Welcome to PYMNTS.com’s 2014 CEO Series: a quick and concise glimpse into the minds of the leaders of the payments industry and how they view innovation, change and growth. We’ll ask each top exec the same six questions about the payments industry to gauge who they view as innovation experts and why they feel their company stands out. What advice do these leaders have to offer to those looking to survive in a complex and dynamic industry?
Meet Rahul Mutha, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Aurus. Mutha founded Aurus in his basement in Long Island back in 2000, and has since turned it into a payments solution provider for Fortune 2000 companies in the retail, financial services and healthcare industries.
Last month, Mutha dropped by the PYMNTS.com office to talk one-on-one with MPD CEO Karen Webster about how retailers are dealing with a “tripod” situation (EMV, breaches and changing consumer demands) and how his company acts as a “high-speed elevator” to retail’s future. This time around, we sat down again with the “operator” of that elevator to find out why Aurus embraces starting out small (with a big vision) in innovation, which companies he believes are best at innovation, and what advice he’d give to young innovators looking to play a role in shaping retail’s future.
How would you define your company’s approach to innovation?
RM: Innovation was the cornerstone for starting Aurus. Our company is always in search of new problems and challenges with the payments and other industries we serve. Our customers are the greatest source of ideas as well as strategic partners. We then create a “Big Vision” to develop a new solution, but start executing on a small scale. We take incremental steps to solving the challenges and perfect the process along the way. We realize innovation is not a “destination” but an ongoing journey to perfection. As a privately held business, we are able to reinvest a large portion of our profits into developing new solutions while taking a long-term view on delivering an ROI. This creates an intellectually challenging and fun place to work, attracting highly talented software engineers.
What is the most innovative thing that you have introduced into the market and what value did it deliver to the stakeholder group that was its target?
RM: Aurus has developed many innovative and leading-edge solutions over the past decade, including AurusPay®, our 5th generation platform; ‘pay-at-the-pump” mobile wallet; BYOD mobile checkout; and geo-targeting applications. More recently, we developed AurusShield®, our patented secure payment application that is solving the challenges being faced by retailers to protect their payment data against the threat of malware attacks. A data breach can result in substantial loss of revenue, drive customers to competitors and sometimes even result in bankruptcy. AurusShield is an innovative approach in the marketplace, and keeps our customers ahead of the cybercriminals while preparing them for EMV, mobile commerce and other innovative payment solutions.
Where do you look for innovative ideas and why?
RM: Aurus looks everywhere for innovative ideas. First, we try to identify and especially anticipate growing needs in the payment and mobile commerce space. Our clients provide one of the best sources for our innovation. Aurus aggressively focuses on attracting clients who are hungry for innovative solutions to their problems and partner with us during the innovation process. The clients look to us to solve their challenging problems, something that becomes an exhilarating adventure for the Aurus engineering team.
What do you think that most people underestimate about innovating in payments?
RM: Innovators and the general public do not have a detailed understanding of the complexities of the payment infrastructure. The payment process has been evolving over the past 5 decades. There are many stakeholders involved in the process including, bank issuers, processors, networks (Visa, MasterCard, Amex), and merchants. All of the stakeholders have made investments in technology and processes over the years. Innovators often design new solutions, which require large investments on behalf of the stakeholders, to implement. Our approach is to develop solutions that adapt to the existing infrastructure, minimizing or eliminating the need for change in the existing payment process.
What person or company do you think “gets” innovation and why – and, conversely, who or what has missed it and why?
RM: Samsung and Apple seem to be the leaders at the forefront of mobile innovation. On a fairly consistent basis, they are able to develop a new mobile device with incremental and in many cases significant innovative features. In addition, they are leveraging their product lines to deliver new and integrated platforms to address the evolving needs of people on the go. Both companies are starting to branch out into wearable technology, which might enable us to live healthier lives.
On the other hand, RIM, the founders of Blackberry phone, is a good example of an innovator who has lost their way. RIM failed to realize that innovation is a journey, not a destination.
What advice would you give a young innovator in this space and why would you tell her to heed it?
RM: We encourage innovators that have new ideas. There are many cases where we invest with them to bring them to market. The best advice we give our innovating partners is to make sure they are solving a real problem or need. Think big with a grand vision, but focus the company’s innovation on a small, highly targeted element of the problem. Finally, always double the amount of time you think it should take to bring your new innovation to life.
Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Aurus, Inc.
Rahul Mutha is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Aurus, a leader in providing innovative payment solutions. Headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts, Aurus’s customers include Fortune 2000 companies in Retail, Financial Services and Healthcare industries. MassTLC Annual Awards recently recognized Aurus as a finalist for it’s new-patented payment security solution, AurusShield®.
Through Rahul’s hard drive and determination, he founded the company from his basement in Long Island, NY back in 2000. Today, the company owns a major development center in Pune, India, employees over 250 employees, and processes approximately $4 billion in transactions a day. The company is well positioned for continued rapid grow as it solves some of the most complex omnichannel and payment acceptance challenges facing global businesses.
Under Rahul’s leadership, Aurus has built AurusPay®, a 5th- generation PCI PA-DSS Certified payment processing platform integrated with major payment processors in the United States and 11 countries around the world. Rahul invented and received a patent in September 2013 for AurusShield, a security process that protects merchants’ card data against cyber malware attacks. AurusShield, along with EMV, is already being installed by thousands of merchants in the United States.
Prior to founding Aurus, Rahul was the co-founder of Emergent, which was acquired by Keane Consulting. He also held executive leadership positions at Infosys Technologies. Rahul was also awarded the Certificate of Achievement for Engagement Excellence and was named to the Connect Gold Standard Club in recognition of outstanding achievement in client services. He has published a paper on “Modeling of semiconductor devices degradation in outer space.” He holds a Masters Degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Massachusetts, and a Bachelors Degree in Electronics Engineering from the University of Pune (India).