On a fine day in 2016, the then RBI Governor, Dr Raghuram G. Rajan, decided to work on a pilot program, which went on to be launched in Mumbai on the 11th of April, 2016. The Reserve Bank of India established a branch named the National Payments Corporation of India; this body developed what is now popularly known as the UPI (Unified Payments Interface).
With a simple vision to achieve “ease of funds transfer,” the committee behind the launch of UPI hardly thought that within 7 years the concept would explode to redefine the Indian payments scenario altogether and also capture other countries’ interest in adopting this winner. A simple initiative cracked open a sea of opportunities.
On one hand, while the Western world has long been consumed by the use of debit and credit cards, the Indian economy is bustling with the ease of UPI. During the pandemic, when the world was living among insecurities, physical money became a weak link in daily operations. UPI came to the rescue and accelerated the wide acceptance of online payments during this phase of the pandemic.
UPI reinvented the way Indians transfer money, pay bills, and conduct transactions. Gone are the days when the Kirana store next door handed out candies for every penny in change. With UPI, consumers can make as little as an Rs. 5 transfer where needed. From street hawkers to small shops/ restaurants to luxury stores, QR codes are everywhere.
It has rightly become the backbone of India’s digital payment infrastructure, making transactions faster, cheaper, and more secure than ever before. Before UPI, India’s payment landscape was dominated by cash and traditional banking channels such as NEFT, RTGS, and IMPS. These methods were slow, expensive, and required cumbersome processes that often deterred people from making digital transactions. UPI changed all that by simplifying the payment process and creating a unified platform that allowed users to transact seamlessly across different banks and payment apps. In addition to simplifying life for people in major cities, UPI has had a profound effect on the daily routines of millions more in smaller, “tier 1” and “tier 2” cities.
A revolutionary move
UPI has been referred to as a revolutionary product in the payment ecosystem. It has emerged as one of the most popular tools in the country for carrying out digital transactions. Using UPI, multiple bank accounts can be accessed from a single mobile app, allowing seamless fund routing, merchant payments, and multiple banking features to be combined into one application. To further strengthen and popularise the interface, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the BHIM-UPI App during the inauguration of the ‘DigiDhan Mela’ on December 31, 2016. The app has connected with the common man where other applications such as GPay, PhonePe, Paytm etc… couldn’t venture. As an integrated app – BHIM catered to all consumers at once.
As a result of UPI, digital payments have become a habit, and India is well on its way toward a cashless economy. March 2023 recorded a robust 8,685.30 million transactions for a total value of nearly Rs. 14.10 lakh crores.
UPI dominating the Payments share of FinTech
The payments segment of the Indian FinTech industry enjoys a rather large share of the pie, and UPI is unarguably dominating. Given the trends, a recent report by PhonePe and Boston Consulting Group concluded that India’s digital payments market will more than triple from $3 trillion to $10 trillion by 2026. Despite being a predominantly cash-based economy, India now leads the world in real-time digital payments, accounting for almost 40% of all transactions.
3 in every 4 digital financial transactions in India are now UPI-based
Today, there is no doubt that the digital payment landscape in India has been transformed. Complementing the efforts of the Government, the people of India have also displayed a great affinity for embracing new technologies. Some developed nations are having difficulties transferring money to citizens’ accounts due to inadequate digital infrastructure, but India has emerged as a leader in creating digital assets, which can serve as an example for others.
UPI accepted as payments overseas
On February 21, 2023, to faster remittances between India and Singapore, India’s retail payment system, UPI, and its equivalent network in Singapore, called PayNow were integrated. This collaboration allows users from both countries to access faster and more cost-efficient cross-border money transfers.
UPI-PayNow integration allows users of the two quick payment systems in either nation to send money across borders quickly, securely, and affordably via their respective mobile apps. This action has not only improved the social and economic ties between the two countries but has also brought international attention to India’s payment system.
This increased interest has spread to numerous nations worldwide, which have expressed an interest in trying out UPI for its ease of transactions. Other countries, such as Europe, Nepal, Bhutan, France & UAE have partnered or made provisions to accept UPI along with RuPay payments.
After being a successful case study within 7 years of launch, UPI is taking the next big step with UPI Lite (on-demand payment wallets for lower transactional values), UPI123 Pay (ease of transactions for those who use feature phones), and UPI 2.0 (ease of recurring e-mandate payments). One of the most promising additions is that of UPI-Credit Card linking, which will allow credit card expansion among the masses through digital platforms. India’s financial landscape has come a long way in a decade, making transactions faster, cheaper, more secure, and more accessible than ever before. The impact of UPI has been far-reaching, promoting financial inclusion, entrepreneurship, innovation, and the transition towards a cashless economy.
Authored by Richa
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