Raahil Chopra
Nov 17, 2016

Credit card purchases will go up with digital penetration, says Mastercard’s Parag Bhatnagar

The VP of marketing for South Asia discusses core audience, manifestations of the 'priceless' proposition and collaborative campaigns

Credit card purchases will go up with digital penetration, says Mastercard’s Parag Bhatnagar
In July this year, Mastercard’s logo underwent a change. According to Parag Bhatnagar, VP – marketing, Mastercard South Asia, the global re-branding exercise was designed to make Mastercard 'more embedded in the digital payment space'. After all, that is where consumers are headed, including in India, noted the spokesperson.
Four months after the re-branding, an opportunity for Mastercard and other players in the digital payments space has come up in India, according to Bhatnagar, with prime minister Narendra Modi announcing demonetisation of old Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes.

Backing the move in conversation with Campaign India, Bhatnagar said, “We are appreciative and support the prime minister’s move regarding demonetisation. We believe it will grow the economy and reduce related issues with the cash form. It’s a bold action and it’s a step to position India as a cashless and digital economy. We are committed to work with the government and ecosystem.”

While it is too early to track higher usage of cards since the move effective 9 November, the marketer noted that one could expect a surge in debit card usage. Given the reported shortage of cash and specifically Rs 100 notes, that is quite expected.
The urban, affluent Indian
Mastercard’s focus remains on the urban affluent segment in India when it comes to credit cards, informed Bhatnagar. 
He added, “At Mastercard in India, we are building brand imagery, engagement and driving transactions in tier one cities where the card penetration is fairly healthy. The affluent urban Indian is looking for experiences right now. At Mastercard, our core brand philosophy and ethos is about creating 'priceless' possibilities and connecting people to them. So, our whole value proposition is about delivering those possibilities to the affluent Indian.”
Metros still contribute 80 per cent of the revenue (from credit cards), but the non-metro volumes are growing. The spokesperson explained, “Credit card transactions are mostly happening in urban areas, but non-metros are beginning to pick up on this trend too. It’s a growing phenomenon. The e-commerce startup infrastructure which has penetrated to tier two and three cities has helped. People are getting excited about making purchases online. Having said that, there are still a fair amount of purchases that are happening on COD. But as penetration of digital grows, we are pretty confident at Mastercard that consumers will continuously start enjoying the benefit of credit card purchases too. We can’t put a certain growth factor since it's a fast evolving category. People are changing habits as they embrace technology and electronic payments.”
e-Commerce a contributor 
The marketer noted that e-Commerce transactions, especially in the tier one and two cities, are growing at a healthy pace. Are e-commerce transactions accompanied by safety concerns? Not anymore, if Bhatnagar is to be believed.
“In the last four or five years, the whole digital ecosystem has mushroomed fantastically well. Digital wallets, usage of smart phones, have made people comfortable with respect to electronic transactions. At Mastercard, safety and security are core principles on which the whole network is built upon. We hold it as a value proposition not only for card holders but also for partners (issuers and merchant partners),” he noted.
Collaborative campaigns
What was ‘For everything else there’s Mastercard’ has been transformed to just ‘Priceless’ over the years. Mastercard looks to provide customers curated 'priceless experiences that money can’t buy', noted Bhatngar. 
He elaborated, “’Priceless’ is for us on multiple formats – ‘Priceless Cities’, ‘Priceless Causes’, ‘Priceless Specials’ and ‘Priceless Surprises’. These are curated and specific experiences that money can’t buy. These are brand platforms available to us around the world and a lot of our sponsorship assets are embedded into these. We are looking towards building brand experiences.”
Mastercard partnered with HDFC in 2015 for the #PowerofOne campaign and followed it this year with #CelebrateHERoes.
On collaborative campaigns, Bhatnagar said, “Mastercard is in a four-party working model. Issuers and partners are an integral part of the working ecosystem. So, as and when a relevant opportunity comes up with any issuing partner, we are open with working with them. We work on multiple B2B campaigns on a relevant basis. We had one with HDFC this year. We have been very honoured and excited to partner with them twice. We had a campaign last year as well themed around Independence Day and we celebrated the #PowerofOne. This year we further evolved it to celebrate heroes who empower women in the everyday life.”
He added, “Travel is very important to the Indian card holder.  The data suggests Indians are gravitating to international travel. In the past we had a campaign with Anil and Sonam Kapoor where we partnered with the Singapore Tourism Board (March 2016). Going ahead, we got a wonderful opportunity to partner with YRF for its upcoming release, Befikre.”

He explained the rationale: “The consumer insight we had is that if you travel with known people or new people, you discover something new within each other and it transforms you. This is integrated with the theme of the movie as well and we are extremely excited to get Ranveer (Singh) and Vaani (Kapoor) into this theme. The campaign is designed to build engagement with card holders. We ask them to share stories about how travel has transformed them and one or two of them will get a priceless surprise at the end of the campaign, which is travel related.”
Campaign India