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Today, shipping monies or a payment instantly to a friend or a merchant is ingrained in the daily transactional lexicon of a growing population of smart, digitally minded consumers, who like the convenience of simple, touch-and-go transactions. Literally taking payments aboard a ship, however, poses challenges. Onboarding payments on the high seas, where there is no connectivity available, is a challenge for any operator, especially when the aim is to make sure the customer’s payment experience is smooth.

FSS, in collaboration with India’s largest public sector bank, and the country’s leading cards issuer, and the Indian Navy has embarked on an ambitious journey to digitalise payments onboard. Through this partnership, FSS Unified Issuance Platform would power issuance of prepaid cards for use on naval ships. Branded NAV eCash, the cards enable defence personnel to conduct payments digitally. Currently, the cards are issued aboard India’s largest naval aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya. With over 2000 personnel on board, INS Vikramaditya can be considered a full-fledged, mini city, with various amenities including convenience stores, vending machines, recreational facilities, bakeries and health care.

The benefits of digitalising payments are obvious. Personnel posted for a long stint aboard the carrier do not have to carry a separate card to fund spends offshore and enjoy the same anywhere, anytime digital payments experience they are accustomed to when the ship is docked. Cardholders also have greater visibility and control over spends through card statements that can be generated on-demand. For the defence establishment, overheads related to cash management and handling are significantly lowered. The INS Vikramaditya is equipped with ATM facilities onboard. By enabling digital transactions at various merchant points aboard the ship, it potentially lowers cash inventory, handling and replenishment costs.

How it Works

In many Asian countries, smart cards – prepaid rechargeable contactless payment cards – are a common phenomenon. For example, in India, consumers use the National Common Mobility Card to make offline and online electronic payments. Many multi-purse smart cards in East Asia have a wide variety of uses enabling consumers to pay for closed-loop transit systems and general purchases. The NAV eCash card is modelled on a similar concept.

NAV eCash is a dual-chip, rechargeable prepaid contactless card, with a built-in online and offline wallet capability. Cardholders can use the online wallet for transactions such as ATM withdrawals, POS transactions and ecommerce purchases at any location. The offline wallet has a maximum transaction threshold of INR 15,000 (USD 208) and supports closed-loop transactions within the INS Vikramaditya ecosystem. On the ship’s return to the port, once the network is available, the settlement files are securely routed by the central server to the FSS Unified Card Issuance Platform. On successful processing of files, the Unified Issuance Platform updates respective card account balances. The Unified Issuance Platform interfaces with FSS Smart Recon for settling and reconciling these transactions, performed at a frequency of T+1 day, once the ship arrives at the port.

The security of these transactions is a critical imperative. NAV eCash cards have a unique BIN range for easy identification and each cardholder is only allowed to have a single card at any point of time to pre-empt any misuse. Further all transactions are subject to a maximum permissible limit configured by the operator, providing the establishment complete control as well as visibility into transaction velocity and volume at a per cardholder level. All transactions are PIN protected and the system supports AES 256 encryption key for payload encryption.


Way Forward

FSS’ modern, API-based Unified Issuance Platform and Smart Recon power card issuance and transaction reconciliation for this prestigious nation-building project. As the technology service provider, FSS will work with the bank to replicate the concept at other naval ships and defence establishments. To drive great adoption, FSS is collaborating with key stakeholders to support new customer journeys that can potentially be layered on such as festive or seasonal incentives, rewards and loyalty programs and spend management.

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