It has been an extremely busy period for the fintech industry right from the night of November 8, when the Prime Minister announced demonetisation of high denomination currency notes. For companies in the sector, it was a boon. Banks, on the other hand, had to mobilise staff from every part of the business to be able to cope with the mammoth foot traffic. Fintech firms immediately recognised that the next few weeks would see an unprecedented spike in digital transactions. It meant they needed employees to perform at full capacity. To make the most of this unexpected business opportunity, Paytm, ItzCash, RazorPay and PayU mobilised their teams, created situation rooms and got in place an action plan to help employees transition swiftly into working towards business development and acquisition. To brief employees, their offices turned into war rooms: some held webcasts, others organised teams to handle the sudden jump in work volumes. Employees put in late nights and weekends in order to deal with customer queries and transactions, some of which went up 10 times. The day after the announcement, Paytm’s Vijay Shekhar Sharma addressed the entire team in the digital wallet company’s Noida office and pinpointed areas of focus. The teams have since been working through weekends to cope up with the work load.
At digital payments firm ItzCash, which has about 450 people on its rolls, the boardroom became a situation room the night the demonetisation announcement came. “The last 20 days feels like it was months ago because we have gotten so carried away with the work. But when it happened, each department had to burn the midnight oil. We got our business heads together and created a niche task force. We then swung into debriefing our business heads and feet on the street employees using WhatsApp,” Bhavik Vasa, its chief growth officer, told ET. The company’s business saw a 30-40% increase in the initial days. It handles volume transactions for bill payments. At RazorPay, chief executive Harshil Mathur gathered all its 68 employees to develop new products and get them out quickly in this time of need. The company accepts payments for online businesses. It had to swiftly launch products within a few days, one of which was eCOD, which helps ecommerce companies accept payments at the time of delivery using payment methods other than in cash. The day after the announcement, RazorPay saw a 150% rise in the volume of digital transactions. The day after that, it spiked to about 200%. Since then, the volume has stabilised at 50-70% over the normal volume, but it continues to be a hugely busy time for the company. At banks, the scale has been bigger. Axis Bank doubled capacity at call centres and its HR department and asked for volunteers who could step in to manage the frenzy. For this, 550 employees from its corporate office were deployed at branches in Mumbai to work with cash, transactions and customer communication. It also brought in 7,000 people from subsidiaries to work pan-India, helping to manage the added work. Multi-skilled employees helped other staff at ICICI Bank find its feet in this highly critical period. It had to capitalize overnight on the 30,000 employees in the credit and sales teams to fight fire, redirecting them into front facing functions.
ItzCash has found this to be a good time to identify future leaders. “At a time like this, you don’t just look for employees who can put in long hours, but those who can stay calm in the situation as well,” said Vasa. Payments solution company PayU plans to incentivise employees with extra leave days when required, since they supported the organisation in the critical phase. This comes in addition to non-cash rewards like movie tickets and on the spot awards. While banks aren’t offering cash incentives to employees who have put in extra hours, Patym has introduced special incentives like monetary rewards for those who are meeting the new targets for handling transactions or on boarding new merchants. And, these cover also its business, technology, customer support and marketing teams. Banks struggled to keep up with the pace of the work. Webcasts and social media like Facebook were used by companies such as ICICI and Yes Bank in order to communicate with staff. “The volume was too high for us to deal with initially. It was nearly 10 times of what we are used to,” said Japjit Bedi, commercial director at Deutsche Bank India.