‘Blockchain use far ahead of crypto’

New Delhi: Payments major Mastercard is providing data analytics and other services to its customers, giving the company information on everything from cryptocurrencies to small business operations. In an interview, Raj Seshadri, President of Data and Services at Mastercard, explained how data and machine learning (ML) are helping businesses recover after the pandemic, and why the recent slowdown in the crypto market is not a reflection of the potential of blockchain. Is. technology. Edited excerpt:

With newer forms of digital payments, is card payments expected to backfire?

The card business has a lot of room to grow in terms of both distributing more cards, spending on cards, loyalty programs and transactions that can be placed on the card. But if we go beyond that, we are also seeing blockchain, open banking, and new types of payments.

Do you expect contactless payments to decline when economic activity resumes and people return to work?

Two things happened in the payment and it happened in India too. Contactless payments in India have grown 15 times in 18 months. What we are seeing is that as the economy opens up, there is a shift towards digital. It is becoming ubiquitous. In categories like grocery and food, the transition to digital is more difficult as more people are shopping online than before the pandemic. In other categories like department stores where people want to touch and feel, we are seeing an all-encompassing approach, but digital is much more.

How has data analytics helped make digital payments safer?

We have card and bank portfolio data, but we also have macroeconomic insights on location, tourism and travel. We at Marketing Services use this information to build targeting models to help customers determine what their audience wants. We also use them in our cyber intelligence. We have deployed machine learning in our network. If you have a Mastercard transaction, we can detect fraud much faster. We have fraud, risk scores and credit risk insights. All these secure transactions.

Has the recent crypto bear market stoked interest in the underlying blockchain technology?

We do not pass crypto on our network. But we have 60 programs where we can help convert consumers to fiat currency with crypto. If a consumer is thinking about crypto, we want to stick with it, but in the right way. We are working with clients who are thinking about the application of blockchain and crypto. We are working with the central bank on Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDC).

There are many fascinating applications of blockchain that have nothing to do with crypto. NFTs are another example of a blockchain. We are in the early stages of blockchain technology. There is a lot of hype around it. The important thing is to recognize where the long-term value and utility lies.

How is India different from other markets?

Every market is unique, based on how the government of that country wants to develop the market. It is wonderful to see the focus on Made in India in India. During the pandemic, when payments shifted to digital, our data services helped many businesses. We went beyond pay and did things that had nothing to do with payment.

We founded Digital Readiness Diagnostics to help small businesses go digital, and worked with a grocery store chain in managing its supply chain. We are working with multiple airlines to find out which routes will open first, which consumers will be individually targeted with what kind of offers. We also worked with tourism companies in the US, Europe and India to provide tourism insights to help maximize the value of attracting tourists to the market. If you go to McDonald’s and order from a kiosk, it’s our intelligence customizing the menu for customers.

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