As part of its latest initiative to drive digital payments adoption in India, Mastercard is enlisting help from payment facilitators.

The card brand launched a new program called “Team Cashless India” this week. It announced cricketer Mahendra Singh Dhoni as the face of the campaign, which invites Indians to nominate merchants who do not yet accept digital payments. Select nominees will receive support from Mastercard and its partners in deploying the infrastructure they need. 

The company said that acquiring banks and payment facilitators will help merchants install their digital payments acceptance capabilities as part of the program. 

“Over the years, Mastercard has invested continuously and worked tirelessly to strengthen acceptance of digital payments amongst merchants, especially those in tier 2 and 3 cities, as they are the real drivers of India’s economic growth. This exciting initiative brings together Mastercard’s commitment to Digital India and Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s representation of a progressive ‘Bharat.’ Mastercard believes Team Cashless India will play a vital role in engaging consumers and merchants to propel India’s transformation as a cashless economy,” Ari Sarker, co-president, Asia Pacific, for Mastercard said in the announcement.

As PaymentFacilitator has previously reported, PFs are an important part of the drive to accelerate cashless payments in places like India where a digital infrastructure is just beginning to take root. They often serve as a link to financially underserved merchants outside urban centers. And their innovative approach allows them to onboard smaller merchants cost-effectively and to better support merchants with little or no electronic payments acceptance experience.  

In its announcement, Mastercard quoted Manish Patel, CEO and founder of mSwipe, which operates as a payment facilitator.

“’Cashless merchants in India’ has been mSwipe’s core mission and collaborating with Mastercard has fueled our growth from 400k points of acceptance in March 2019 to 1 Million points of acceptance today. Along with India’s Cricket Champion and Mastercard brand ambassador M.S. Dhoni, we aim for 3 million points of acceptance by March 2020,” Patel said.

The company plans to conduct an outreach program to educate merchants in multiple cities about accepting digital payments. Dhoni will also interact with merchants as part of the campaign, which supports Mastercard’s own goal of enabling digital payments for 10 million Indian merchants by 2020. 

According to Mastercard, the Indian government has set a nationwide goal of 40 billion digital transactions during fiscal year 2020. It recorded 31.34 billion such transactions during fiscal year 2019. Despite the country’s ongoing effort to promote digital inclusion and a less-cash economy, more than 90 percent of its retail payments are still made in cash, the card network said. 

To support the ecosystem and grow the number of transactions, India is targeting 25-30 million electronic payments acceptance locations by the end of 2021. Mastercard pointed out that digital payments acceptance helps smaller merchants by reducing the costs incurred by handling cash, increasing safety and security, and providing an entry point into the financial system so they can establish credit history.