India very Active in Creating Healthy Start-up Ecosystem: Santhosh Mahalingam, MGS

Mashreq Bank is looking to develop capabilities in areas like risk management, business intelligence


Mashreq Bank was established in 1967, by the Al-Ghurair Group, and is one of UAE’s leading financial institutions and the largest private sector bank in the UAE.

Santhosh Mahalingam, MD, Mashreq Global Services (MGS), speaks to Pradeep Chakraborty about the operations in India. Excerpts:

BW CIO Give us an overview of Mashreq Bank and Mashreq Global Services.

Santhosh Mahalingam: Mashreq Bank was established in 1967, by the Al-Ghurair Group, and is one of UAE’s leading financial institutions and the largest private sector bank in the UAE. We have financial institutions centric presence in the international financial centres such as London, New York, Honk Kong and Mumbai.

We also have widespread network with 44 branches in the UAE and 20 representative offices in MENA, Asia, Europe and United States enabling them to  finance regional trade flows. Mashreq Bank has been publicly listed since inception and is listed on the Dubai Financial Markets since the creation of the local stock exchange. Mashreq Global Services (MGS) is the “Centre of Innovation & Excellence” and wholly-owned subsidiary of Mashreq Bank.

MGS works with both start-ups and leading tech firms, to adopt various technologies such as AI, Robotics, Machine Learning, Big data analytics, cloud, mobility, etc. Most of our technology development is done from Bangalore over the last few years.

BW CIO: What made you choose India as an Innovation hub for Mashreq?

Santhosh Mahalingam: Mashreq has been present in India for close to four decades and has good understanding of the market conditions. We have a branch in Mumbai since 1980, which was focused only on the business of financial institutions until recently. Keeping in mind the growing trade and bilateral relations between India and UAE, we have now enhanced our business model to include corporate banking business too. This is a testament to our confidence in the future of the Indian economy.  

India has played a great role in IT, digital revolution and in producing the best human resources from around the world. We expect India to achieve a great economic and development momentum, and be at par with the world’s top countries. Digital and broader technology advances are challenging the customary ways of doing business – banks need to constantly keep track of evolving customer preferences and adapt themselves to the change. We believe that India has the right talent pool to cater to all the digital and technological needs of the bank.

As I mentioned earlier, we established our India operations 40 years ago and Mashreq Global Services has been in Bengaluru for 15 years now. We are now looking at ramping up, as people here have competent skill set to match the global demands of the industry. The city is known for its unique ecosystem of start-ups. We are looking for people at various areas of operations like analytics, compliance, among many others.

BW CIO: What kind of investments are you making in new digital technologies

Santhosh Mahalingam: We are now expanding our India presence, in areas of analytics, business technology, banking operations and technology support. We are investing heavily in artificial intelligence (AL), machine learning (ML), enterprise mobility and robotics. We have been working in this space for the last one year and it is driving us cost efficiencies and improving the customer experience as well.

The productivity of the work we do has significantly increased by the virtue of deploying robots. In some areas, it is improved by 30-40 percent. Application of AI and ML to different functions have enabled us to offer a far more personalised and efficient customer service. In addition, we have been able to gain better insights into our customers’ preference and expectations from the bank and automation of back-end workflows have shown better outcomes. We are exploring investments in cloud.

BW CIO: What sets Mashreq Global Services apart from other captives in India

Santhosh Mahalingam: We are unique in a lot of ways. While we have the backing of a leading bank, which is five decades old, we are still a smaller organisation. This essentially means people here have a bigger opportunity to work on a complete solution as compared to larger captives where they end up working in compartmentalized roles. The integration of technology and operations give our employees an opportunity to work on newer technologies, while following their areas of interest. We are lot more flexible that way in providing a learning platform for our employees to evolve and grow.

BW CIO: Which are the start-ups you have tied up with in India?

Santhosh Mahalingam: India has been very active in creating a healthy start up ecosystem, and the growth in the number of start-ups is increasing year-on-year. We are incubating seven start-ups in India, in areas such as data analytics, robotics, machine learning, etc.

BW CIO: What is MGS’s business roadmap for the next 12 to 18 months?

Santhosh Mahalingam: We have already enhanced our workforce by 200 employees and would be hiring 200 more in the next six months. Apart from technology support, we are looking at Bengaluru to develop capabilities in areas like risk management, business intelligence, and designing our financial products out of India. We are also looking at hiring senior global bankers to the leadership team at MGS.


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