EXCLUSIVE | Anand Kumar Bajaj, PayNearby: Eyeing opportunity in adversity

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Anand Kumar Bajaj, MD and CEO of Nearby Technologies Pvt Ltd, is an IIM-Ahmedabad alumnus and Chartered Accountant with more than 18 years of experience in Digital Payments and Mobility. Anand holds 5 patents in banking technology and has worked earlier at YES Bank, ICICI Bank, and Ernst & Young.

In his last assignment, before launching Nearby Technologies and through it, the remarkable PayNearby, Anand was the President and Chief Innovation Officer at YES Bank, where he steered several high-impact programs in digital payments.

Anand has also actively participated in the Steering Committee of NPCI, shaping the IMPS and UPI industry and has been a member of RBI’s ad-hoc committee on Mobile Payments and NUUP. Being on the board of BCFI, Anand also represents the industry body at NPCI steering committee for AePS.

At Nearby Technologies, Anand and his team are committed to bridging the digital divide in India through scalable technology, grass root level distribution and empowerment of the last mile. In this endeavour, he works very closely with RASCI, TRRAIN and other industry bodies to upskill and empower retailers, who form the hub of local communities and can bring about meaningful changes in their locality.

Writing exclusively for MediaBrief, Anand dubs 2020 as ‘the year of transformative learning’. He shares how PayNearby expanded, growing from strength to strength in the face of crises, about the various initiatives it has rolled out, and the digital disruption that has pushed organizations to rethink their priorities. And more. Read on.

When COVID hit, nobody was prepared for such a crisis as it took us to uncharted and unimagined territories. But, 2020 has also been a year of transformative learning for most of us in some form or the other. It has forced us to rethink and redefine our priorities while making the most of the situation. And, it has forever altered how organizations operate, ushering in a new normal from which there is no going back.  

The pandemic served as an impetus for industry bodies, companies, and regulators to re-evaluate their current structure while creating an opportunity out of adversity and organizations have risen to the challenge to fight the impact of COVID.

‘Zidd aage badhne ki’

At PayNearby too, we implemented this mantra to go from strength to strength in the face of a crisis, in resonance with our brand campaign – “Zidd aage badhne ki.” When the crisis struck, our aim was to support our retailers and customers in a meaningful, human, and relevant way. And, in a business model like ours, which caters to the underbanked and underinsured strata, it was critical. 

The pandemic served as an impetus for industry bodies, companies, and regulators to re-evaluate their current structure while creating an opportunity out of adversity and organizations have risen to the challenge to fight the impact of COVID: Anand Kumar Bajaj

When the lockdown was announced, our tireless team and selfless ‘Digital Pradhans’ served as frontline corona warriors to ensure that people in the hinterlands and remotest parts of the country could withdraw cash and receive remittances in times of dire peril. In the peak lockdown months of April-June, we were fortunate enough to disburse over 9000 crores in direct benefit transfer as indicated by government relief funds through our retail touchpoints, and 30,000 crores in total all through the lockdown. 

‘Retail is evolving, retailers are not’

Large-scale disruptive events such as the pandemic reiterated the need for businesses to develop resilience. This is not just in the form of minor shifts to organizational routines, but developing new competencies to avoid shocks and not just reducing their impact. At PayNearby, we used this situation to venture into new verticals besides upscaling previous ones as well. 

BuyNearby was built around the belief that ’retail is evolving, but retailers are not’. To stay relevant amidst today’s dizzying technological advancements and e-commerce giants, the humble Kirana store needs to be empowered to compete. Through this online hyperlocal delivery service, we are helping the mom-and-pop stores digitize themselves and mark a presence in the online world. 

Large-scale disruptive events such as the pandemic reiterated the need for businesses to develop resilience. This is not just in the form of minor shifts to organizational routines, but developing new competencies to avoid shocks and not just reducing their impact: Anand Kumar Bajaj

While the lockdown caused widespread job losses all across the globe, the most severely hit were the migrant workers all across the country. We had always wanted to launch a job registry and the lockdown only sped up the process, cementing our intentions. Thus, on May 1st, Labour Day, leveraging our extensive retail network, we launched JobsNearby – our national jobs registry for the out-of-work blue-collared workers. 

We are not just building trust, but rather augmenting it. Through our retail partners, we are enabling assisted agent banking to handhold a cash-dependent economy into a new phase of banking. Currently, we are doing a monthly throughput of over ~5500 crores, with 15+ lakh retail stores in 17,500+ PIN codes all across the country.

We are currently leveraging our intertwining technologies to add other services to our bouquet, such as saving, lending, and insurance, along with providing enterprise solutions to e-commerce companies, OTT platforms, NBFCs, and financial institutions to reach the last mile. We want our stores to serve as a catalyst to digitize cash for the mass market consumer and give them easy access to digital consumption.

We are extremely grateful to the challenges thrown our way in 2020 because it has only helped us grow stronger while learning to innovate prudently. The pandemic has allowed us to take a microscopic lens at not only the world but also as entrepreneurs in business. We must remember that how one deals with hurdles and thrive in adversity is what defines an individual.

The systemic digital transformation

Lastly, the pandemic has also imbibed in us a deeper appreciation for technology and how it has supported various crucial needs like spending more time with family. Without a systemic digital transformation, countrywide remote working would not have been possible.

The pandemic has allowed us to take a microscopic lens at not only the world but also as entrepreneurs in business. We must remember that how one deals with hurdles and thrive in adversity is what defines an individual: Anand Kumar Bajaj

This digital disruption has also caused organizations to rearrange their priorities when work from home became the norm. Even as we slowly return to normal, this paradigm shift is here to stay. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has also allowed businesses to foster their emotional intelligence, thereby, being a source of resilience for society as a whole. Businesses that continue to pursue this path will own their domain as they will know exactly what their customers need, feel and expect.

This, in turn, will help them drive growth through innovative and exceptional experiences they offer their customers based on empathy and real-time understanding of their needs.