Mastering innovation to adapt to a changing payments landscape

Praveen Kumar Kalwagadda, vice president of engineering, Cashfree Payments spoke to Dataquest about how the company has managed to grow

Supriya Rai
New Update
How ChatGPT is affecting industry dynamics 2 550x300

The way people make payments has undergone a significant transformation in recent years, driven by advancements in technology and shifting consumer preferences. Traditional methods such as cash and checks are gradually being replaced by digital alternatives, including mobile payments, cryptocurrencies, and online platforms. To thrive in this dynamic environment, businesses must embrace innovation and stay ahead of the curve. Recently, Praveen Kumar Kalwagadda, vice president of engineering, Cashfree Payments spoke to Dataquest about how the company has managed to grow with the aid of innovation and efficient runtime.


DQ: Cashfree Payments operates in a highly competitive market. What strategies does the engineering team employ to maintain a competitive edge and continually improve the company's technology offerings?

Praveen Kumar Kalwagadda: At Cashfree Payments, we have a streamlined focus on understanding the dynamic payments needs of our customers. Our customer-first approach and innovation mindset lie at the core of our strategies. 

Cashfree Payments works towards revolutionising the payments businesses in India. In contrast to the traditional specialised tools, we are dedicating our efforts in building and strengthening a comprehensive payments suite, hosting multiple independent payment products that contribute to the fintech ecosystem. We have recognised the importance and need for fundamental building blocks and have constructed complex payment solutions with a focus on automation.


At the same time, we keep in mind the scalability and resilience of our products and services. Our systems have been built keeping stability and easy maintenance as our top priority. Our architecture is hosted on AWS and we use a lot of managed services to focus on delivering great effective solutions to our customers. This is also really important as our DevOps team is extremely lean.

At Cashfree Payments, we operate with smart, tight knit and self-organising teams. Our working hinge on quickness in reaction and accuracy, while building products with high quality. Many engineering teams  work alongside product managers. We believe in providing a high degree of freedom to our employees to run experiments, take bets and deliver while learning on the job.

Metrics driven in product and platform engineering help us to focus on building the best in the industry solutions for our merchants. All that we choose to measure, we have an opportunity to improve and optimise. We have successfully done this, not only for platform latencies and system availability, but also for bringing further efficiencies in the engineering process. 


Our focus on rapid innovation and efficient runtime are crucial for Cashfree Payments’ sustained growth. Our primary focus is reducing service delivery time while providing our merchants with the best return on investment. We have an unwavering commitment to designing intuitive and top-quality interfaces and solutions for even the most complex problems.

DQ: What are some of the challenges that fintech companies face while scaling the technology infrastructure to handle increasing transaction volumes? How can companies overcome these challenges while maintaining high performance and system reliability?

Praveen Kumar Kalwagadda: The fintech industry is a rapidly evolving space, with changing customer needs. This has made it imperative for the companies to respond to the industry changes effectively while focusing on the scalability of product offerings and operations. In the process, some of the key challenges that fintech companies may face while scaling technology infrastructure are:


Scaling too fast: It is important to stop and take stock, during the growth phase. The company needs to not only have a product or service that a growing user base wants, but the business systems, infrastructure, and employees in place to support that demand, to address the customer needs in the most effective manner.It is crucial to analyse the product demand and their receptiveness in the marketplace before scaling up.

Companies start hiring for quantity, not quality: When a company hits a rapid growth phase, it often feels easier to hire just any employee, but having the wrong team in place is among the top reasons a startup fails. This dilutes the human resource quality with hampered customer focus. Make only quality hires

Losing focus: As companies scale, it’s easy to get distracted, resulting in a lost and diverted focus. The companies need to fight the desire to add on new features or products too soon. If you’re not solving customers’ primary pain point, the additional distractions will not matter. It’s important to stay focused on the big picture and the work that will ultimately drive success.


Investing in security: Security is essential to help businesses earn the trust of their customers, regulators, and auditors and protect themselves from malware. New and evolving threat vectors with growing levels of sophistication mean that security is not a one-time task. It is important for startups to invest in security measures right from the beginning so that they can build on the right response to a security incident by cutting down on any latency

DQ: The payments industry is continuously evolving with the introduction of new technologies and changing customer preferences. How does Cashfree Payments stay at the forefront of these industry developments, and what steps are taken to ensure the company remains adaptable and innovative in a rapidly changing landscape?

Praveen Kumar Kalwagadda: At Cashfree Payments, we pride ourselves on being a cutting-edge, software-based payments platform that operates on the low code/ no code system. Our rapid innovation and efficient runtime are crucial for the sustained growth of our company. We are dedicated to constantly optimising and enhancing our technological capabilities to maintain our position as industry leaders. We leverage technology to differentiate ourselves in our end products and by automating internal processes. Our primary focus is reducing service delivery time while providing our customers with the best return on investment. We have an unwavering commitment to designing intuitive and top-quality interfaces and solutions for even the most complex problems.


DQ: Cashfree Payments has achieved significant growth and success in the fintech industry.  What are some of the key factors that have contributed to the company's achievements and innovation in the payments space?

Praveen Kumar Kalwagadda: A relentless customer-first focus, effective product offerings, and innovation are at the core of Cashfree Payments’ rapid growth and success in the industry.  We believe that it is essential to accurately understand and assess the payments needs of our customers. Based on that, we develop holistic payments products from verification suites to API stacks to gateways and more. This allows us to operate effectively in fintech, to cater to the dynamic payments requirements of businesses and their end customers.

To ensure excellence in our service delivery and easy but effective integration, we have meticulously devised a robust technology infrastructure and operational system. With sufficient degrees of scalability and resilience, our systems have been built keeping stability and easy maintenance as our top priority.


Cashfree Payments’ tech platform offers the building blocks on which all of our partners and merchants can develop their products. In order to handle varied volumes and value payments, we have no-code and low-code alternatives. Our solutions enable the  partners to process payouts as well as receive rapid refunds, which enhances their customer service. 

It is essential that there exists a befitting resonance between powerful technology systems and human resources. We have always worked hard to promote a customer connected engineering culture that is more responsive to user feedback, since this aids in developing the correct kinds of products. It helps in boosting developer delight, making engineers more empowered to drive excellence for customers. We have been constantly evolving based on the changing customer needs. 

DQ: Looking ahead, what technological advancements or developments can we expect from Cashfree Payments, and how will the engineering team contribute to the company's future growth and success?

Praveen Kumar Kalwagadda: We have always kept our merchants and their customers at the centre of all our business decisions. We will continue our focus on strengthening our product suite and service offerings, catering to the evolving payments needs of businesses by offering customised, innovative, and industry-first products.

We are working towards introducing novel features on the BaaS platform which will further aid businesses and users save a great deal of time by digitising the entire banking services and providing a complete banking ecosystem from within their product. Further, we intend to enhance the utility and effectiveness of our recently launched offerings—a global collection service for exporters, a card issuance stack for fintech companies, along with a BNPL (Buy Now, Pay Later) suite, besides other tools for digital lending like escrow management and tokenisation solution.  

Further, we look forward to introducing ‘embedded payments’ solutions to assist companies streamline payments integration. This will address the challenges faced by developers during integrating payments into their tools, such as accounting or reservation systems, due to limited compliance knowledge. We are actively curating SDKs, APIs and establishing partnerships to support this initiative. Our vision is to build the largest collection and disbursal platform in India.