Vira Platonova, Senior Vice President and Group Country Manager for Visa CISSEE

“Georgia continues to lead the region on contactless with almost 97% contactless penetration…”

13 mins read

The FINANCIAL — Georgia continues to lead the region on contactless with almost 97% contactless penetration, which means that basically every Visa transaction in Georgia goes contactless now” – Interview with Vira Platonova, Senior Vice President and Group Country Manager for Visa CISSEE

Could you please comment how COVID-19 influenced the market of ecommerce in the region and in Georgia?

In the light of COVID-19 outbreak, with curfews and lockdowns, people’s lifestyle and shopping behavior have changed dramatically. As consumers stayed home and merchants remained shuttered, online became not just a convenient way to shop, but often the only way. These behaviors have since persisted. More people are now shopping online, and those who already had experience with eCommerce were buying a larger range of goods and services online. This presents an enormous opportunity for merchants looking to engage with consumers. It also marks the start of a new era of eCommerce, where a merchant’s speed of response to changing consumer behaviors is ever more essential.

Globally card not present spending has grown over 20% every week since mid-April. In Georgia we in the third quarter of 2020 compared to the same quarter last year, card not present spend has grown 10%, contributing to the growth of overall payment volumes.

Another trend that has been very specific for Georgia even pre-COVID is contactless growth.
Georgia continues to lead the region on contactless with almost 97% contactless penetration, which means that basically every Visa transaction in Georgia goes contactless now.

What are TOP 3 solutions in electronic payments that Visa offered to its consumers in 2020? (in Georgia or region)

In 2020, we were focused on the continued support of SMEs and consumers. Before the pandemic, we firmly believed in the power of the digital world. Now we see that digital tools and eCommerce are needed as never before. We want to play our part and help as many companies as possible to shift their goods and services to the online sphere. To this aim, we launched our global WhereYouShopMatters and She’s Next, Empowered by Visa initiatives in Georgia, supporting the creativity and resiliency of small businesses and startups who are keeping our communities running. Under WhereYouShopMatters we are encouraging all people around the world to think about the positive impact their shopping can have on local communities. In Georgia we have conducted a number of activations under this umbrella, aimed to support local businesses. For example, we teamed up with Mystartup.ge to support small businesses and give consumers the opportunity to shop for the New Year and select gifts from the local startups. Besides, we have performed a series of activations of this type with Glovo, Myhome.ge and Mymarket.ge to support local businesses in need.

She’s Next, Empowered by Visa rolled out in Georgia first time in the Caucasus region. Under the program, we partnered with Forbes Women and Women for Tomorrow, gathering best experts and coached to educate women entrepreneurs on how to establish, run, and scale their own business. We are proud to create the Georgian She’s Next community to empower and inspire women with successful local stories of female leadership.

Speaking of solutions, we focused on contribution to the acceptance infrastructure and seamless payment process. Among our key priorities – championing Visa Tap to Phone across the region, scaling tokenization and mobile payments, and investing into transit projects.

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Definitely, our key solution of the year is Visa’s Tap to Phone, which turns any NFC-enabled Android mobile device into a working point of sale or acceptance device. Sellers simply download an app and they can easily accept contactless payments in a secure, touchless and convenient experience for customers. The technology is already available in 15 countries, including 5 live programs in our region – Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus. In Georgia Bank of Georgia was the 1st to test the technology and we look forward to expand it in Georgia in 2021. Tap to Phone has a big opportunity to support commerce in a “new normal” where touchless payments are accelerating, and less cash is changing hands.

Our next focus – support of the entire payment ecosystem through its diverse tokenization technologies. 2020 was an important year since we scaled Visa Token Service in Azerbaijan and made the first launch in Armenia. By Visa Token Service, we ensure high level of transaction security, since token replaces confidential information about payment account, such as 16-digit card number, and is unique for each device – smartphone, smart watch, payment bracelet, or any other device with payment functionality. VTS gives banks technical opportunity to launch digital wallets, and we are optimistic about further VTS-based projects to create richer, more personalized experiences

Finally, transit is one of Visa’s priorities in CISSEE region in terms of contactless payments development. Digital payments are an integral part of smart cities and transit is one of the key channels to start cities smart transformation. Leveraging Visa’s global expertise, together with our partners we’ve developed an efficient transit payment solution and launched a number of transit projects in Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Central Asia.

During 2020 We observed that Visa did quite many new collaborations with local banks in Georgia to support SMEs in the country. What collaborations/campaigns were most successful from your point of view and why? 

Exactly right, SMEs were our key focus in 2020 and we launched a number of projects to support them and keep them connected with their clients. If mention top 3 projects, let me speak of our joint projects with TBC Bank, Bank of Georgia and partnership with the Georgian Farmers association.

E-comm bundle offer with TBC Business was an unprecedented offer, which supported micro-businesses in creating their own web pages and starting online sales. In just up to 3 days SME could have gone online after submitting application, as the process was very smooth and quick. Our bundle included a platform through which businesses could easily set up an online store in a short time, photographer services to capture the products to be posted on the website, embed the TBC online payment system, Space installment and delivery services. First wave was launched in spring and 100 companies benefited from the offer. Because of very high demand we have just launched second wave of this promotion in November.

We also launched TBC Business Club – a subscription-based business banking with TBC and offered 10% cashback to club members on Facebook advertisement when paid with Visa Business card. During lockdown digital promotion is one of the most important services for SMEs as they transform their businesses online. We tried to capture what is most important for them and what would bring them most value. As a result, more than 130 SMEs benefited from the offer in 2 weeks.

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Activation with Soflidan.ge and Georgian Farmers Association in partnership with Bank of Georgia was aimed to support Georgian farmers when they faced challenges selling their harvest. We partnered with soflidan.ge, an online marketplace selling farmer’s products (supported by Georgian Farmers Association). We offered Visa cardholders cashbacks when shopping on soflidan.ge while increasing demand on farmers’ products. As a result, more than 600 orders were done from the platform over the campaign period.

At the beginning of 2020 Visa announced that Georgia became the global leader in contactless penetration in domestic transactions. Did 2020 change that situation or Georgia is still top ranked in the contactless penetration? 

Contactless, or as we call it – tap to pay, when a consumer can make payment simply by tapping their contactless card or device, remains one of the biggest trends worldwide. Georgia became quite good prepared and adapted to scale this technology. After taking the world leadership in early 2020, Georgia still remains in top 3 countries globally by contactless penetration, as mentioned earlier – almost all Visa transactions go contactless in Georgia.

Every business had its own challenges in challenging 2020. What are the key challenges facing Visa right now?  

It is crucial to note that our work is not and cannot solely focus on Visa and payments. In order to make a true impact and help small business owners thrive, it is imperative for us to come together with our clients, partners and small businesses owners, on a unified front, and bring to life an all-encompassing global initiative that can meet various needs of our SMB owners.

According to our forecasts, within the next few years, there will be more changes in the payment industry than we have seen over the past few decades – digitalization of payments will open the way to the cashless future. Our main challenge is to keep up with these changes and constantly develop our solutions to remain the world’s leader of fast and secure digital payments.

What are your expectations for digital payments in 2021 and Visa’s strategy? Will it be year of innovations and new solutions or rather the roll out of current products to different markets in the region? 

Georgia is really well-positioned in terms of digital payments. Together we partner banks we built a strong foundation to drive payment innovations and financial inclusion. So in many aspects we will be focusing on the solutions we already deployed in the market and expanding them in new channels, like contactless in transit or Visa Tap to Phone to further drive contactless acceptance among micro and small business. Partnerships with marketplaces to support e-commerce will remain one of the priorities and of course, our commitment to support SMEs will continue also in 2021.

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