We are committed to growing digital payments in India: Manasi Narasimhan, Mastercard

VP, Marketing & Communications, South Asia, Mastercard, explains how they are getting Indians to make the behaviour change from cash to digital by educating the merchant too

e4m by Simran Sabherwal
Updated: Dec 18, 2018 8:03 AM
Manasi Narsimhan

In a bid to build awareness, accelerate digital payments and build a less-cash India, global payments & technology company Mastercard roped in Indian cricketer Mahendra Singh Dhoni as the ambassador for its recent cash-to-digital campaign. The campaign was aimed to educate consumers and merchants about the convenience, wide acceptance, and safety & security features of debit cards and focus on driving debit card usage in Tier II and III cities. Commenting on Mastercard’s association with Dhoni, Manasi Narasimhan, Vice President, Marketing & Communications, South Asia, Mastercard says, “Mahendra Singh Dhoni is the epitome of what Mastercard as a brand stands for. Dhoni is somebody people look up to and there is no better person to deliver the message of cash to digital conversion than Dhoni.”

Dhoni partners the firm’s existing ambassador Irrfan Khan. Speaking on how Mastercard selects a brand ambassador, Narasimhan says, “Our policy and principle as Mastercard while signing on brand ambassador is that we look at people’s passion points. If you look at passions in India, there's no greater passion other than cricket and bollywood. We signed on actor Irrfan Khan and ran a very successful campaign with him that led to an increase in transactions  in Tier II and Tier III towns and also had a significant brand impact. We continue our association with Irrfan; we then layered it by bringing on MS Dhoni who typifies the other passion point which is cricket. So, we have both working together."

From Cash to Digital

Digital payments in India received a boost post-demonetisation. India still remains a cash-based economy as 95 per cent of retail payments in India are still in cash. However, consumer and merchant education efforts, and government policies have seen digital transaction grow significantly, and Narasimhan reiterates that for digital payments, the long-term trend is positive but consumers still have some concerns, particularly when it comes to storing card details online or using the card overseas. "A way to bust the concerns is continuous education from credible brands, such as ours, using very credible storytellers Dhoni. We have to keep at it because behavioural changes take time and we at Mastercard are totally committed to driving this behaviour change from cash to digital,” she says. Mastercard also works with the government and has partnered with leading e-commerce companies to drive digital payments. It recently partnered with Flipkart to drive payment, education and transaction for the e-commerce company. 

Educating the Merchant Class 

Another challenge is that many small businesses still do not accept payments for a small amount by debit or credit card, or charge a surcharge for these payments. This despite the fact that the government recently announced that for all debit transactions under Rs 2,000  - the bulk of what most consumers spend on a day-to-day basis - there is no merchant discount rate (MDR), which means that merchant actually have no cost in accepting a debit card payment. On its part, Mastercard has focused significantly on merchant education. "We have run a fairly successful merchant education campaign using Whatsapp. We had Irrfan Khan explain ‘2,000 se kam apka bhi fyada hota hain’. We created short animated and snackable videos where we explained the benefits of digital payments: that there was no cost, it is more convenient as you don’t have to keep change nor do you have to keep consumers waiting. However, the task is far from done and we continue to work with the government to educate merchants."

The Media Mix

Talking about Mastercard's media mix, Narasimhan says that as the objective of the debit card campaign is to first create mass awareness, then comprehension and then behavioural change. And for this, television is heavily used as she says, "it has proven to have the best track record of behaviour change of salience and brand recall”. On digital, she adds, "Digital is an increasing part of our media mix. When I say digital, it is actually vernacular content, partnering with vernacular content creators and this will continue to grow. We also use digital influencers to drive cross-border travel because that is a very different audience segment that we are talking to. We also use ambience media. The media mix really depends on the objective. We use traditional, digital, new-age channels like WhatsApp for merchant communication. We are open to anything as along as it works for the audience, works for our message and delivers us return on investment. Those are the only three criteria that one would have." She adds that another focal point for Mastercard worldwide is ‘passion-based marketing’, where it taps into consumer’s passion points to provide the best experiences, be it sporting events, music festivals and so on.  

On a final note, Narasimhan says,” As an organisation, Mastercard is committed to India. We are committed to growing digital payments, including over and beyond marketing, educating consumers and merchants, in terms of developing acceptance, developing the digital infrastructure. The huge opportunity of converting from cash to digital payments is something we will continue to be at the forefront of.”



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