Vikram NarayanManaging Director & Country Manager, India

Vikram joined PayPal India in April 2014 as Managing Director & Country Manager India

A successful General Manager with over three decades of experience. Key focus areas include Strategy, Business Development, all India Operations and Regulatory & Public Affairs for leading multi-national companies. A catalyst with a track record of building highly engaged teams to exceed business results consistently. Built businesses in Credit Information, Decision Analytics, Digital Marketing, Retail Asset Lending and Inventory Finance. Achieved consistent high-growth and reached global benchmarks in customer service & portfolio quality.

Prior to joining PayPal, Vikram was the Managing Director & Country Manager, of Experian Services India Pvt. Ltd. Prior to Experian, Vikram led a business unit of GE Commercial Finance in India and also was the President & CEO of Transamerica Apple Distribution Finance Pvt. Ltd.

1. What was the mandate given to you by the Board when you took over in your role?

Prior to my appoinment, PayPal had been organically growing its Cross Border business and thousands of Indian merchants export profitably to multiple countries. My mandate in this area was to educate the Indian merchants and help them maximise exports by providing access to tools like PayPal Passport (where and when to sell, what to sell etc) and also equipping them with the various safety tools which Paypal offers like Seller Protection and Buyer Protection. The India domestic eccommerce sector is growing at a phenominal pace and so has the attendant e-payments business. My primary mandate in this area was to talk to the various stakeholders (merchants, consumers, regulators etc) and sharpen PayPal’s entry strategy for the India market.

2. How much of that has been achieved? What were the challenges faced?

We are present in India though our Cross Border Trade operations. CBT is an area of enormous potential for PayPal and Indian merchants of all sizes. Today, with PayPal, anyone can collect payments and from anywhere around the world, regardless of whether he is an individual seller or large merchant.

PayPal processed $235 billion in total payment volume and generated more than $8 billion in revenues. Also last year, PayPal processed $46 billion in mobile payment volume. The company . I am happy to inform that over 10 million customers accept PayPal in 203 markets around the world. Over the past 3 years PayPal has contributed significantly to the governments Make In India campaign. With one out of three B2C (business to consumer) dollars coming via PayPal, we are looking at bringing wider suite of products to India.

3. How do you respond to the needs of changing market scenario (with an example)?

Strategies that one adopts have to be enduring and differentiating while being in sync with the changing market scenarios. In the ATM industry, interchange paid by a transaction acquirer is regulated. In the middle of 2014, the interchange was reduced by 20% necessitating us to recast our business model. This meant that we sought out a low cost, no frills-functional model without compromising on customer delight and trust. Through various measures involving business model re-engineering, we built an asset light model that is tuned to the new reality.

4. How has the market evolved in the last few years?

Over the past 40 years the payments industry has evolved into a complex eco system comprising of financial institutions and intermediaries, technology and service providers. Multiple mega trends- technological, regulatory, demographic and international are converging which can disrupt today’s payment ecosystem. For instance, technology has enabled faster payment networks and enhanced security while regulatory changes halp insulate the consumer and reduce money laundering. We believe that B2B payments is still a greenfield opportunity which will enable reduction in processing costs, fraud etc.

5. What are the key challenges your organization is facing currently? And what are the steps you are taking?

What are the key challenges your organization is facing currently? And what are the steps you are taking?

6.How have the changes in technology/globalization/economy affected your sector?

The rise of smartphones; payment bank licences from RBI; the huge amount of global capital coming into the payment industry will all lead to disruption. There is the rise of mobile wallets and also of ecommerce. A combination of factors, aided by technology, is helping India leapfrog traditional banking models used in the West for cashless transactions

Globalisation has helped harness the India opportunity. India is today an attractive investment destination for FII’s and private equity players. Capital inflows in India companies accelerated in 2015 with over $7 billion coming in within the first 9 months alone.

The country is today the fastest growing ecommerce countries in APAC. The India opportunity has attracted global players thereby benefitting the end consumer with deeper discounts and better services.

7. What is your talent strategy? How do you draw the balance between home grown vs lateral hiring at the leadership level?

Our focus is to attract the best global talent from diverse fields and keep them motivated. PayPal has been featured as one of the best places to work in India for 4 years in a row, according to surveys conducted by the Great Places to Work Institute and The Economic Times which further iterates our people focussed philosophy. We sought to mainatain a balance between home grown talent and hiring externally.

8. How does your organization identify and develop future leaders?

All leaders work with their direct reports to ensure Career Development Plans are completed. We spend time to understand which of our employees aspire to be leaders, and which of those are mobile (as we are a Global organization). We have regular Talent Reviews- at a Department/Country level and regional APAC level. At these meetings we discuss our employee’s performance and potential, strengths and development opportunities. We then select our Top Talent- we ensure they have development plans in place and can nominate them for various leadership programs, eg. the ‘Emerging Leader Program’. We discuss their progress at future Talent Review meetings. Succession Planning is also part of these meetings where we identify which of our Top Talent our potential successors for our key leadership roles in the region, and how we can accelerate their ‘readiness’ to move into these roles.

9. What are the 3 key aspects you look at when you hire your direct reports?

Acamedic and employment pedigree being hygiene factors, I personally focus on the soft factors. 1. The amount of preparation and researchh the candidate has done vis a vis the company and role as reflected in questions he asks during the interview 2. Ability to roll up his or her sleeves and do the job incase of no team and thereby being hands on. I strongly believe in those who lead by example. 3. Last but not the least is the need for Vitamin P in the candidate- fire in the belly

10.How does the growth prospect of your organization look like for the next 12-24 months?

India is a significant part of PayPal and we are looking to play a meaningful role in fast growing domestic e-Commerce & payments market in the near future. In turn, complimenting RBI’s less cash & digital payments economy & vision of the RBI. Our aim is to bring our global scale, experience and superior risk management platform and offer relevant solutions for safe & friction free experience for both consumers and merchants.

11. Will there be any significant change in the market dynamics in next few years? If so, what steps are you taking for the same?

The Indian payments landscape is evloving rapidly day by day and a number of players have entered the system. The RBI has also recently issued licenses for payment banks. Over the next few years of competition it is the players who have scale who will succeed. Our aim is to bring our global scale, experience and superior risk management platform and offer relevant solutions for a safe & friction free experience for both consumers and merchants. At PayPal our biggest strength is our system up time and a deligent focus on customer support

12. In a world full of volatility, Uncertainty, complexity & Ambiguity (VUCA), innovation has become one of the most important factor to transform a crisis into an opportunity. How do you promote Innovation?

At PayPal, we believe we have entered a new era – the era of the People Economy. Fueled by the innovations in digital and mobile technology combined with the wants and needs of people, the People Economy will revolutionize how individuals create, share, buy, sell, and trade value.

PayPal is driving innovation that adds value to people’s everyday lives and innovation is one of the 5 pillars which helps PayPal enjoy a unmatched competitive advantage. Mobile is becoming central to people’s daily lives, so purchasing on mobile needs to become easier and as trusted and seamless as possible. PayPal processed $46 billion in mobile payments last year alone. Our recent acquisition, Braintree, is responsible for payments for top apps across every category in the App Store.

Regardless of what device you’re using, PayPal makes it easy and secure for you to shop and pay on mobile and in-stores. It’s a transformative time, one that adds convenience, fun and new experiences for consumers on their phone, in stores, and anywhere they shop. New PayPal-driven innovations such as one touch payments make it even easier to remove the friction from shopping. We’re always innovating to make life easier and payments safer for our customers no matter what device or operating system they are using.

13. How Indian leaders can become Global Leaders?

There has been a growing trend of Indian managers being preferred for global roles. At PayPal ~10% of our global workforce comes from India. PayPal encourages people to work across geographies and encourage growth from within.

14. What are the shortcomings and strengths of Indian Leaders?

The strengths of Indian leaders are that they learn to be agile and are able to work in less than perfect situations. Each state is a different country in India and similarly consumers needs are diverse. Indian leaders have learnt to be agile and innovative.

15. What are the 3 most pivotal moments in your career that you either learned from and/or that got you where you are today?

When I returned to India from the US in 1985, for certain personal reasons I was restricted to look for jobs within Bangalore and at that point of time there were not enough openings in the financial services sector. As such, I started my career as a self-employed professional ( direct market associate for banks and NBFCs). The lessons I learned during this period – how to make do on a shoe string budget; motivate your team with non- monetary rewards; the importance of how customer focus is critical and the realization that “if you take care of the customer, all other business goals fall in place automatically”. During this period, every money decision which I made ( given that it was my own limited hard earned money) had to pass a rigorous test before it was incurred. All these lessons which I learned in the initial phase of my career have been so strongly ingrained in me that they have become a part of what defines me as an individual and these lessons have definitely played a significant role in the success I have achieved over the last three decades plus.

16. What key lessons have you learnt from any mistakes, if any, made in the past? How would you do it differently?

In the early phase of my career, I had not yet fully developed my ability to be a patient listener and weighed in with my personal opinion very early on in a discussion. This obviously did not lead to a healthy debate and in some cases the right decision. I wish I had developed the skill to listen and encourage a robust debate early on in my career.

17. How do you define & practice leadership?

I have followed the following basic tenets throughout my career :

  • Do not ask others to do a task which you would not do yourself.
  • Be transparent always. Be consistent in your behaviours and decision making.
  • Lead from the front
  • Always take time to give background for key decisions (especially the tough ones) as the teams will accept it more willingly
  • Deliver what you commit.
18. What message would you like to share with young professionals at the start of their career?

I strongly believe in the saying “ a rolling stone gathers no moss”. Once a young professionals has identified a suitable position, I recommend that they lay anchor and invest a few years in learning and contributing to the organization. Of late, I have seen many examples of youngsters flitting from one position to another ( tenures of 6 / 12 / 18 months) andthereby negatively impacting their careers.