Players like Google give digital payments a big boost
Given the fanfare with which it was launched, the fairly large loss in BHIM’s market-share is unfortunate. While it accounted for roughly half of all UPI transaction volumes in July 2017, this is down to a mere 8% in November 2017; in terms of value, the fall is from around 47% to 26%. What is heartening, however, is the big jump in UPI transactions, even if not through the BHIM app. From a little under two million transactions in December 2016, volumes have risen multi-fold to 105 million in November 2017; in value terms, the increase has been even more remarkable, from Rs 3 crore to Rs 9,700 crore. Apart from the sheer volumes, what’s encouraging is that the average ticket size for UPI transactions has been coming off—from Rs 2,955 in July to Rs 921 in November—this would suggest the channel is becoming popular among consumers even for small day-to-day purchases. And it is encouraging that other digital transactions are also growing rapidly—IMPS transactions clocked Rs 78,260 crore in November 2017 from Rs 32,480 crore in December 2016. Transactions via PPI—pre-paid instruments—have risen from Rs 1,320 crore to Rs 3,270 crore. What is even more exciting, in this context, are the latest numbers released by Google India that show 140 million transactions—through 12 million users—were processed through its Tez app since the launch in mid-September. Nor is it just Google that is working to promote digital payments, WhatsApp is expected to tweak its messaging app so as to enable transactions on UPI. In fact, Amazon too, is believed to be testing out the UPI channel. Flipkart’s PhonePe is doing well and now commands a shade under 31% of all UPI transactions by volume—probably because it gives users a seamless shopping experience. Truecaller too has built-in a payments mechanism within its app, as does PayTm. While all of this augurs well for digital payments, especially since merchant commissions are very low on UPI-based transactions, most digital transactions at merchant establishments are still through debit and credit cards—Rs 74,095 crore in September 2017. Since merchant commissions are typically 0.5-2% in these cases, most shops are averse to picking up the tab for low-value transactions where their margins are wafer-thin to begin with; that then discourages payments by cards and incentivises cash transactions. Since there is no reason for banks to lose out on their commissions, the onus is now on the government—if it wants a less-cash economy it must pick up the tab.