worldline: Worldline starts its own merchant acquisition in India


French payment company Worldline, which works with banks to deploy Point-of-Sale (PoS) terminals at merchant outlets for card payments, is undertaking a major shift in its business strategy in India.

The company is acquiring its own merchants as part of a broader strategy to compete with homegrown fintech startups such as Paytm, Pine Labs, Innoviti Payments, Mswipe and Razorpay-backed Ezetap. Worldline has deployed 500,000 payment terminals so far across India on behalf of banks.

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“We have started direct acquisition of merchants in India; currently, we are just conducting pilots, but eventually, we will scale it up,” said Ramesh Narsimhan, chief executive officer, Worldline India.

The company was already acquiring its own merchants for the online payment gateway business, but now it intends to scale up its acquisition of offline retail merchants too. Narsimhan pointed out that the market is seeking more omnichannel payment solutions, which has forced companies such as Worldline to acquire its own merchants.

ET reported on May 19 that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) could regulate the offline card payments space too.

Narsimhan said once the RBI issues the guidelines, Worldline might need to apply for a fresh licence to undertake this business.

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The company is pursuing tie-ups with grocery stores, bakeries, restaurants, pharmacies, supermarkets and other such retailers, deploying a few thousand terminals so far.There are fresh opportunities emerging in the offline space as new merchants in smaller towns and cities seek digital payment capabilities. Narsimhan said Worldline would seek to tap these opportunities by setting up sales channels.

The company is also evaluating if it should become a third-party payment application on Unified Payments Interface (UPI). Being a third-party app, it can directly issue UPI handles to its own merchants for all forms of online and QR code-based payments.

In a report published by Worldline India on Tuesday, outlining the payment trends in the first half of the current year, the company pointed out how the average ticket size of merchant payments on UPI fell to Rs 653 in June from Rs 885 in January. It shows how consumers are using UPI payments for smaller ticket size purchases, underscoring the widespread adoption of the payment mode.

The $7.7 billion payment giant has been operational in India for years, but mostly as a payment service provider for banks. Usually, banks offer payment terminals to their current account holders and these terminals are supplied and serviced by companies like Worldline.

But over the last few years, players like Paytm and Pine Labs have scaled up their merchant acquisition aggressively. Partnering with banks, they are deploying smart PoS terminals, which can accept card swipes, UPI scans and even convert payments into EMI.

“We are also deploying Android terminals which is more of a platform with value added services; we call it the One Merchant Hub,” Narsimhan said.

Unlike the old PoS terminals which run on legacy software systems, the new Android terminals can offer a range of services to merchants. Worldline is looking to offer such smart devices to customers to remain competitive in the market.

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