Unified Payment Interface – UPI got launched recently and we had some of the stalwarts of Indian industry christened it as the start of a new era.

“UPI is the Whatsapp movement for Indian banking and payments”  – Shikha Sharma, CEO Axis Bank

“UPI launch begins the cashless revolution” – Nandan Nilenkani.

Before I go on and explain ways in which UPI will transform in Indian Payment industry, let’s get some basics out of way.

What is Unified Payment Interface (UPI)

Unified Payment Interface UPI
Unified Payment Interface UPI

Unified Payment Interface is set of services launched by NPCI (National Payments Corporation of India) which allows payments with aliases which does not need bank accounts and is interoperable across banks, this means you can simply turn your bank account into a wallet with simple authentication. Below is the basic architecture of UPI, you can see a detailed design document here.

7  Ways it will impact Payment business in India

1. Smartphone becomes Smart Banks

There are about 150 million active smartphones in Indian Market today. This number is projected to go to 500 million in next few years. Smartphone has already revolutionized how we communicate today.

UPI is designed to leverage smartphone revolution and bring about a payments revolution on top. Unified Payment Interface – UPI is designed as a mobile-first, bank interoperable platform which can utilize your virtual addresses email or phone number as a hook for payment requests.

This reduces costs and let you seamlessly move money through simplified authentication. Sending money can be as simple as sending a WhatsApp message – can you imagine ?

2. Simplify  payments

Payments in their current form are cumbersome. You need lot of details like account number, bank details and then multilevel authentication to make the payment. This is going to fundamentally change with UPI which uses your phone number as an authentication so that you can just add potential payees and do single click payments.

3. Reduce costs  of transactions

UPI will reduce cost of payments by reducing the cost of acquisition and infrastructure. You do not need to issue costly cards to get people on the grid. Simple mobile and OTM authentications will move money, hence reducing costs. This will have an impact on business models for PGWs and their margins and business will be under stress.

4. Wallets will be challenged

Last few years have seen mushrooming of Wallets in Indian market. While we regularly hear about likes of Paytm, Mobikwik or Oxigen, but there are 20+ wallets which are active in the Indian market and there are many other players who have a wallet license.

Some of the key value propositions wallets offer include:

  • Limited liability in wallets, i.e. storing some funds without exposing any card or other details in wallets
  • Ease of doing payments
  • Moving cash to digital currency

Unified Payment Interface – UPI is going to replicate ease of doing business for all players who work on their services. Also, you can do transactions up to 1 lacs instantaneously. For prepaid wallets this amount is currently Rs 10,000. So if you are a wallet and not building new differentiators for your customers, you will face real challenges. Wallets need to become smarter and they can probably leverage UPI in multiple ways.

5. Reduce Cash transactions

The Reserve bank of India (RBI) in its Payment System Vision Document (2012-2015) had mentioned the use of UPI for achieving its goal of a lower cash-intensive society and financial inclusion using technology.

UPI is a big step in achieving these visions, making online payments super easy and cheap will enable multiple service and ecosystems which will ultimately move us towards cashless payments.

As Wechat Red envelope case study has shown in China, cash transactions can move to digital currency overnight with right consumer experience.

6. Mushroom new services  on top to enable various use cases like Recurring payment

Some of the best benefits of Unified Payment Interface – UPI are not yet visible. Simple payment use cases like recurring payments have not taken off in India because of lack of underlying infrastructure, cumbersome authentication with credit cards and ECS being really painful. UPI will enable some of these services and which in turn can enable multiple subscription-based services and business models.

7. Enabling efficient last mile payments

Last mile payments has been a tough nut to crack in India, GOI  has been looking for cost effective models to push last mile payments for benefits like subsidies as well as get every citizen connected into the banking system. UPI in conjunction with authentications service like Aadhar can turbo charge this and will enable financial inclusion for millions of Indians.

Sarabdeep Singh was the head of digital marketing at Ebay. Currently, he is trying to make investment in Mutual funds and SIP in India easier through Bodhk.com, a robo Investment Advisor tool.