Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

My Ecommerce Hero: Arpanarghya Saha, Chief Digital Officer, Nippon India Mutual Fund

Ecommerce and marketing consultancy Entropy, is our exclusive partner for the new series of Ecommerce Hero on ECA.

Arpanarghya Saha is Chief Digital Officer, Nippon India Mutual Fund. We find out who the hero is that has inspired him in his ecommerce career.

Who is your ecommerce hero?

There are many noteworthy individuals in the digital & ecommerce space who have made significant contributions to shaping up the industry in India. However, not taking anything away from the highly praiseworthy efforts of such pioneers,  I would like to bring everyone’s attention to a not-for-profit organization that has been established by the Reserve Bank of India and Indian Banks’ Association – the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI).

What has it done to win hero status in your eyes?

NPCI is the birthplace of what I believe is the best financial innovation ever to have come out of India – the Unified Payments Interface (UPI). UPI, a real-time mobile based payment platform supporting both Peer-to-Peer (P2P) and Peer-to-Merchant (P2M) financial transactions, has been the steppingstone in India’s journey towards becoming a cashless economy.

UPI lets users transfer money between bank accounts across a single window and lets one send or receive money or scan a quick response (QR) code to pay an individual, a merchant or a service provider to shop, pay bills or authorize payments.

The UPI payment ecosystem consists of 100+ (and growing) mobile apps on Android & iOS, the likes of which include PhonePe, GooglePay, Paytm, etc., that can be set up quickly via a mobile number registered with any participating bank & creation of a virtual payment address. The simple and easy to use interface does away with the use of cards, bank apps and wallets to deliver a very simple, direct from bank account, one step Digital payment experience.

How has this heroism helped drive ecommerce?

UPI has contributed immensely to make India one of the fastest growing digital economies in the world and its growth trajectory has been nothing short of phenomenal. Picture this: UPI clocked a mind-boggling 2.3 billion transactions worth USD 66.5 Billion in April 2021 and the ecosystem has witnessed a CAGR of 785% in volume and 570% in terms of value from 2017 to 2020.

With the advent of UPI, Digital transactions are no more limited to the realm of big malls, large format retail chains, branded outlets and big stores but have broken the proverbial glass ceiling to permeate into medium, small and micro businesses. With UPI, Digital payments & collections have flooded the street and we now a have wide spectrum of businesses – from the vegetable and fruit sellers to the daily-needs stores, from the hawkers to auto-rickshaw drivers – embracing UPI and hence bringing millions into the fold of ecommerce & Digital transaction experience. Thus this has become the fundamental chassis on why India is now looked up to as an ecommerce market and not just an internet market.

What are the biggest challenges in ecommerce we need another hero to solve?

In a country that has 122 major languages and 1599 regional dialects, it is no surprise that the next wave of growth in Internet is being powered by people who are non-conversant in English.

By the end of this year the Indian language internet users are expected to be at 534 million while English speaking userbase will stand at 199 million. The need of the hour for businesses is to build capability, and execute at breakneck speed, so that they can cater to the diverse needs of this huge populace.

The challenges of conceiving timely, relevant and localized solutions to creating engaging content to building scalable and multilingual platforms need to be addressed swiftly and we need to have an entire vernacular ecosystem up and running so that our businesses can duly cash in on this huge opportunity.

How has your business changed its use of ecommerce over the COVID period?

At Nippon India Mutual Fund (NIMF), we have always taken pride in our Digital prowess and technological innovations and our repute as a Digital centric business is well recognized. We had acknowledged long ago that we are not only a Mutual Funds & Asset Management company but also as a new age Fintech enterprise that helps individuals, entities and intermediaries achieve their financial and business goals. We have always been at the forefront of adopting technology and embracing a perpetual state of digital transformation and our talisman of being #FutureReady has paid off well during the COVID period.

With the physical retail (branch offices, brokerages, etc.) under lockdown, ecommerce became the mainstay for the organization and Digital Business became the primary channel for NIMF.

Our agile & instantaneous gambits in response to the COVID-19 crisis were all about shifting gears quickly to keep the organisation’s business running in such tough times and creating positive business impact. The focus was to keep clocking steady numbers through our Digital channels while nimble-footedly building many new features, integrations, and enhancements for

  • Expansion of business horizons by introducing new investor cohorts (HNIs & HUFs), introducing Digital capabilities in the Institutional segment, NFO launches on Digital channels, etc
  • Consumer experience enhancement through deployment of a new online buying m-site, introducing new payment avenues like UPI and expanding Digital footprint to WhatsApp
  • Drive efficiencies & reduce leakages by introducing mechanisms for preventing failures, achieving win-backs and facilitating self-serve
  • Guide investors with Informed and prudent choices & prevention of panic redemptions through intelligent & automated interventions across various customer journeys.

We are happy about the way our gambits paid off and the heartening outcome has been a 30% growth in purchases over last year and a 20% increase in ticket size.

What’s an interesting ecommerce innovation you’ve seen as businesses have had to adapt?

In my opinion, it is the leap that organisations have taken from running basic data analytics practices to confidently embracing Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. From deriving basic insights from data analysis so as to run their businesses or make course corrections, organisations of today have seamlessly embedded AI & ML in their processes and platforms to get real-time understanding of their customers’ behaviours, preferences and buying patterns in order to predict outcomes, drive deeper interactions, and forge more meaningful relationship with customers.