Pooja Ahuja Nagpal
Sep 17, 2012

“The internet gives people hands and feet to reach out”: Uttam Nayak, Visa

A Q&A with Visa’s Uttam Nayak and Shubhranshu Singh on the new campaign, the challenges faced by the company in India, and the interest in digital

“The internet gives people hands and feet to reach out”: Uttam Nayak, Visa

Visa Debit has released a new campaign called ‘Dream to advance’. We met up with Uttam Nayak, group country manager, India and South  Asia, Visa, and Shubhranshu Singh, marketing director, India and South Asia, to find out more about the company’s marketing strategy.

Could you tell us more about ‘Dream to Advance’ campaign?  What was the brief given to the agency?

Uttam Nayak (UN): Visa is seen as a tier 1 elitist product that is used by elite people. We actually have our products used by people in some towns you have never heard of.  We pulled out all the places where Visa card was being used across the country and they were places like Borsad, Baiora, Hapur, Dakia. Basically, there are people who are having dreams and aspirations in all parts of India and we provide the platform for achieving some of those dreams by making some of the basic requirements of payments happen smoothly, and reliably and securely. When you handle your money for which you have worked hard and it is very important for you and when you spend it you want to make sure that you are spending it for the right reason. These aspirations of modern India, the youth of India, the tomorrow of India are being met by our company and our product: Visa Debit card.

This actually reminds us that transformation is happening in the country; people are trying new things, and they are using cards for different reasons. Somebody is shopping on the internet, somebody is buying a ticket, or somebody is swiping a card at a merchant outlet. That is in broad our theme of the campaign. According to RBI, there are 300 million debit card holders, and a large number of them possess Visa only and they are across the country. And the country is struggling with infrastructure; in our business infrastructure is ATM and merchant point of sale terminals. They have not penetrated beyond top 10 or 20 cities. However, ecommerce is a magical solution, which you can use in every part of the country. Wherever mobile works, you can access internet on your mobile phone, and the mobile penetration is 800-900 million people according to TRAI, one third of these people carry cards. Therefore, these cardholders or consumers have the convenience of reaching out and shopping out on the internet like never before. The internet gives people hands and feet to reach out. This is the primary focus of this campaign reminding people that it is not just Gulzar buying a generator but each one of you can achieve your dreams to advance by sitting anywhere and you can dream anything.

Shubhranshu Singh (SS): Firstly, there is a clear and growing trend to suggest this momentum is picking up across segments in terms of population strata, across socio economic classifications, and the acknowledgement of the fact that the moment you have live access to internet you are set up to do things with your card. However, it is not galloping at the rates at which it is possible partly because of ignorance: people have not been told that they can use their debit card and that it has functionality to allow them to transact online. And also because people are apprehensive; it is not their habit to use the card. So that is why the point of emphasis in the narrative is when the younger brother who is obviously more aware of the world’s realities enforces that it is safe, and also coupled with the screen shot of verified by Visa.  Therefore, the idea was essentially to say we want aware as well as non aware cardholders firstly to go online and be aware that there is functionality where you can happily transact using your Visa debit card. Secondly, to reinforce the fact that being the world’s leading epayments Technology Company, it is safe and secure to do so when you do it with Visa. This is the genesis of the brief. Then to accelerate the momentum, we got into the process with BBDO based on consumer insights.

UN: Visa is an enabler of your dreams; the dirtiest part of anything you buy is payments because firstly, you are parting with your money, and secondly, it is cumbersome to look for the cash or cheque book. Visa eliminates the pain; even if it is the pain of parting with your money, it is momentary and is forgotten immediately because the joy of buying what you want overpowers it.

Which other mediums will the campaign explore? How long will it run?

SS: What we have taken care to do is to make sure that the consumer sees it as one seamless communication. So while we have an intent to get it on to other mediums, the plan is still being firmed up. But you can guess that since it is about ecommerce and the population that has loved it first in such overwhelming numbers is online, one aspect of it has to mature and flower in the digital space. We have other edits of this film; it has been dubbed in seven languages and we will go very strongly on TV. At this point, the media run is only for September as we have a year-end in September, we will then take a call later.

UN: We will have a multiplier impact on this campaign. Because it is ecommerce led and all our partners are looking at this category, they will ride on what we have already planted, and do adapts of it. This is the first big e-commerce above the line campaign for us and for the industry. I don’t think any institution or network has done an ecommerce led campaign largely focussed on tier 2 and tier 3 geographies.

The earlier campaign ‘Go direct’ pit the debit card against ATMs. What has changed in the last three years?

UN: It is a process of evolution. 1996- 2000 was the face of credit cards for India. We established the Visa brand very strongly using cricket and Sachin Tendulkar. All the leading banks launched credit cards in that period. 2000 was when we launched debit cards and said, “If you don’t have access to credit cards, you can use debit cards to access money from your own account. “ It was started by the banks using the ATM channel to say you can get cash 24x7, without having to go to a branch. That sort of migrated into getting them to point of sale. So between 2000 and 2003, people were focussed on ATMs which is not the right thing because the real power of debit cards is when it is a complete cashless transaction. There is cash involved in ATM.

2003 and 2009 was largely point of sale getting people to experience shopping with a debit card at purchase outlets. While ecommerce was there in 2004, it is only in 2009 when the regulator stepped in and said this is safe, the second factor of authentication is there, and consumers, especially debit card holders, started using it in a significant manner. So we have seen month-on- month, year-on-year tremendous growth. And suddenly we started seeing transactions of bill payments, government payments, ticketing, shopping on the internet. This category we realised is emerging much faster than we thought, and it’s high time we supported and gave it a lift and visibility for people who thought that this is only an ATM card or it works at a merchant outlet. You will be surprised by the fact there are many who do not know that the card works beyond an ATM. So Vinay Pathak told you that it works at the point of sale, he told you that it works everywhere. Now the message is that you could do more.

Has there been a shift in the target audience from urban areas to rural areas? If so, why?

UN: It is not shifting, but the focus is expanding because even today more than 50 per cent of transactions come from Tier 1 areas. It is now expanding in tier two and tier three towns. I think we will use digital as never before to make sure that the expansion happens, that is the key. 

There was a four-month long campaign on risk which ran on radio. Before that, we had a digital campaign on Visa Bill Pay. There has been a sequence of messages that led up to the campaign.

The government has made e-filing of tax returns mandatory for people with an income of 10 lakhs and above. Now just imagine if people from all parts of the country are able to meet the deadline and do e-filing. That is the transformation that is happening at the grass root level, every village and town is being wired with connectivity. So the platform of network being available is being set up, and if you power that with the Visa card, it could be a transformation to less cash, less delays, less errors and more efficiency.

The ability to pay in an efficient manner is the fundamental right of every person irrespective of which socio economic segment he or she comes from.  And they love it that the Visa card can achieve that.

What are the different challenges that Visa is facing in India, at this point?

UN: The fundamental challenge is acceptance. There are 15 million retail outlets in the country and only 6,00,000 of them have point of sale terminals, which means you want infrastructure at point of sales to be deployed. Only private and foreign banks deploy point of sale terminals because they see the benefit of electronic payments, customer loyalty, analytics, marketing cross selling. These institutions have recognised the power of electronic payments and they actually dominate this industry. The rest of the industry, which is dominated by the public sector banks, has not participated in the infrastructure development for the market. Therefore, we struggle with lesser points of sale for usage. That is why it is imperative for us to use the internet channel for it does not require this infrastructure.

The second challenge is for anything to succeed in this country it requires complete government participation. If government wants transparency, efficiency, and lower costs, they have to move to electronic because they are the largest recipient and payer of money. If you see Nandan Nilekani’s report, it says that three trillion rupees is distributed as government disbursement and only 40 per cent reaches the end beneficiary. Give me 60 per cent of that money and I will wire this country more than any other country in terms of point of sales terminals and access to internet. The government belief that this will transform India will make a big difference. Sachin Tendulkar and Aamir Khan can only achieve things up to a certain point. However, the government declaring that it will pay only electronically will be revolutionary.

The third challenge is consumer mindset. There is a belief that Indians are very conscious, they do not want to people to know their financial transactions. They are scared of an audit trail or that the income tax people will come after them. It is a marketing challenge to get awareness and take that fear away. 

Will this campaign be on the digital platforms? How has Visa’s experience been on social media platforms in India?

UN: There is massive creative content, which is coming up inspired by consumers themselves. Visa’s experience with social media has been excellent. We have done digital campaigns promoting payments of bills online, which have been reflected on people’s social media content.  We hope if our plans mature then this will be the first time we do an integrated social media campaign in a big way. The opportunity is much larger. Principally our interaction has been through registered communities on a digital asset like Visa Bill Pay or it is through announcements on innovations and banner campaigns. It has largely been banner publicity across digital traffic sites which announce cash back or the opportunity to get an iPad etc. But most of our digital investment has been exposure or encounter related, so if you are active on the net, you will encounter Visa advertising because it is giving you some value or some information.

We have kicked off our Visa page on YouTube as a branded property. There is no branded content on Facebook. India was the first country and possibly one out of three in APAC, which actually set up its own Visa Bill Pay aggregator portal.

What is the proportion of digital in your marketing spends? Globally it is more than 40 per cent. What is the kind of split in print, television, and digital in India?

UN: Visa is decidedly going behind digital as a lead medium. The proportion of our spends will not necessarily reflect our interest in the medium. Digital is our priority medium and the spend is growing.

Globally, you have been associated with sports (Olympics and FIFA), what plans are there for India? Is Visa actively associated with any sporting activity in India?

UN: We had cricket from 1996-2002. We were the first company to sign up Sachin. Cricket was the platform on which we built our brand and our initial product. In those days, we were an association of six different companies and we had independent strategies. In 2008, we merged all the companies in the world from non-profit association model to a core profit-listed company and there was globalisation of the brand campaign and marketing properties. Right now, we are in the phase of leveraging and riding on international properties. We are open-minded and if something interesting comes up then we would associate with it.  In the current phase, we want to reach out to consumers using e-commerce.

SS: From a sponsorship point of view, Visa wants to associate with universal properties. Both Olympics and FIFA are universal properties watched in nearly every household in the world. In India, we have no association with any sporting property.

What is the focus on credit cards versus debit cards?

UN: For every credit card holder, there are 20 debit cardholders. Debit is very important if you want to grow your volumes but credit is where the bulk of money is. An annual average credit card spend is Rs 55000 but the debit card spend is not even thousand rupees. From a ROI perspective, who will not focus on credit cards? We have a significant amount of focus on premium, affluent credit cards, and mass-market debit and credit is our parallel focus.

Ecommerce companies now offer cash on delivery instead of credit cards and debit cards. How will you overcome this rising aspect of ecommerce?

UN: COD is either cash on delivery or card on delivery. When you home deliver, the delivery boys actually have to carry a point of sale terminal. It requires GPRS connectivity, which is difficult to access so cash on delivery became very predominant. 60 per cent of these websites are through cash on delivery. However, in the last three months, we have moved to using the mobile phone with a card reader. The delivery boys now carry this and you can sign on the screen when you receive your consignment.   There is a great risk for the companies in cash on delivery as very often the delivery boys steal the cash. And this pressurises the business model of these companies.

It is said that only 3 per cent of personal consumption expenditure takes place on cards, and 97 per cent of expenses are met by cash. Comment.

UN: India is a number one market in terms of priority. It is a challenging market and no global company can afford to ignore it. India definitely gets disproportionate attention of investment and support because of this 97% potential. There is hope that India will continue to grow and continue to deliver. This is one of the fastest growing market in terms of spends and transactions in the world. The highest expectations are from the BRIC countries and India is the least penetrated of the BRIC countries. Brazil is the best performing. And India is at the lower end. Definitely, we have very high targets for India.          

Movida, a mobile payments joint venture backed by Visa and Monitise, has signed an agreement with HDFC Bank. What are the challenges faced? How has this fared?

UN: The product is just rolling out. We are eagerly looking forward to rolling out our mobile initiatives, because that could be the game changer.

Campaign India

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