With annual transactions amounting to US$20 billion from upwards of 7 million merchants and a valuation of around US$10 billion, mobile payments firm Paytm operates the largest financial services platform in the Indian market. From their home base in Delhi, the company offers digital wallet services, including mobile payments, banking, lending and insurance, ticketing and entertainment, and in-app messaging, to close to 200 million users worldwide.

When the time came for the firm to further advance its ground-breaking financial services platform — using machine learning technology to build fraud detection and security protection into their systems — they found a business-friendly environment and a steady supply of world-class talent in Ontario.

"One of the many things that I love [about Ontario] is how supportive the provincial government is when you're starting a business," says Harinder Takhar, CEO Paytm Labs. "It was such a positive experience for me, when I started Paytm Labs. Members from the provincial government guided me through the process."

Expansion to Toronto was "a clear and easy choice"

With its concentration of headquarters of both Canadian and international financial institutions, a trailblazing start-up culture, and ready access to an exceptional talent pool sourced from dozens of leading universities — including two that sit among the top 10 business schools worldwide — it's no wonder that when Paytm was seeking a location for its first office outside of India, "Toronto, Ontario emerged as a clear and easy choice," according to Takhar, who launched the firm's innovation arm, Paytm Labs, in the city's downtown core in 2014.

As a former Strategic Product Manager with Blackberry, Takhar had been intimately familiar with the incredible support offered to technology companies doing business in Ontario. But it was Toronto's FinTech meet-up community that further solidified the decision to put down roots in the city.

"I loved to attend meet-ups because they provided me with insights on how to solve problems in the global financial services industry," said Takhar. "These types of problems, that seemed unsolvable, all of a sudden had hope because machine learning tackled it in an innovative way. It was inspiring for me."

Using machine learning to make customers' lives better

Paytm's significant data gathering and processing needs — with more than 20 million financial transactions processed per day, resulting in upwards of a petabyte of user data — presented both an opportunity and a challenge. If Paytm could use machine learning technology to better understand customer trends (including detecting fraud in the system), they could move closer to solving some of the most pressing problems that affect the lives of millions of people around the world, effectively turning what was once a financial services issue into a technological challenge. "We take pride in the fact that we aren't focused on banking services or financial services," says Takhar. "Rather, we believe that technology is efficient, and it can help a lot of people to get access to financial services at minimal cost. That's the disruptive force that Paytm brings to the payments industry — merging email technology with financial services."

Yet, no off-the-shelf processing software could manage Paytm's level of activity. Their solution: Tap into the talent and infrastructure available in the growing Ontario market to support their activities around the world.

Availability of world-class talent in Ontario supports global organizational success

In addition to the consumer-facing mobile payment application and rewards programs launched in 2017–18, Paytm Labs' 75 employees are primarily responsible for fraud detection, security protection and protocols, and reporting for Paytm's global business operations.

It's a high-stakes challenge, and one that Takhar believes has helped his organization to attract the highest caliber of talent from the Ontario market. "We're working on solving problems for our company as a whole, and we're building a recognizable brand name among the engineering and data science community because of the scale that we're able to offer. When you're trying to solve these types of technological problems, you attract a very special kind of talent, which is so much easier for us to do here in Ontario."

Expansion in Ontario is a global proof point

Backed by such financial services heavy-hitters as Japan's SoftBank and China's Alibaba Group and Alipay, and with the support of the Ontario Investment Office, Paytm Canada has invested more than $10 million to grow their operations in Canada over the next decade.

"We've put a stake in the ground with our service offering in Canada," says Takhar of his company's success to date.

"Knowing that we can cater to different payment ecosystems and appeal to consumers in different places is a proof point. This demonstrates that we can develop financial services models. And, our activities in Ontario will help us to define future strategies for moving into other countries, defining new regions and new areas where we can solve problems for consumers at scale."

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May 7, 2018

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