Digital payment firms should aim for scale, Network International chief says

He stressed that scaling is a challenging task and requires a lot of effort, focus and dedication


Waheed Abbas

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Photos: Shihab/Khaleej Times
Photos: Shihab/Khaleej Times

Published: Thu 16 Nov 2023, 6:28 PM

Last updated: Thu 16 Nov 2023, 10:31 PM

Companies in the digital payment business should aim for scale as it brings multiple advantages in terms of costs and innovations, leading industry executives said on Thursday.

“Payment is a scale business and it doesn’t come overnight. The basic thing that everyone has to remember when scaling business is patience, staying the course and flexibility. My advice to anybody in the payment industry is to aim for scale because it provides a cost advantage. With scale, you can also innovate more and faster,” Nandan Mer, Group Chief Executive Officer, Network International, said during the Banking, Innovation and Technology (BIT) Summit.

Organised by Khaleej Times, the two-day summit saw senior industry professionals from the banking, finance and fintech sectors share their insights and challenges with hundreds of attendees.

Network International, the leading enabler of digital commerce across the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region, operates in 50 markets and serves 200 banks and around 200,000 merchants.

He stressed that scaling is a challenging task and requires a lot of effort, focus and dedication.

“The technology needs are unique to every customer. Even if the industry is the same, the two companies will have different needs. It is a pretty challenging task, it requires a lot of effort, focus and dedication. But we are up for that challenge. Out of 2,000 employees, we got 1,200 technologists in the company,” he added.

In order to improve customer trust, he stressed that technology has to work at minimum speed where two people exchange cash. But ideally, he elaborated, it has to be faster and work more securely when transactions flow from one corner of the earth to the other because customers want their transactions to be completed soon.

Is the market saturated?

The UAE market is one of the most advanced markets when it comes to digital payments. But cash still accounts for 50 per cent of the total transactions and the transition towards digital payment is growing at an estimated rate of around 12-13 per cent per annum.

Network International chief believes that there is still plenty of space for new players to foray into digital payment solutions.

“There is plenty of space. The market as sophisticated as UAE on average is 50 per cent still in cash. So there is still a lot of room for growth for incumbent and also for new players to add value,” Mer told Khaleej Times in an interview on Thursday after a fireside chat on the topic of “the challenges of building a world-class payments platform to scale in the ever-evolving technological environment and meeting customer expectations.”

In another panel discussion on “the digital transformation and customer engagement: The role of CMOs in UAE's financial evolution, Banali Luthra Malhotra, Adviser for Marketing and Strategy at Network International, said as digital transformation becomes increasingly critical, chief marketing officers (CMOs) must evolve to stay ahead.

“This involves embracing a digital-first mindset, where they not only understand the latest digital trends but also know how to leverage them effectively. Data analytics and customer insights are key/ CMOs need to be adept at interpreting data to tailor strategies that resonate with their target audience. Also, they must be proficient in digital tools and platforms, integrating them seamlessly into marketing campaigns.

She pointed out that equally important is the ability to lead and inspire teams in a fast-paced, ever-changing digital landscape, fostering a culture of continuous learning and innovation.

Paul Hamilton, Managing Director, Ibtikar also address the topic during the panel discussion, which was moderated by Ravi Rao, Founding Partner and CEO, Middle East & Africa, Turbostart.


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