We have the pleasure to talk about payments and fight to cash culture in the East Europe with Maria Gracheva, brand new CEO of Yandex.Money, in her very first interview in the new role. Since 2011 she has been responsible for the expansion of Yandex.Money’s services in and outside of Russia and has been the architect of a whole series of new products.
The fastest way to explain to Italian readers Yandex is “the Russian Google”. What are the similarities and the differences with the Big G of Moutain View?
This definition could be useful for people outside the Russian market that do not know its characteristics. Yes, it’s true we offer search engine, digital adv, e-mails and maps, but Yandex is also much more: we give information and answers to our community because our company is deeply connected with the territory. Just an example: every spring in Moscow the hot water service is suspended in turns for maintenance, Yandex allows to control when the hot water service is suspended in every single house.
So Yandex has a closer relationship with its community.
Yandex is much closer to the local community. We are a tailor suite for Russia and Moscow.
Just Russia? And Europe?
We are investing and operating in Turkey, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan and with excellent results.
And in European Union area?
As of now we are focused on Turkey as it is one of the most interesting market to invest in at the moment. I would also like to remind we operate in the bigger part of the CIS area, not only in Russia. We could think to offer our services for European Union, but Yandex doesn’t have such plans now.
You have been working in the epayment industry for many years with Yandex.Money, are your results satisfying? Did you bring innovation in your country?
We started with huge investments in the cash collection procedures: we decided to accept only epayments for our digital adv services and at that time we were the only to offer such services. Just few years ago the credit and debit cards market was very little, we did a great effort to create a network of poinf of sale in shops, big retailers, ATMs, banks, postal offices and in every activity we could. Now in Russia you can top up your personal electronic wallet in many counters shop. Besides, in the city there are a lot of automatic reload points where a consumer can pay bills, top up his mobile and deposit his money in the e-wallet.
We think we could use this particular network for the cash collection in other countries, like, for example, Italy where there is still a strong cash culture. But we also need to better understand the local situations. I am not so sure that a strategy working in a country could be useful in a different reality. In Brazil, for example, I do not think that open air transactions in certain areas could be really safe.
So your first effort was the creation of a strong network for the cash collection.
Yes, we gave our clients the opportunity to digitalize their money in the fastest and simplest way possibile. Our goal is to be simpler than cash.
Is the epayment used just in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, or it is now a reality in all the country?
Our data say the epayment use is proportional to the internet accessibility and information technology knowledge. Where these factors are high, even outside Moscow and Saint Petersburg, epayment has high rates of usage.
CashlessWay wants to spread the epayment digital culture using all the tools of the modern communication. Do you think Russia could need a similar activity?
Yes, we also need to communicate to the Russian consumers the benefits of epayment. In a recent surveys we saw that a great part of credit cards holders uses them just to withdraw cash. This is quite odd, but the truth is that salary and pension payments are now in digital money, but none had explained to workers and retirees what was happening. So they just go to another counter to transform their digital money in cash.
Shadow economy in Russia is probably 20% of GDP. In Italy we have a similar situation. CashlessWay claims in every possible way that support epayment means to help a society more honest, transparent and clean. Does Yandex.Money fight against shadow economy and corruption?
Yes, we fight to sustain epayment as a fundamental tool for payments openness. Yandex is now working on a project to become payments mediator for goods sold in eshops partners and we will guarantee deliveries and refunds. We firmly think our brand is a guarantee for the payment system security and we will use it to support epayment.