Mastercard Labs in Pune, an innovation engine
Tobias Puehse, vice president, Innovation Management, Digital Payments and Labs, Asia Pacific, Mastercard, outlines the company’s digital plans:
Global payments and technology company Mastercard has set up its 9th - and second in Asia-Pacific - Mastercard Labs in Pune with the aim of working with financial institutions and merchant partners and the fintech community to identify and experiment with future technologies. The hub will focus on a few key areas including digital payments, data solutions, financial inclusion, alternative payments and safety and security. “The Lab will support and work with startups developing next generation, breakthrough commerce solutions through Mastercard’s Start Path program,” says Tobias Puehse, vice president, Innovation Management, Digital Payments and Labs, Asia Pacific, Mastercard.
He says Mastercard Labs supports numerous innovation programs internally and through its ‘Take Initiative’, a twoday global employee hackathon, employees take a step away from the day-to-day to help solve challenges that are meaningful to them, the team and the region. “Another program called ‘Ideabox’ provides a unique opportunity for employees to get their breakthrough ideas off the ground within Mastercard,” he adds.
Puehse mentions that Labs in Pune aims to be a key innovation engine for the country and foster collaboration and co-creation with academia, fintech experts, technologists and developers based in India. “It will identify and experiment with future technologies and drive new concepts and innovations through incubation, proof of concept, pilot and commercialization, in order to deliver additional value to consumers and businesses of India,” says he.
World over, Mastercard’s clients leverage the Labs’ proven innovation tools, methodologies and processes alongside the Advisors Consultancy experience to augment and accelerate their innovation agenda. Many of them use Mastercard Labs as a service and the company’s LaaS (Labs as a Service) team works collaboratively with each client to design fully customized innovation programs including and not limited to AI, tailored to meet specific business challenges, needs and improve their customer experiences.
Mastercard also has a state-of-theart technology center in Vadodara, which Puehse says, is a part of the company’s vision to build a less-cash society. This center supports developing technologies and solutions that help Mastercard drive adoption and acceptance of digital payments.
Puehse is of the view that India is embracing the 4th Industrial Revolution. “As highlighted in the Niti Aayog’s 2022 plan, the key pillars of this revolution will be Industry 4.0, Automation and Robotics, AI & IoT and Blockchain. Trust is central in the digital world and we are deploying AI and ML tools to enhance customer experience and risk management practices. For instance, Safety Net is a tool that constantly surveys the Mastercard network for any signs of large scale attacks and is designed to intervene and resolve any such attacks automatically,” he explains.
PLANS FOR AI, ML
To enhance competitiveness, Mastercard has made two major acquisitions Brighterion in California, US, which helps use AI to score good and not-sogood transactions, and NuData in Canada that identifies a person by the way he or she holds and interacts with the phone. Puehse says AI Express is one example of how the Brighterion capabilities are helping Mastercard play an active role in accelerating the adoption of AI and ML by opening up its proven platform to the wider industry. The capability is built into the multi-layered security strategy of the Mastercard network to act within milliseconds to detect and manage fraud.
FOR A DIGITAL ECONOMY
Puehse insists that Mastercard remains committed to accelerate India’s growth towards being a digital economy. The company has invested approximately $1 billion between 2014 and 2019 in the country and since 2013, it has grown its India workforce from 218 to 2,500+, which is today 15% of the global Mastercard workforce, and the largest outside the United States.
Finally, what could be the role of Mastercard when the world is moving towards digital payments?
Responds Puehse: “We work with governments, central banks and financial institutions in different geographies providing our ecosystem for digital payments which not only enables country specific nationalized payment schemes but also connect these country specific schemes to the global payments ecosystem. We are also working very closely with fintech startups under our ‘Start Path’ global program. This complements our efforts to ensure that we are at the forefront of these innovations.”
Tobias Puehse emphasizes that Mastercard Labs in Pune will identify and experiment with future technologies and drive new concepts and innovations