Connected & Ready

Super apps for smart cities, with Shyam Sunder

Episode Summary

From ride sharing to public transportation to eating at a restaurant to paying taxes, people in Asia are starting to use “super apps.” Though they have not caught on the same way in the United States or Europe, it could just be a matter of time. In this episode of Connected & Ready, host Gemma Milne talks with Shyam Sunder, Vice President for Global Sales and Business Development at PayiQ, about the growing trend of super apps. They discuss how super apps evolved from existing technologies and their potential impact on how local governments and other organizations can deliver services and enhance the customer experience. Dynamics 365 is helping businesses of all sizes unify their data and create a digital-first culture. With next generation ERP and CRM business applications, employees at every level can reason over data, predict trends, and make proactive, more-informed decisions. Request a live demo of Dynamics 365 today: Thank you for listening to Connected & Ready! Do you have ideas of how we can improve the show? Want to recommend a guest for us to interview? We value your partnership and participation. Please drop us a note at We would love to hear from you.

Episode Notes

Gemma Milne talks with Shyam Sunder from PayiQ about the growing trend of super apps and their impact on service delivery and the customer experience, and the implications they might have on the concept of connected cities.


Topics of discussion


About Shyam Sunder:

Shyam is Vice President of Global Sales and Business Development at PayiQ. He is an industry influencer in connected automotive and MaaS (metal as a service). He has more than 15 years of experience in global partnerships and growth in mobility and automotive cybersecurity. Shyam is a research specialist in MaaS on transit and aggregation platforms and has also incubated early-stage mobility startups in Silicon Valley and Europe.

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Episode Transcription

Gemma [00:00:05] Hello and welcome. You're listening to Connected and Ready, an ongoing conversation about innovation, resilience, and our capacity to succeed. Brought to you by Microsoft. I'm Gemma Milne. I'm a technology journalist and author, and I'm going to be exploring trends around how companies are adapting to a disrupted world and preparing for tomorrow. We're going to speak to the innovators who are bringing products, operations, and people together in new ways. In today's episode, I'm chatting to Shyam Sunder, vice president of global sales and business development at PayiQ. To hear all about his perspective on the growing trend of super apps and the impact it has on service and customer experience. We'll also gain an insight into how PayiQ bundles ticketing, validation, and payments into an all in one solution to help create smart cities while ensuring the highest levels of security. Before we start, I want to thank all of you listeners out there. If you have a topic or a person you'd love to hear on the show, please send us an email at We're so thankful for you all, now on the episode. 

Gemma [00:01:09] Shyam, thank you so much for coming and joining us on the show. Let's start with a little introduction. Tell us a little bit about who you are, what your role is, and a little bit about your experience. 

Shyam [00:01:18] Thank you, Gemma. I onboarded in PayiQ about 20 months ago and it's been a pretty hectic journey. I was previously doing some advisory roles. It began in New Jersey after finishing my New Hampshire post-grad. I think you guys have heard of this company called Net to Phone, and Net to Phone was on the early startups way back in 1990s and 80s for AT&T that went into selling calling cards and many, many, you know, emerging markets. You guys must have heard of Mabon and Cruise. So SFO has a lot of those companies. I was part of one of them in the early stages. We were then looking at just selling it across to other car automotive audience back then. And then there was some time where I did some study, where I went into research for mobility and payments, and that's when a lot of things related to mass and ticketing started coming into the whole focus. And then PayiQ happened a little later of 2019. I was in Japan, then solving some mass issues for a project that was expected to be released for the Olympics. And then, you know, certain conversations with several ticketing players led me to talk to PayiQ co-founders as well, and you know we hit the right sweet spot in terms of what we do together. And one thing led to another and I belong to the PayiQ family right now. I manage some of the product stuff, I manage some of the GDM functions over here and how the product behaves in the market, what we do in the market, how do we revolutionize from where we are today and what's the roadmap and strategy? So I had a couple of things, you know, being a part of the senior leadership. 

Gemma [00:03:09] Amazing. Well, we're going to be talking a lot about what you're up to at PayiQ, but before we get into that, let's maybe zoom out a little bit, you know, over the last decade, we've seen app development and, you know, the diversity of the use cases absolutely skyrocket. Can you talk to us a little bit about how mobile applications have become an integral touchpoint for customers and kind of all kinds of providers? 

Shyam [00:03:33] It's a nice question to ask, actually. You know, if you look at universally most of the developments across the world, the piggyback on a platform or an echo system. If you look at 10 years ago, the Android and all things Android, you see how the Android and iOS completely decimated – there’s not a third OS layer in the phones right now. So these ecosystems are there in some form or the other for decades, right? So for example, way back in the 90s, you had something called servers and, you know, large data machines. And now in the 20th, from 2010 onwards, everybody is talking about cloud infrastructure. So the synonymous topic of servers and IT moved to the cloud. So it's like constantly changing as per generation's names. However, all the businesses the last mile always talked about some kind of a phone. Already a touch phone way back, in the past was used for customer background checks or KYC. Later, when the mobile platform started seeing innovations in hardware, these KYC started becoming value addition software apps that enhance user experience for a given service. So there have been a lot of old cases that became a new case just because of the revolution in the mobile hardware and mobile software side. So technically, you look at a KYC, know your customer tool, right? So it allows you to validate anybody in a particular geography or a country like, for example, the United States, to Germany, to Finland, to the world of Sweden. The more highly developed countries of the world had a fantastic, robust Social Security system. So having that on an application, having that access, having to know do the KYC very fast, let the banking world do a calling base payments the same way the ticketing world was able to bring about several methods to where to deliver economical tickets. Well, the banking saw economical banking tools to end users the same way the ticketing became economical ticketing medium on the phone. So if you come to Europe, you will see that a lot of conventional banks have shut their branches and they have completely a mobile ecosystem right now for their customers, that helps them through the phone biometrics. So as the hardware evolved and the software while on the phone ecosystem, things started evolving the same way the transit sector, the mobile world was a huge boon. 

Gemma [00:06:24] Let's move a little bit onto super apps because this is going to be the main sort of topic of discussion today. First of all, what are they? And why are they a growing trend? Tell us a little bit about the sort of potential that businesses can unlock, you know, to create better experiences in deploying super apps. 

Shyam [00:06:42] That's a nice question, actually, because the world is more into super apps, right? You are constantly engaging in a super app, say, for example, the PayPal, the Careem in the UAE, the Grabs of the world and the Ubers. You know these or in some way, the other super app. But the hijacking point of super app has started happening with the revolution, the fintechs, right? So you look at the fintech apps world basically challenging banks, and they want to bring about everything to your doorstep, to your hand, like what WeChat did in China, Yandex in Russia and so on and so forth. But the super apps, you know, basically digital front doors. And what they do is they create a lead, a marketplace of services and offerings. It could be their in-house technology or they could add a lot of third parties. So in transit space, we call that as all in one. So let me give you a small snapshot and take a modern city. You come to the city and you want access and pay for everything. You know you want to ride hail. You want to commute in a metro. You want to eat in a bistro. You know, you want to pay for that. You know, you want to go for some events, you know. So all of a sudden one app just for the city and by the city, right? So we called it in Europe a city access initiative and city access initiative is pretty, pretty big. That's coming up right now. And for all in one, it's about the whole city administration having one app for the locals, all for the tourists. Whoever walks into that city gets access to everything and is able to use the existing payment methods to complete the transaction or purchases. So it's like a cashless society where you are able to access, you're able to pay you're able to do all your work in one go. 

Gemma [00:08:43] Building on this idea of all in one, I'm curious about how you guys think about the potential issues with consolidation of services, particularly you're talking about an entire city. I'm thinking about the recent incident at Facebook, where Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp all went down. You know, it's a consolidated system, right? One issue, and suddenly nobody can access anything at all. What does that look like if you're suddenly saying, let's put all city services in one place. What happens when there's an issue? 

Shyam [00:09:13] Well, they're two sides of the same coin when you look at it, right? So on one side, whether it's a B2B or B2C angle. When you look at the B2B angle, you know, most of these issues are endowed with your DLP strategy, basically. For example, in PayiQ, what we do is we have an external DLP strategy and an internal DLP strategy where in the internal there is a software compliant and typical SaaS organization model, which is managed by cloud partners such as, you know, as you're in our existing DLP strategies, it's pretty robust, especially in transit ticketing and payments. Every opportunity has a testbed. And these testbeds have issues and experience shared by operators and existing environments. Could be anything, it could be any kind of hacking stuff. Or, you know, it could be any kind of irritation, which is back to the servers and back to the whole network. So we have certain parameters and certain of our IPs, as we call it, an anti-fraud engine. For example, in the PayiQ platform, you cannot take a picture of the ticket. There's something called velocity checking where the location and the log in the ticket is registered. So you know it doesn't allow any suspicious behavior. You can't share that ticket to anybody in that model. And then we have preconfigured safety rules on every ticket purchase. So and then we do have some behavioral analysis and big data analysis where we check the customer's history to define the risk level of each transaction that they're going through. And then there's something called the anti passbook, which is an highly configurable ticket usability options by setting minimum times for ticket reuse. You know, for example, you get a two hour ticket, you know, in certain cities where our partners and operators want to engage. And so we want to have a ticket that's valid for two hours. We want to have a ticket that's only for three hours. So we have a day ticket, you have a half day ticket, you know, you have various fare product that matches with the anti-fraud engine, and it's designed that way to provide to the operators. Lastly the last one is the no scan code. You know, any captured QR code will never work. So that's something I like. So that's where we are. So of course, from an organization perspective, we're talking about, you know, outages and getting back. We do have it but intensely planning in place that, you know, if we have fewer servers down, say, in Estonia, we're working fine. In Sweden, we have some planning and redundancy in the market so that our customers are safe and secure. 

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Gemma [00:12:35] Let's get into some of the specifics about PayiQ. What is it that makes PayiQ software unique, you know, like how does your system work together to ensure efficient and effective operation? And what information is leveraged from end to end? Wonder if you could maybe also share some real-world examples of the short and long term impacts of PayiQ once it's deployed. 

Shyam [00:12:55] So PayiQ is a new age ticketing as a service organization. Our core products deliver the most economical ticket in the world on a mobile phone, providing an excellent platform for the operators to engage with the riders and deliver the least ticket expensive to their community. So in a nutshell, the ticketing as a service requires a SaaS a trademark, which will be PayiQ by the way. So the commercially you had to look at it as two parts of the brain, so you have a left brain and the right brain right. So the left brain is like a front ending application, so it's moderated for both B2B and B2C initiatives. Well, the right brain is the core, it’s the kind of the cloud and the plug ins that can be easily integrated for the purpose of the program and the requirements as for what the operators felt. So what you see on the phone is just the application, the picture-perfect UI and the user experience. Nothing stays on the phone environment. There's not a single data of the user or the user's credit card details or the user's purchasing. All the activity has happened on the server side, the cloud side based on the plugins or features lists for us, so sort of engagement. So whatever happens happens for us on the cloud side, we have an infrastructure that is purely cloud driven and it's fast. It's pretty fast. So just like, you know, like in today's scenario, APIs are the new back office. Essentially, the whole discussion around the APIs is to create a framed organization in a commercially viable and technically feasible. So that's the right way to put it. 

Gemma [00:14:44] Amazing. Let's talk a little bit about mass. You talked about task being the ticketing service and massive being mobility as a service and something that a lot of people are very interested in nowadays in either of these kind of emerging trends. I wonder if you could tell us a little bit about how PayiQ sort of tapping into the growth and the potential of this sort of phenomenon? I mean, what does it mean for smart cities and end users, you know, can you zoom out and kind of paint us a picture or a vision of what mass can look like as you move forward? 

Shyam [00:15:12] You know, mass is no joke. It's a very expensive game, delivering an experience and multi-model journey planning together. Look at yourself. You sit in a room you want to travel, say you don't have a car and you know you open a mass app, some mass app and you say you want to go from point A to point B, and then the app delivers you to your next ride. But then the ride could be some third party vendor who's not Uber, who is not Lyft, but somebody else. And then he takes you to point B and then on point B you need to get down and take a metro to go to your point C. Now you look at it from the backend, that's an integration, right? I need to have something called TSP. They call this transport service providers. I need to look for transport service providers to give me the right fleet, give me fleet availability in that market. We have launched the app. I need to not have one but three different DSPs. And, you know, it's an amazing experience that somebody would manage all your rides, but it's very difficult in the backend to get everything synchronized and orchestrated. So of course, there are several mass models and experiences associated with them. You have something called lightweight mass city model, which PayiQ is working on right now and the heavyweight that is international roaming. And then there's absorption and so on and so forth. So of course, mass is an expensive super app because from a B2C app, you know, you find most commercials and legal and business wholesale across several DSPs and you showcase all the available inventory real time. For example, you know, when you look at a mass app, you can see where your real time, your vehicle, the vehicles that are going to serve you and available, for example, you want a bike and a bike should be there around the corner so that you can see it so you can go unlock it and go about it. 

Gemma [00:17:09] Just briefly, I wonder if we could build on this kind of broader, I guess, exploration of mass and just tell me a little bit about where IoT comes into this and how, you know, merging these two acronyms, shall we say, is I guess the vision of unlocking the connected city, shall we say. 

Shyam [00:17:29] The connected city is a fantastic initiative. The only thing is that every party in that city is actually going to like the other party in the city, you know? But I'll be ready by so and so time. Will you be ready by so and so time? Right? But the IoT topic and the overall IoT, it needs another separate podcast all together, but I'll make it very short and sweet over here. So we do have an excellent cloud because obviously, we've invested a lot of R&D in how we run and do a plug and play model on the cloud. So the committee of the riders and the bus and the metro. Now when you look at what happens in the back is a collection of huge big data, right? Right from the kind of ways that you have for the App, for example, whether you're on an iOS phone or an Android phone and from where to where are you going and what payment methods you use to buy the ticket. And did you move from a high traffic zone to a low traffic zone? You know, all kinds of those things. So that big data spreadsheet is available for the operator or the authority to see that these many riders went from here to here or there to there, right? So there's a booklet, the huge booklet of tools available, and that's the core subject. Now you look at this from three different or four different angles. There is an anonymous on demand mobility available for your city, and they want to serve, and they go say you know, we want to be part of this ecosystem, we want to provide our services to your riders, here's the API. So the next day morning you're on the phone, you get to see there is a new service available that has two options. One is on demand and the second is join the gang. On demand is you're the only rider, join the gang is, you know, you're pool in the ride. So basically there's a so-called fleet that's going from Torrance in downtown. And you know, you can put that in these stops. So when you're there, it recognizes you've already reached and the autonomous vehicle picks you up. It takes you to the location and you get off. So it's basically what is happening is that, you know, I spoke to you about the booklet of tools, the big data, right? The second is this the digital twin experience and the cloud can actually send data to the autonomous shuttle around. And if the previous shuttle is delayed, you have another shuttle that picks you up. So you are anyway provided with the service, but it's on demand or pooled. But then both is synchronization and orchestrations happening at the same time. So the second most important is within the whole product there is an element called the flexible infrastructure platform. For example, if I were to do parking, ticketing, and toll, I saw the intermediaries to connect with the entire base IoT environments. And that's another leap for the whole, you know, service provider to give that service. So creating that into our product is what we believe will be the next transformation for us. But however, looking at what mobility and IoT will bring to the table and what we do in that table is something to what I just explained to you. 

Gemma [00:21:03] Let's come to a close by focusing a little bit. We've talked a lot about the future. Let's talk a little bit about the present or recent history. We've got quite far without mentioning COVID 19, but let's dive into it now. I mean, how is you know, these smart ticketing platforms been helping public transport bodies, you know, navigate during this crisis? Has it had a particularly interesting role that's worth mentioning, obviously, then informing what the future looks like for these kind of platforms? 

Shyam [00:21:31] It's a pretty in-depth story there, right? What does smart ticketing mean? Right? For example, all of your tickets on your phone. How does that happen? Like, you know, you have a phone, you have the application, and then you can travel anywhere in your city any time, be it the bus, be it the metro or a shared car. Right? So however the underlying cost of having a ticket in conventional forms is an expensive line item for both capex and opex in a particular book of accounts for an operator. So conventionally, the ticket issuing and the ticket authorization is an expensive game for the operators. And that's where smart ticketing or the hybrid ticketing models came in and they helped the operators to grow over from their capex models and opex models. So they brought the cost of transportation and the cost of goods has become much higher. So the experience becomes very, very expensive. And due to this, there's the ridership drop and the chain continues, right? The whole cost chain keeps continuing across the board, across various options that you see. So how does a city solve this? How does a city like SFO or Seattle or Chicago solve this problem when there is huge cost of getting the drivers or getting something for you to move around a city? So obviously, you know, PayiQ cannot solve this problem. We cannot solve this problem. The city can solve this problem. And this is where rider and commuter and operator information and preparedness comes into action. And this is where we are trying to promote the PayiQ city access initiatives wherein we could build a holistic ecosystem into a product that delivers much of the necessary big data needed to take action. If each of these organizations that are there in the public transport domain are able to understand what it takes to give an experience and what does it take to deliver that experience, then you know that right synchronization and that right element starts coming into the whole organization. So these kind of things get managed better. Recently, I was told that in some of the airports in the US, technically there's no rental cars available and in the secondhand market because chip shortages, the secondhand market has just skyrocketed overnight. The impact is you're also seeing that a lot of people finding the rides very expensive, and so they're using the scooters to do the commute, the short distance commute like a three mile commute, four mile commute on scooters. And you see that already the struggling public transport organizations there, they don't have riders for two reasons: one is because the less riders coming to the city and the less drivers that they have in the queue to run the busses. So all this cycle, it means that there is no preparedness or there is no particular instrument for them to gauge the preparedness. This is where we want to get in and have a certain solution in place that allows not just the riders, but also the operators and also the city, etc, to get the required information that they want. 

Gemma [00:25:02] It comes back to, I guess, one of the central themes that we talk about a lot on the show, which is about resilience, right? It's about being able to not just build platforms, but have a different mindset and a different approach to creating solutions with this idea of resilience or as you say preparedness in tow. Shyam, we've come to the end, would you believe, of our discussion. This has been absolutely fascinating. We've touched so much on these kind of broader themes of mass and connect cities and smart transport. But also hearing a lot more about PayiQ has been really fascinating, and it's exciting to hear about what your sort of vision and next steps for the company are, so Shyam thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing your expertise with us today. 

Shyam [00:25:41] Thank you so much for having me on this podcast, and it's been an interesting journey with you the last 30 minutes and it's fantastic to get your questions. I hope that these questions and answers serve to significant importance and what it brings forward too. Thank you so much. 

Gemma [00:25:58] That's it for this week. Thank you so much for tuning in. You can find out more about Shyam's work and indeed some of the broader themes we discussed today in the show notes. If you enjoy the episodes, please do take a few moments to rate and review the podcast. It really helps other people discover the show, and don't forget to subscribe and tune in next time to continue our conversation about innovation, resilience, and our capacity to succeed.

Ad [00:26:27] Dynamics 365 delivers next generation ERP and CRM business applications, helping employees at every level reason over data, predict trends, and make proactive, more-informed decisions. Request a live demo of Dynamics 365 today by following the link in the episode description.