December.

5. What happens to the startups/FinTechs after Pitch Day?

After evaluating the solutions presented on Pitch Day, we will look at selecting startups/FinTechs to partner with and support the commercialization of their solutions. We will onboard the winner as a partner to help us build relevant products. A PoC would be the immediate next step after Pitch Day. The products/solutions built would be deployed to solve some of the key problems of our corporate clients.

6. What kind of startups/FinTechs are you looking for?

We are looking for startups/FinTechs that have been operating for at least a year and have at least one customer. Startups across the world are encouraged to apply as long as they have a presence in India to help us engage after Pitch Day.

7. Given HSBC’s global presence, will the selected startups also be given the chance to commercialize their solutions outside India?

While HSBC Edge is primarily an India-led initiative, the solutions would also be considered for global applicability.