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Can India become a cashless economy?

An industry expert from the finance sector talks about the future of digital payments and the challenges India faces in going cashless



Gopan PK, a veteran in the field of finance, has been working at Muthoot Finance Ltd, for the past 15 years. Currently working as a General Manager-Finance, Gopan has enrolled in a PhD programme in Management at Apeejay Stya University (ASU). Hailing from Kerala and now settled in Delhi, Gopan strongly believes continuous learning is the way to keep oneself at par with the times. In an interview, he tells us more about his inspiration behind pursuing PhD, the role of technology in finance, growing digitisation, and more:

Tell us a little more in detail about your current work profile.  

We have around 2000 branches and 12,000 employees under my purview. We handle the funds for the branches and businesses. We are normally handling funds amounting to about Rs 70,000 crores in a year, for lending. I am managing the dissemination of money to the funds and retrieving the excess money. In addition to this, we are also raising funds through non-convertible debentures (NCDs). I also have a great team who handles the accounting and payment processes. I am also overseeing financial compliance.

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We have seen how technology penetrated heavily into all sectors amid the pandemic. How did it impact your business?

We are using core banking solutions to manage all the branches and their processes. This involves accounts and payments. During the pandemic, we understood the technology that we were using earlier was not adequate. That is when we began implementing Robotic Process Automation (RPA). Currently, there are many ongoing digitisation projects, some of which have been onboarded. We are hopeful that we will be able to create a 360-degree automation process very soon.

Is cashless economy the future?

As far as the Indian economy is concerned, 35 per cent of the transaction still happens in cash, especially in remote areas and tier-II and tier-III cities. Digital payments are mostly used by youngsters and those living in tier-I cities. To become cashless, we need a technology that is accessible to all. Even now, 35-40 per cent of mobile phones used by Indians are not smartphones but regular ones that are not exactly equipped for cashless payments. Having said that, cashless economy can grow tremendously in the coming years, but I cannot say we can work without cash entirely. 

What made you opt for a PhD at this stage of your career?

I wanted to pursue a PhD right after college, which did not materialise then due to a hectic schedule. The pandemic, however, gave me some time to reflect; it was also when many of us were doing a lot of online courses. I decided to pursue my PhD and I thought the disciplined structure of it would be beneficial in not only enhancing knowledge but also providing insights about my career.

Why did you pick ASU?

I approached multiple universities, including ASU. I cleared the interview at other universities too. What impressed me was that during the enrollment, I was able to interact directly with ASU’s Professor and Dean Dr SK Roy. He gave me all the details and cleared all my doubts. He showed a lot of support. That is why I opted for ASU. The journey has just begun, and I hope I will get the same support and encouragement from the management in the future as well. PhD is something that requires a lot of support from the university and the mentors.

You started your PhD recently. Does it get difficult to balance studying with professional commitments?

At present, I am the Finance Head for North, East, and West India, under which I am handling multiple processes and projects. For this, we have a qualified research team to evaluate the projects. So, we are looking at various types of processes and data capturing on a regular basis, and I would be doing something similar for my PhD. Other than this, some of my acquaintances have advised that if I am able to devote two-three hours a day to my PhD preparation, I will be able to strike a good balance. And for this, I am taking out time at night or early morning.  

What is your constant source of motivation?

We are regular learners even now. The finance industry is evolving constantly so it is essential to keep ourselves updated with the new trends. For this, we are regularly doing online courses and seminars. Of course, when it comes to something like a PhD, it demands certain patience and dedication, and I look forward to devoting some quality time to this course.

Disha Roy Choudhury is a Principal Correspondent at Apeejay Newsroom. She has worked as a journalist at different media organisations. She is also passionate about music and has participated in reality shows.

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