Total System Services Inc. is beefing up in India.

Gaylon M. Jowers Jr., the president of the transaction processor's TSYS International unit, said the potential in the emerging Indian payments market is enormous.

In a nation of 1.15 billion people, where the average age is 25, less than 3% of the population has cards and less than 1% of personal consumption is purchased using cards, Jowers said.

"We are now calling on all of the top issuers and acquirers," he said.

TSYS has been in India for two years. Amit Sethi, who was hired Thursday as the managing director of TSYS India and South Asia, will spearhead the company's efforts in the region.

The five largest Indian issuers account for 47% of credit and debit cards there, while the five largest acquirers account for 77% of transactions, according to Jowers.

"We are just beginning the initial stages of building relationships with those institutions," he said in an interview last week.

Sethi, who will be based in New Delhi, joined TSYS from Sutherland Global Services Inc., a Pittsford, N.Y., provider of business-process outsourcing services primarily in the technology and telecommunications industries. TSYS said Sethi also held executive positions at Visa Inc., KPMG, Bank of America Corp., HSBC Holdings PLC and Oracle Corp.

TSYS, of Columbus, Ga., has provided card processing in India for nearly two years for a large European issuing bank that Jowers said he could not name, and a large Indian bank has licensed TSYS' software to run its issuing and acquiring operations in-house, he said.

"We're pursuing additional acquiring and processing deals," Jowers said.

TSYS, which calls India the second-fastest-growing card market in the Asia Pacific region, is putting more emphasis on international expansion as the U.S. market consolidates because of the credit crisis.

In January executives disclosed on a call with analysts that TSYS had signed a letter of intent with a Brazilian company that Philip W. Tomlinson, TSYS' chief executive, characterized as a leading retailer, with 8 million private-label credit cards.

And TSYS has had an equity interest since December 2005 in China UnionPay Data Services Co. Ltd., a joint venture with China UnionPay Ltd., China's only card network.

In contrast to China, which has a heavily regulated economy and a single, state-dominated card network, the Indian market is more open, with multiple card networks, including those operated by Visa and MasterCard Inc., Jowers said. "Most of the card programs are in the early stages of adoption, in terms of loyalty and the features and benefits of the cards."

He said the average annual income in China is about $6,500, compared with $2,500 in India. "We believe the Indian market will catch up very quickly."

TSYS has a small staff of call center operators in Mumbai and a small team of programmers, Jowers said.

"As we expand and grow in this region, we do plan to grow that staff in India," he said. "We will support other markets as well."

TSYS' Prime processing system is used in 70 countries, either by TSYS or companies that have licensed the technology, Jowers said.

Lawrence S. Berlin, an analyst at First Analysis Securities Corp. in Chicago, said TSYS has "really been focusing their efforts on developing markets. That's where the growth is."

The U.S. market "is pretty mature," said Berlin, who has an "equal weight" rating on TSYS' stock. "TSYS has done a really good job on the international side. I'd be hopeful they also can do a good job as they move deeper into India."