In September, American multinational, Mastercard, unveiled a “priceless” partnership with Dubai’s Expo 2020, announcing at its Connecting Tomorrow conference in Barcelona that it will be the official Payment Technology Partner for the mega-event.
“It’s a gamechanger,” revealed Girish Nanda, Mastercard’s general manager for the U.A.E. and Oman.
With Expo expecting 25 million visits during its six-month run—due to begin in two years’ time—the announcement signaled the start of an accelerated journey of innovation for Mastercard.
Her Excellency Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation and Director General, Dubai Expo 2020 Bureau, said in a press release: “Our partnership with Mastercard will not only make cashless payments easier for our visitors, but also allow them to try new and exciting innovations that enhance and become part of their Expo experience.”
Although the drive is clearly towards a cashless experience, at the moment it will still be possible to also make cash payments at the event. “I think the consumers will always want choice, so you have to respect that,” Nanda concedes. “There will be a compelling reason for consumers to use a cashless payments experience, but they will always have the choice.”
Forbes Middle East spoke to Nanda about what the technology giants have planned so far, and what this opportunity means for consumers.
What new innovations are you proposing for visitors?
Before we answer that it’s important to understand what the consumer is looking for. Our research shows us that they are keen to adopt new ways to pay and they are happy about digital payment because it allows them flexibility to pay with any device, and at the same time they want uninterrupted service. They like their experience to be seamless across any channel, so convenience is a factor.
Second factor, equally important, is security of their personal information. So, what we’re going to do is take convenience and security as our key pillars and use the Expo opportunity as a platform to showcase and embed our solutions.
We’ll be leveraging the best of our technologies, such as virtual augmented reality for the experience and biometrics to drive security. Our goal really is to create a cashless payment experience, which is not only seamless, not only simple, but also safe.
How will you develop the technology?
Mastercard has a number of assets at its disposal. We have a very sophisticated research and development facility, which is an inhouse facility—we call it Mastercard Labs. We have eight or nine R&D facilities across the globe.
In addition to that, we’ve supplemented this capability with a programme called Start Path. This gets the fintech talent out in the market to our partners, so we actually go to a number of fintech startups every and we create platform for our customers to leverage.
Do you think U.A.E. consumers are ready for a cashless society?
We do research across all segments covering our consumers but also people outside the Mastercard system. I think that gives us the true flavor of the economy and what the consumer is thinking about and asking for.
We see the trend as very positive. The U.A.E. leads the region—it’s safe to say that. Consumers are excited about adopting new ways to pay and excited about digital payments. And then you have the regulator who is also driving this trend. The trend is definitely positive, so we will see the rise of electronic payments and it will continue to rise.
What are you most excited about?
I think there are two things that are key to us and that we would like to leave behind as a legacy. One is innovation. We’ve been in the region for over 30 years and we’ve worked with governments and other industry players. There’s been an incredible demand for innovation, and we see Expo as the perfect platform to showcase and deploy our capabilities. The other is partnership, and what better way to demonstrate what public and private enterprises can do together.
Now it’s operational, before it was conceptual. Now the rubber hits the road and this is when we really have the opportunity to demonstrate collaboration. We are thrilled and proud to be partners of the Expo Dubai. We can’t wait.