Stuart is the COO at B2B fintech Global PayEX that focuses on improving working capital efficiency in the order-to-cash & procure-to-pay cycle. Stuart comes with a wealth of experience in leadership roles in various financial institutions in the UK, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. He has worked for large corporates including Barclays as a Regional Director in Business Banking and DLL (Rabo Bank) in Asset Finance. Outside the corporate environment, Stuart has acumen in training companies in leadership development, business strategy, and organizational change.
This year’s Budget will be marked as Digital Bharat Budget. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman carrying the budget report on a tablet was a testament to the government’s commitment to digitalization. As she unfolded her vision for a strong digital ecosystem, she also laid clear emphasis on the role of start-ups and specifically fintechs. Highlighting the latter two as primary vehicles of growth, Finance Minister’s speech outlined their role in bringing inclusion and supercharging a robust economy over the next 25 years.
The Government’s two-pronged approach of augmenting the broad-based use of technology and propelling businesses and the country towards ‘less-cash’ alternatives will have a multiplier effect on Digital Bharat. On one hand, it will fuel the proliferation of digital modes of payment and drive businesses in favour of more reliable and secure electronic payments such as ACH, wire transfers, and real-time payments. On the other hand, it will bring in greater flexibility and obvious cost efficiency to MSMEs and corporates. This will be enabled through initiatives, such as the automation of nearly 25,000 compliances, a transparent e-Bill system that enables suppliers and contractors to submit their digitally signed bills online, and OCEN which makes way for embedded lending.
From the wider lens, this implies major shifts in payment behaviour, such as declining cash usage, migration towards digital commerce, adoption of instant payments.
Thrust to Real-Time Payments
Real-time payments are changing the dynamics of the B2B payments industry. Generally, the B2B payments transactional values are far more than the B2C. Considering that this budget is also riding on the success of digital platforms, such as Aadhaar and UPI, it will continue to accelerate innovations in real-time payments. This will also provide almost instantaneous settlements with high levels of clarity and transparency. Businesses can largely benefit from the increased availability of funds. The real-time payments will also help the companies manage their inventory more efficiently and provide flexibility throughout the B2B ecosystem.
Clearing and Settlement systems deliver volumes
As digital payment transactions increase, a robust system will deliver a better customer experience, with superior risk-focused supervision. The last decade has seen unprecedented innovation in the digital payments sector and hence a ‘state of the art’ payments and settlement system that is safe and secure while being efficient, fast, and affordable is the need of the hour. RBI in its Payments Vision 2018 had envisioned exactly the same. While the system has taken its time to build the required momentum, it has now started delivering the long-promised volumes while maintaining transparency and safety. Through this robust ecosystem propagated by the budget and adopted by the banks, the B2B companies can now integrate digital payments into their ERP to automate Accounts Payables (AP) and Accounts Receivables (AR) helping them in working capital optimization.
Interlinkages for addressing pain-points
The B2B payments digitization has a ripple effect on the B2B ecosystem, which reaches the accounts receivable and payments departments. The shift towards digital payments also has major implications on the supply chain of the ecosystem. Digital payments help in eliminating the manual processes from workflows, especially paper-based interactions, and help the process become efficient. Some of the major pain points that affect collections by businesses are delivering invoices to Buyers on time, manual processing by the buyer and time taken for it, fraud, and visibility leading to delays in receiving payments; all of which can be addressed through the adoption of the measures as per the e-bill proposed in this budget.
While we continue to strive towards the adoption of digital payments and move away completely from paper-based and manual processes, this budget prioritizes other key enablers, such as skills improvement, Digital Rupee, JAM trinity, and blockchain-enabled financial system. All of these will collectively help India leapfrog as a digital finance leader.