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In an exclusive interview, Srinivas Nidugondi, chief growth and transformation officer and head of digital financial solutions at Comviva, talks about the growth of the company’s fintech line of business, the traction of the digital payments scene in the MENA region and how their Mobiquity Pay transcends from being a mere product into a platform, among other insights.

How has the digital financial portfolio fueled growth for Comviva?

At Comviva, we’re looking at financial services in a holistic way, especially with digital as the focus. We want to create a financially delightful world. And for me, that guiding philosophy is very powerful for multiple reasons. Firstly, the word “delight” itself has multiple connotations. The delight for most people from a financial services provider would be different from somebody who is unbanked. For us, it's about how banks or payment service providers, like telecom operators, can help in making simple and seamless payments, growing or investing money, or delivering a great user experience. But for somebody who is not banked, even opening an account itself is a delight factor. Similarly, merchants have different requirements. Large merchants would want to facilitate multiple payment instruments, while nano merchants on the street may require a QR code to accept payments digitally.

With these requirements in mind, we want to facilitate cost-effective solutions for different stakeholders, and I’m fairly confident that we'll take a leadership position across the globe with our products and solutions.

Now, the financial services of the fintech line of business for Comviva are one of the largest, if not the largest, in terms of contribution, and we've also evolved and tried to look at what's happening in the overall fintech area.

We’re expecting that in the next two to three years, this fintech line of business will double or triple in growth and significantly contribute to the revenue or profitability of organizations. The way we are looking at this is not only from our traditional focus involving telecom customers, who have also evolved and started providing financial services as a big line of business but also at the banking and financial institutions. We aim to provide various solutions that meet the digital needs of customers.

Tell us about Comviva’s presence in the digital payments space in the MENA region.

It's interesting how we evolved in the financial services space. Our main drivers have been two regions: the Middle East and North African (MENA) market and sub-Saharan Africa. Those have really contributed to significant growth. Now, we see a lot of traction coming in from Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent as well.

But if you were to look at the Middle East and the North African region, clearly, there's been a spurt and traction that we see for two reasons. As I’ve mentioned, a lot of telecom operators are focusing on providing financial services as a big line of business, and this impacts financial inclusion. Moreover, both telecom operators and banks are also looking at providing digital services for the evolved customer segments.

This is influenced by the increase in smartphones and access to available data. A lot of customers are looking for an improved user experience — the capability to buy goods and services. Building this ecosystem is behind the whole concept of superapps. That's where both telecom operators and banks are really trying to focus: ensuring that they cater to customers' requirements for payments and banking within one single app.

These are the two most interesting streams that are progressing in the region, and the Middle East is a fairly diverse market. We're looking at financial inclusion, and more importantly, the evolved use cases to propel significant growth for us, and it’s interesting to see how the whole market is evolving.

Mobiquity Pay is one of the leading digital payment platforms across the globe. What integrated services can telcos offer over this platform?

Mobiquity Pay, as a product line, has been in existence for a little over a decade and a half. And the way we've kind of moved and transformed as the market itself has transformed and evolved is something quite interesting. This is the reason why we don’t call Mobiquity Pay a product anymore but instead a platform.

I’m proud to say that we have achieved more than 15% market share in terms of mobile money in the mobile wallet market worldwide. We process around US$180 billion of money flow, where we have approximately 150 million wallet users transact on our platform and over five million merchants and businesses enabled on the platform. This covers Southeast Asia, Australia, all the way to Latin America and all countries in between where they are present.

Comviva has transitioned over the past decade and a half. We've been focused on various products and solutions, starting off in the telecom sector. What we’ve seen is a surge of interest among telecom operators in providing financial services, especially to the financially excluded.

Where telecom operators are concerned, we’re looking at diverse customer segments, and that's where this aspect of not being a product but a platform comes in. If a telecom operator has to address a diverse set of customers, let's say an underbanked customer as well as a customer who’s fully evolved and has multiple banking accounts and cards, they must ensure that they are able to fulfill the requirements of each customer segment.

On one hand, enabling a basic account for an underbanked customer to transact while, on the other hand, enabling them to connect different payment instruments — credit or debit card — on the bank account along with the wallet where funding is possible as well as the capability of providing an ecosystem of sorts including e-commerce, loans, insurance, etc. Telecom operators need a single platform where they can really provide for the diverse set of customers they will have. And I think that's clearly what's evolving out in the market, and that's why we believe that the Mobiquity Pay solution is able to meet the requirements of telecom customers, especially in the Middle East and North Africa.

What are your vision and expansion plans for the MENA region?

We believe that the Middle East — and the GCC region — is quite an interesting market because of the diverse customer segments, and the options in digital and fintech are clearly visible. Therefore, we assume that it’s going to hold a lot of potential for us, with the products and solutions that we have on offer.

One of the areas that we believe is really going to make a difference is the concept of wallets. But more importantly, the aspect of card processing — the ability to connect for various bank accounts — and ensure that there is a seamless payment experience — is what we really looking at. In that context, banks, fintechs and telecom operators are going to be quite active, and we'll be looking at the customer segments to provide for diverse requirements that are going to evolve further in this market.

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