As India’s payments system slowly evolves away from cash towards alternatives like mobile and cards, Mastercard is focusing efforts on changing habits across two diverse consumer segments.

There are 990 million cards in circulation, but the percentage of digital transactions in India is still just 5 to 7%, according to Puneeth Bekal, director – marketing at Mastercard.

“That means 95% of the transactions in India are still done in cash – cash is still the king,” he told the recent Content Marketing Summit Asia in Mumbai.

As well as being tangible and easy to use, “there is a cultural context to cash in India”, he added: “it’s considered to be auspicious, cash is also worshipped as goddess Lakshmi.” In contrast, digital transactions are seen as being less safe and more complicated.

“But the crux of all this is habit change,” he stated, “and for us at Mastercard, habit change is across two diverse segments, the metro affluent consumers and the tier 2 and tier 3 towns of India.” (For more, read WARC’s report: Mastercard pushes card payments in small town India.)

The strategy for the affluent, big city consumers is to encourage them to use their Indian card while travelling abroad.

For consumers in lower tier cities, however, the challenge is very different and requires the brand to tackle a number of “myths” about using debit cards in daily life.

“The first myth is that a debit card can only be used at a high-end mall or a big shop, whereas the fact is you can use it anywhere you want, even at a local grocery shop,” Bekal said. Nor are many consumers aware that their ATM pin can be used to carry out point-of-sale transactions

While Mastercard uses television as the primary medium to address these and other myths in small towns, Bekal believes that alone is insufficient and that it is necessary to integrate the messaging within culture, cuing card usage at festivals and birthdays, for example.

“It’s [also] about how these messages can be integrated with the popular characters featured in the general entertainment channels,” he added, “and we used edits of the films in different languages and different formats.”

Sourced from WARC