This Leader series focuses on various leading figures in the PayPay Group, highlighting their passion and views. For this installment, we would like to introduce you to Sam, who was newly appointed as Group Head of the Product Group in November 2022, and Shun and Amit, both Product Division Heads.
Product Group Head, PayPay Corporation
He majored in computer science in university and worked as an engineer at Paytm. In November 2022, he was seconded to PayPay and newly appointed as Head of the Product Group.
Payment Product Division Head & Merchant Services Product Division Head, Product Group
Born and raised in Japan, spent from high school to graduate school in the United States. After gaining experience as an engineer in Japan and the U.S., he worked in Silicon Valley before joining PayPay.
Financial Services Product Division Head, Product Group
After working as an engineer at Paytm, he came to Japan for the first time to launch PayPay’s service during his tenure at Paytm.
How did you all come to PayPay?
I joined PayPay in November 2022 as Head of the Product Group after I was seconded from Paytm.
But the first time I came to Japan was actually before PayPay’s inception. I still vividly remember how SoftBank, Yahoo! JAPAN, and Paytm, the company that I was working for at the time, got together to discuss what services we could provide to meet new market needs in Japan.
I was born and raised in Japan but attended high school through to grad school in the United States. I gained experience as an engineer in Japan and the U.S., then worked in Silicon Valley before returning to Japan in 2021. I worked in various companies, from unlisted startups to unicorns. Since I’ve only worked at foreign companies, I thought that I could create a more interesting culture in PayPay by integrating what I’ve done up until now into the company. That’s how I decided to join PayPay.
Like Sam, I first came to Japan to for the launch of PayPay when I was still in Paytm. To be honest, I didn’t imagine at the time that I would be living and working in Japan, but in hindsight, it was the right decision to come here back then. (laughs).
What is the current structure of your organization?
The entire engineering organization was divided into three divisions this year with the strategic aim of moving business forward as fast as possible. Within the Product Group, there is the Payment Product Division that is responsible for the payment business of the PayPay app, the Merchant Services Product Division that handles businesses concerned with merchant apps, and the Financial Services Product Division that is, as the name suggests, in charge of financial services.
At this current moment in time at least, the Payment Product Division is in charge of developing the PayPay app’s two-dimensional code and barcode reader-related features, as well as features concerning coupon usage, which are at the core of our payment business. The Merchant Services Product Division manages the systems and app used by merchants. And the Financial Services Product Division is mainly in charge of the “Pay Later,” “Bill Payments,” and “Asset Management” features in the PayPay app.
I believe this structure has enabled Product (engineering organization) and business teams to collaborate and make decisions faster in the payment, merchant, and financial service businesses.
In addition, I feel that the collaboration between Product and business teams empowered us to provide the best possible environment to users and merchants more efficiently.
It has been four years since PayPay was founded. I know you have faced many challenges in that period, but what do you think are now the issues that need to be solved?
I feel that the biggest challenge in product development is how to ensure the “speed & quality” of services that are both expanding and diversifying.
In about four years, PayPay grew rapidly and reached 51 million users (at the time of the interview in September 2022). Behind this growth is “speed,” a factor which the development teams highly value. By communicating and collaborating closely as a team, we have been able to quickly develop and deliver products that meet the users’ needs.
Although PayPay was originally created as a payment service, it is evolving into a super app, enriching users’ lives and providing more convenience through its financial services, such as investments, insurance, and loans. I also feel that PayPay has already become an irreplaceable social infrastructure for many users. In order to fulfill this gigantic role, it is also crucial to be conscious of the quality of the products we develop.
In looking at our current engineering organization, I think an extremely positive aspect of PayPay is our employees’ careful attention to high quality. PayPay maintains a good balance between speed and quality. Usually it tends to be one or the other, but that’s not the case in PayPay. I think this is due to the fact that our members who have experience in a global environment are the driving force behind our speed, and if we add to this the high Japanese quality standards, we get a great balance. As PayPay moves forward as the leading FinTech company, we will definitely be required to deliver with higher quality and speed.
In addition to these two, FinTech firms are subject to unique laws and regulations in the financial industry. How much can PayPay take on new challenges and break new ground within this legal framework? We still don’t have a clear idea for that.
I feel that one of our challenges is that we still lack manpower to develop this “speed & quality” concept into something even better. Finding good product developers that put users first.
Globally speaking, we can see other examples in history in which fast-growing companies have faced similar challenges. In that sense, I would say that PayPay is still incomplete and in the process of evolution. I first want to create an organization of 1,000 engineers as soon as possible.
Indeed. I feel that the challenge for us is always “human capital.” It is not only important to onboard excellent talent, but also to have them work with us in the long term. Fortunately, PayPay is awash in opportunities to create challenging and fun products, so you have a great environment for growing your career as well.
However, as the company is growing at a tremendous rate, overcoming the challenges of organizational management, evaluation methods, and manager training remain at the forefront. I call those challenges “growth pains.”
Having said that, there are no clear-cut answers and I have seen these growth pains in every company I’ve been in. We also know there is no easy solution. In particular, our working environment is multinational and diverse, so we are constantly discussing how to create a culture and organization that everyone can relate to.
What kind of people do you need to achieve PayPay’s future vision?
I think people will need bear three factors in mind to be successful at PayPay. The first is ownership. At PayPay there is a culture of taking responsibility for one’s own work, regardless of department or position. Each person taking ownership for their tasks ensures the “speed & quality” that I mentioned earlier.
The second is curiosity. The developers in PayPay who make an impact are constantly inquisitive about technology and are ambitious. I believe that it is this drive that fueled the rapid growth of the company. In Japan, cashless payments were not common four years ago. PayPay’s use of new technology, which led to changing users’ values, has opened up future prospects beyond what we originally envisioned.
Third, open-minded communication. I’m convinced that by trusting team members and exchanging honest opinions, we can find new perspectives to solve problems.
It is difficult to generalize because there are various positions and roles in Product, but the willingness to deliver is a mindset that we want for all positions. I think it is this willingness and sense of responsibility to deliver to users and people who will be engaging with the improved product that are crucial.
The other thing is technological. In a global context, PayPay has a very high standard for hiring because we want to create top quality products.
Whatever the position, a professional should have these two characteristics.
We value the maxim, “be sincere to be professional,” which is part of our corporate culture.
It is not about what I want to do, but how I can add value to the company as a professional, and what I need to do to achieve that. “What should be done to increase user value and solve problems?” “Instead of just doing what I get assigned, or waiting for the company to tell me what to do, what can I do to add more value?” I want to cultivate lots of talent at PayPay to constantly have this mindset and act on it.
What kind of company do you want PayPay to become?
Members at PayPay come from diverse backgrounds, representing over 40 countries in multiple regions. I think PayPay’s strength in solving problems by looking at things from different perspectives is made possible because we have employees who think and perceive things differently.
We also feel that PayPay, which is a FinTech trailblazer in Japan, is a company with unprecedented potential. I want us to become the leading FinTech company chosen by users and indispensable to society as an infrastructure. Going forward, I’m excited to create a new “PayPay world” together with the company.
First and foremost, as a Japanese person, I want to make PayPay a company that can vitalize Japan.
Make PayPay users happy,
PayPay merchants happy,
and PayPay employees happy as well.
I also want us to become the undisputed world No. 1 FinTech company and a leading tech company in Japan, capable of producing first-rate talent.
I have three goals for the company.
First, I want us to become the No. 1 FinTech company.
We want to make users’ lives better in every sense of the word by making it easier for them to understand how to invest and spend their money, and not just make payments.
This is the product we are aiming for.
The second is organization.
We need to be and want to be an organization that can nurture the next generation of leaders.
You may have heard about the “PayPal Mafia.” I hope that we can help people grow in PayPay so they can become successful in various fields.
The third is a little more personal.
I want PayPay to do well in the market in the long term, even after 20 or 30 years.
When my daughter, who was born in Japan, grows up, I want PayPay to still be in the lead. Plus, I want to do my best to make my daughter proud of the accomplishments I’ve made.
Special Thanks: Sam Fang, Shunsuke Mori, Amit Bhasin / Editor: Danata / Author: PayPay Inside-Out Editorial Team / Photographer: Tak
*Employees’ affiliations are as of the time of the interview.