A Q&A with Mario Shiliashki who has joined Naspers-owned PayU as CEO of their EMEA business.
With vast experience at thoroughbred payment and finance institutions, Mario is perfectly positioned to steer South Africa’s leader in mobile and online payments to the new frontier in eCommerce and Fintech omni-payment. Mario was previously with MasterCard for around five years, where he was leading the eCommerce business globally in what used to be called emerging payments, now digital payments. Before that he was with PayPal for seven years where he spent two years helping to set up the European business. He spent his last three years at PayPal building the Asia business.
With a depth and breadth of knowledge in the payment ecosystem, Mario has layered insights into where payments, payment providers and eCommerce is heading.
What are your immediate goals in your new position?
One of the reasons I joined PayU is that there’s a massive opportunity in front of us; for PayU, in the payments space and beyond, as well as in Fintech and in financial services in general – for merchants and consumers.
At PayU we are multinational, or multi-local as we are calling it now. We have a very strong business in South Africa, and other key markets like India, Colombia, Poland, Russia, Turkey, Romania; and building strong positions in other markets. These businesses are each built from the ground up, which ensures that we have a very strong base
Thanks to our relationship to Naspers, with an amalgamation of digital media and eCommerce properties and assets around the world, we truly can create something unique.
Our immediate goal in the financial services arena is to create something that is distinctive to each market, and then to grow that internationally. Our strength lies in the local presence, in the local consumer touch points, merchant relationships and local payment methods. It is now time to build on that.
It’s a matter of how do we get that to the next level where we can offer consumers something exceptional in solving their problems. Whether it’s payments, credit, loyalty, or something completely new in banking and finance that hasn’t been done before or hasn’t been done very well before. Identifying these pain points and serving them better than anyone else can is critical for us.
The data we have on our transaction engines on the payments side and the data we have on our eCommerce properties can be harnessed to provide something to consumers and merchants that should be head and shoulders above anything else in those markets.
A lot of the markets we serve currently are very appetising for global merchants, so as global brands start expanding to markets in Africa, like South Africa and Nigeria, there’s a lot we can provide in terms of local knowledge and connectivity to all the banks, schemes and payments.
Do you see the gap between emerging and developed markets closing?
Yes I do. So far Naspers’ acquisition strategy has been high growth markets, whether they are emerging or developed. This is where you can step in and build or buy an existing player and continue to grow as a business as well as in the market. That’s what we look for in all the markets we operate in. One of our opportunities is how do we create that linkage amongst our markets.
Currently there is very little of that being done. Everything is very local. But as we grow the business and the brand internationally, there are a ton of cross-border trades that happen in between a lot of our markets and with markets that we are not present in – specifically Western Europe and the US. Building those relationships in each region – not necessarily starting businesses there – by getting the US and UK merchants to be served better with the local consumers we have in SA or Turkey or India.
In an increasingly complex and crowded space, what threats have your attention?
One of them is an internal challenge; do we spread ourselves too thin and go after too many things at the same time? It’s the human question of can we focus on twenty things at one time? Probably not, right?
For us as the EMEA leadership team, we are mostly quite new, from a few months to a year in the company. There are so many opportunities, but we need to pursue the right ones. It’s a great problem to have. But still one we have to solve. We need to be very clear about where we can win and how fast.
The second is, as always with a heavily regulated industry like payments and consumer and merchant finance, you need to be very close to local regulators. You need to make sure that you are compliant with all aspects of existing and upcoming regulations and in many of our markets the regulators are continuing to figure out this whole new banking, financing, peer to peer lending ecosystem and certainly online and mobile payments.
Regulations will change and we have to be on top of the changes in all our markets. In South Africa we have those relationships, but once again we need to keep developing those and stay on top of them.
Local competition is the third threat, of course.
What are you most excited about for the South African market?
I do believe there will be opportunities to incubate something here, and take it across Africa to another market. But how do we build a consumer product that actually solves something? To me the most exciting part is figuring out what that is and solving it leveraging all Naspers’ assets.
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