Synchrony Financial, a top consumer financial services company and the leading provider of private label credit cards in the US, and Let’s Talk Payments organized a meetup event in Hyderabad on January 13, 2016. Synchrony, which has a large center in Hyderabad, is looking to spur and nurture innovation in the city’s FinTech ecosystem. With the growing number of startups, increasing opportunities and major initiatives by the government, Hyderabad has the potential to bring in a new wave of innovation.
The idea behind the event was to provide a platform to connect the major FinTech stakeholders in the city under one roof in order to discuss and forge long-term relationships that would help in building successful startups. The event was attended by academia, large corporates in financial services and startups providing a full circle of the stakeholders that need to be involved in building a successful startup hub. Large corporates like Wells Fargo and Deloitte, academics from NMIMS, Hyderabad, Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship of IIIT- H Foundation, the recently launched innovation hub T-Hub and FinTech startups Jacota Financial Advisory and Technology, i-lend, Hermes i Network Private Limited, Paynear, Risk Edge Solutions, IPay Tech, Zessta Software Pvt. Ltd. & Pay Your Cash were present at the event.
The evening was kick-started by a panel discussion including (from Left to Right):
1. Amit Goel (Co-founder, LTP) as moderator
2. Avinash Godkhindi (Managing Director, Zaggle)
3. Carol Juel (CIO, Synchrony Financial)
4. Prof. Karunakar (Founding Director NMIMS, Hyderabad)
5. Chintan Chawla (SVP, Technology at Synchrony Financial)
With its varied global experience, the panel discussed multiple touch-points as to what the major drivers for FinTech in India are, the challenges in building up a FinTech startup, and how partnerships between established corporates, startups and education institutes is a central theme for a successful startup ecosystem.
The discussion started with how the booming e-commerce economy in India would eventually lead to technological advancements in payments and FinTech. Prof. Karunakar talked about the different categories of e-commerce while Avinash threw some light on how Flipkart, Amazon, or any other e-commerce giant looks at making the payment process smooth, how security and ease of transaction play a very important role in making the customers move from cash-on-delivery (COD) to card/wallet-based payments. Carol then spoke of innovation in the payment system in the US, how various technology companies have committed to the long-term in developing and driving commerce online. This was followed by Amit providing a real-life example of the ease of using wallets at some of the leading offline retail giants like Big Bazaar. Amit also emphasized the importance of educating the customer and the merchant as an essential part for driving wallets usage.
Avinash highlighted the need to educate people on the benefits and said that in their experience, users are not necessarily always only cost-conscious but also actually value the service provided. He also made a key point of how fraud rates are not being compared on an ‘apples-to-apples’ basis; while digital payments are actually aiming at replacing physical cash, fraudulent digital transactions are being compared with other digital mechanisms but not with the physical cash robbery that has been rampant. Carol then added points on how EMV mechanisms are expected to provide better fraud rates but that they would still need to be on the lookout since there has been evidence of sophisticated alternative fraud techniques being deployed by fraudsters in EMV-compliant nations.
The discussion then moved on to how the FinTech ecosystem needs to be developed in Hyderabad. Chintan was of the opinion that events focused on FinTech are not as commonplace in the city when compared to other centers such as Bangalore or Mumbai. He added that the ecosystem is now developing with the newly launched accelerator space and innovation hubs. The audience was enthusiastic throughout the discussion with various opinions on the state of FinTech startups in Hyderabad. Here are some of the major challenges that the audience and the panel raised:
1. The need for better PR/Branding
2. The need for more networking events
3. Better collaboration between large corporates and startups
It was noted that some factors—such as the availability of a large technology talent pool in Bengaluru, and the presence of 9 out of 10 financial decision-makers in Mumbai—puts Hyderabad at a minor disadvantage. However, that could change with the recent push from the government and corporates. Prof. Karunakar also spoke about how B-schools and engineering colleges need to drive courses on the lines of the requirement of the startup industry (similar to how Stanford has done in the west). In addition, Jacota Financial Advisory and Technology and i-lend (both FinTech startups from Hyderabad) spoke about how the major challenge they found in building the company was actually finding talent willing to accept the risk of working for a startup.
The panel discussion was followed by a networking dinner where a lot of ideas and views were exchanged among the diverse audience. The event was enjoyed by everyone, and we look forward to more of such events in the future.
About Synchrony Financial:
Synchrony Financial is one of the nation’s premier consumer financial services companies. The company’s roots in consumer finance trace back to 1932; today, it is the largest provider of private label credit cards in the United States based on purchase volume and receivables. Synchrony Financial provides a range of credit products through programs it has established with a diverse group of national and regional retailers, local merchants, manufacturers, buying groups, industry associations and healthcare service providers to help generate growth for its partners and offer financial flexibility to its customers. Through Synchrony Financial’s partners’ over 300,000 locations across the United States and Canada, and their websites and mobile applications, the company offers its customers a variety of credit products to finance the purchase of goods and services. Synchrony Financial (formerly GE Capital Retail Finance) offers private label and co-branded Dual Card credit cards, promotional financing and installment lending, loyalty programs and FDIC-insured savings products through Synchrony Bank.