March 20, 2021: National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) is working on a digital payments product for feature phone users and those who are not too comfortable using mobile apps. The product is at the proof of concept (POC) stage right now, Praveena Rai, chief operating officer, NPCI said.
The new product shall help further the NPCI’s goal of taking digital payments to every Indian, she said. “We need to move into the market which is feature phone-based…Moving towards voice-enabled payments will be the trend of digital payments that we should see and India will be a clear innovator there,” Rai added.
In 2020, NPCI, CIIE.CO and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation had together launched a hackathon for the creation of a feature phone-based payments solution. The new product, set to be launched in the coming months, is an outcome of that hackathon, where fintechs Gupshup, Minkville and Tonetag were adjudged the top contestants.
While an SMS-based payment solution called Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) was launched by NPCI in 2016, its usage later declined with the launch of the Bharat Interface for Payments (BHIM) app in late 2017. In February 2021, USSD recorded 80,000 transactions. This compares to 6 lakh daily transactions in early 2017, as FE reported on January 4, 2017, quoting then NPCI chief executive AP Hota.
NPCI, which has sometimes been criticised for not looking beyond its flagship product Unified Payments Interface (UPI), is also running another hackathon on payment authentication, which was launched last month. Rai said that this particular competition is aimed at looking for better ways of authenticating UPI transactions while making the security systems stronger than they presently are. The solutions should be UPI-integrated which can showcase end-to-end on-boarding of customers and authorisation of transactions, along with providing parameters to enable risk scoring of users and transactions.
The organisation continues to explore the possibility of making the country’s transit systems digitally enabled. The Delhi Metro’s Airport line has a QR code-based ticketing system. The solution is now being extended to bus services, with Canara Bank already running the project in Bengaluru. NPCI plans to make this a pan-India solution.