New Delhi: India is the 12th country where Samsung launched its digital payment solution Samsung Pay on Wednesday. The launch is expected to give Samsung the first-mover advantage in the world’s second-largest smartphone market where the South Korean handset maker has been the leader for quite a few years.
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Asim Warsi, senior vice president (mobile business), Samsung India Electronics Pvt. Ltd, spoke about the handset maker’s latest bet, and how the Indian unit worked for about a year to customise Samsung Pay for the Indian market by including transactions through debit cards and mobile wallets for the first time. Edited excerpts:
Samsung Pay was first launched in Korea in July 2015. Despite India being one of the key markets for Samsung, why did you not launch it earlier?
In the last few months, we noticed a particular change in trend for digital and mobile based payments in the country. We tried to understand the reason for new preference and got trends of other nations as well. We focused mainly on the barriers which were holding back people from going digital. We picked up the key themes centric to the Indian consumers — technical issues, security concerns and the lack of acceptability presence, and then integrated mobile wallets, UPI (Unified Payments Interface) and debit cards to Samsung Pay. The idea was to make in India for Indian consumers.
For a service like Samsung Pay, you need to have regulatory approvals.
Samsung, as a provider of the technology platform, does not need any approval. The issuers and payment gateways got the required approvals from Reserve Bank of India (RBI). The regulator works with them, not us. Some of the banks and payment gateways have launched Samsung Pay in other countries as well so they were familiar with the regulatory requirements such as the tech standards and the use cases.
So, what are the customizations that you have made to Samsung Pay just for Indian market?
In the last 10 months, or so, we have stretched much beyond credit cards; we have built the app around debit cards, wallets and UPI. These are not incorporated globally.
What about net banking?
Presently, it is not there in the first phase of the launch. However, we do have online payment service (or net banking transactions) in Korea and might later consider it for India as well.
Mobile wallets require credit cards or debit cards or net banking to load money in it. What is the reason you added wallets to Samsung pay?
It’s about what the consumer prefers. If you look at the rapid digital adoption, there is credit/debit cards on one side and there is wallets on the other and in the most recent times UPI; all these are on mediocre rise. In fact while these are anyways doing well, we know some recent policy changes which have only further fuelled in this direction. India is the second-largest mobile wallet transacting economy so it makes a central use case to integrate wallets with our platform.
Are payments using quick response (QR) codes possible on Samsung Pay?
Closed loop wallets have their own QR and since Paytm is the first wallet to be integrated with the platform so payments using its QR code is possible.
Will BharatQR also work?
BharatQR is a very recent development and if in future it becomes a popular means of payments we will definitely look at it.
Do we see Samsung Pay integrating face recognition and iris recognition features for Indian users in the near future?
I would say India is the market for all new technology. As a smart phone and technology manufacturer every time we have got new technology, India has been the fastest in terms of adoption.
What about services? Will there be over-the-top services such as utility bill payments that you would include?
That may be a possibility. In Korea, Samsung Pay can be used to take out cash from ATMs. So, if Indian consumers demand any particular service, we can look at incorporating that.
Samsung Pay will be available on your top-end devices. Why did you leave the mass market smartphones?
This is the first step of the full-scale launch. We will keep observing and keep our hands and eyes open to expanding our devices and offerings from Samsung. As of now, only eight devices will be supporting the app. To get Samsung Pay on the mass market smartphones, there may be a need for customization of the firmware.
How many users are you targeting in the first year?
We have not tied ourselves down to any numeric goal; our entire effort so far has been to get the service right. Our sense is that we have got a whole new payment platform with us and the adoption will be good. The numbers will aid device sales especially for those customers who were at a cusp of not having this device but wanting to use this kind of service will upgrade.
So, you hope to get the first mover advantage, and want Apple users to shift who have been waiting for Apple Pay?
I would not comment on any other handset company. It is our belief that more consumers use mobile payment applications on any device, the better it is for the economy and the country of course but also better for the consumers to get into digital payments. Once they start getting accustomed to different apps and passwords, only then will they realize that Samsung Pay actually puts all of it into a unified platform with greater ease and security.