PayPal India betting on freelancers to fuel digital payments growth

By Durba Ghosh@durba1985

India at present is one of the largest market for freelancers in the world with over 10 million people engaged in freelancing gigs. While India’s digital payments trajectory has been concentrated on small and medium enterprises, PayPal India’s Director of Growth, Narsi Subramanian, is bullish on the freelancer community to fuel the digital payments ecosystem.

PayPal, now in its 10th year of operations in India, has introduced several products in the market to ease cross-border payments for small sellers and exporters.

In a move to boost business from Indian merchants, PayPal digitised the complicated process of acquiring Foreign Inward Remittance Certificate (FIRC) for sellers and freelancers earlier this month. It also slashed the cost of filling an FIRC by 50%. It is now gradually stepping up its efforts in India to gain more market share.

According to Subramanian, PayPal will continue to focus on its core function of cross-border payments, and sees the freelancer segment as a significant growth driver in that space. According to a report – Insights into the freelancers’ ecosystem – released by PayPal in January, about 74% of the freelancers in India use PayPal accounts.

The US-based company also launched domestic payments in India in November last year.

Subramanian elaborated further on PayPal’s growth strategy in an exclusive chat with Moneycontrol. Edited excerpts from an interview:

How have digital payments evolved in India? How will PayPal leverage it?Demonetisation in 2016 gave a much needed push to digital payments and today it is a flourishing industry. It helped widen the market and people today are educated about digital payments. Now there is demand for more solutions that not just look at simple movement of money, but also at other aspects such as simplifying processes, such as the FIRC that we recently digitised.


Then there is data security aspect. We already have a significant presence in cross-border payments and given India’s high growth rate in digital payments, we launched it in November 2017.

It is still early days and we are exploring what more we can do with it. With several cyber security issues cropping up, people are now demanding more secure methods of transactions. That is an area of expertise that resonates through our cross-border payments, and the same will be the case with domestic transactions.

There is high competition in the domestic payments space. What is the approach that PayPal will take to tackle it?

In the space of money movement, yes, there is a lot competition. But what we are offering is unique, wherein individual entrepreneurs, freelancers, or merchants will be able to seamlessly access local or global transactions through a single integration. In the current scenario, many players are now reaching out globally, which implies there is a burgeoning market for it.

Every transaction, be it from sellers of tangible goods, or freelancers and service providers, is a valid business proposition when it comes to payments. Currently, one-fourth of our volumes come from cross-border payments.

Our value proposition here is very strong. More than 227 million people are able to use PayPal for international payments. When customers are looking for a payment method which their clients like or prefer, most of the time it is PayPal.

Why is PayPal focusing on the freelancer segment?

We see exports also as a focus area, especially fashion. But on a larger perspective, we see high growth in the freelancer segment. With greater access to the internet, a lot of homemakers and students are turning to freelancing. Our report revealed that 50% of freelancers were women. We see that happening a lot in India lately. That will be a great contributor to our growth.


In India, the freelancer segment is highly concentrated in the web designing, data analytics and education space.

There is high demand for them in big corporate houses also. They hire skillful freelancers on contract for a project instead of hiring a full-time resource. It is a fast growing market, of the size of around USD 10 billion. Freelancers are small businesses, so they need a payment method known to their customers.

If you look at the preferred payment platform for such transactions, it is PayPal. We are not only solving the issue of payment method but we are also trusted because of the level of security we offer on each transaction.

That is crucial, because according to the survey, close to 61% of the surveyed freelancers have not been paid at least once through their career and many have also lost money in transaction.