Bringing global expertise to the SA payments industry

Karen Nadasen

Two years of new local leadership, PayU South Africa is a significant part of the
Naspers’ fintech and e-payments division’s success

Karen Nadasen, PayU South Africa’s CEO, is regularly described as one of South Africa’s most inspiring women in tech, nominated for IT Personality of the Year 2017, and listed among 100 Most Influential Young South Africans 2017 – since taking the helm 2 years ago.

Heading up the in-country division of Naspers-owned PayU came with a handful of challenges – payment gateway consolidation of the local market by global players, new compliance and standards, and a drove of large services and brick and mortar retailers coming online.

If local challenges were not enough, South African business growth was not the sole extent of her mandate. Instead, she played a role in managing the company’s shift from a locally-focused business to a pivotal part of one global business that is PayU, industry leaders in India, Latin America and Central Eastern Europe. Positioned as ‘local experts in growth markets’, PayU worldwide is concentrating on both the products and processes that transform them into a consolidated, international payments force in emerging and high growth markets – which is often the most challenging for companies to operate in due to volatility and operating standards.

When Nadasen became CEO, she had a three-pronged approach for fulfilling her vision of the major transformation necessary for PayU South Africa – growth, positioning and market agility. And it appears to be working “Our 2017/2018 year-on-year growth was 123%, while the market growth was projected to be 20% for last year,” she says.

“What has been positive but unexpected is that, for some, the percentage of online growth noted far exceeded their in-store growth, which was not met without issues. As volumes soared some experienced infrastructure issues, not being able to cope with the significant increase in online shopping volumes, Black Friday being one obvious example. The payments infrastructure also came under pressure with some banks and Bankserv not maintaining 100% uptime.

“Merchants of all sizes benefits from reduced administration and associated costs, industry-leading approval rates, and consolidated reporting, when linking to the PayU Hub. “We offer 2 types of integration, local and global via a single integration made possible by the PayU Hub for cross border or global merchants. So most of our local merchants are integrated into the local platform. The PayU Hub speaks to agility and positioning as truly became 1 company and started to consolidate its businesses, processes, products under PayU Global.”

Nadasen’s career in technology spans 17 years, from humble beginnings as a Java programmer to joining PayU South Africa at a challenging and volatile phase of its growth. At the same time, she manages motherhood of a toddler between international travel and acting as chief executive.

“Local payments providers are working towards making payments as frictionless as possible, given the need to be invisible and indispensable at the same time. There is, of course, more work ahead to bring the banks and merchants together to create a more streamlined omni-channel experience, but the spirit is right and the momentum is there, especially with the great work that the Payments Association of South Africa (PASA) is doing,” she concludes.