For Mastercard, QR Codes, Developing Market By (Developing) Market

When it comes to payments, each market or country has its own preferences. Cash, plastic, debit or credit — consumers demand access to the transaction types with which they are most comfortable. Technology plays a role, of course, in making sure choice is varied, especially when it comes to retail.

So it is that QR codes are seeing increased adoption across developing markets. And to that end, Mastercard, as had been noted in news from earlier this month, has been making strides in broadening both its technology and reach.   

The company said that its QR codes can be scanned across the transaction continuum, from merchants to consumers, governed by a set of global specifications put in place by EMVCo., and with consistent generation/capture of the QR codes across mobile devices.

In an interview with PYMNTS’ Karen Webster, Ajay Bhalla, president of Mastercard’s global enterprise risk and security operations, said the global standards come as Masterpass QR has gained traction, leveraging that standard in Africa and India, and helps consumers move beyond cash to mobile and online payment options. The process is a simple one, as a consumer scans a QR code displayed at checkout or by a text code entered into a phone. Conversely, merchants can scan QR codes from individuals’ phones and process payment through the Mastercard network, building off of M/Chip technology, in turn based on EMV infrastructure.

Bhalla noted that Mastercard has been doing QR codes for “quite some time,” in Africa, India, China and the Middle East and said that the company had gotten a good response from consumers and merchants and from banks. The keys to success, said Bhalla, are to make sure that security surrounding the online payments is strong, that the standard is simple and that it should work globally. 

With a nod to security, Bhalla noted that the technology behind QR is one that uses EMV for all contactless and other mobile payments options in more than 200 countries globally.  That level of security sets the standard for applications to be built out in the future. 

Use cases in certain developing markets, and specifically in a retail environment, said Bhalla, may be fashioned by specific consumer needs. In this case, the QR codes generated by a merchant or consumer have the distinct advantage of expanding merchant acceptance to all markets around the world, said Bhalla, especially in India. 

“India is a market that is taking off in digital in a big way.” He spoke of the widely watched move to demonetization, where QR is happening in tandem with that move to digital banking, boosted in part by solid support from institutions, including banks.    

Speaking to the scenario where the consumer generates the code, Bhalla said the move toward digital banking will boost that adoption in developing markets. But in the end, whether merchant-generated or consumer-generated, the QR code adoption “is not an either/or” but will instead be taken up on a market-by-market basis.    



The How We Shop Report, a PYMNTS collaboration with PayPal, aims to understand how consumers of all ages and incomes are shifting to shopping and paying online in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research builds on a series of studies conducted since March, surveying more than 16,000 consumers on how their shopping habits and payments preferences are changing as the crisis continues. This report focuses on our latest survey of 2,163 respondents and examines how their increased appetite for online commerce and digital touchless methods, such as QR codes, contactless cards and digital wallets, is poised to shape the post-pandemic economy.

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