RBI Plans a Digital Payments Index

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is poised to launch by July 2020 a Digital Payments Index (DPI) to gauge the impact and reach of digital payments in rural, urban, and semi-urban areas. As a part of RBI’s Statement on Developmental and Regulatory Policies, the DPI will be based on various parameters (viz. the level of rural penetration and innovation in the present modes and channels) to reflect with finesse the penetration and deepening of various digital payment modes.

The RBI is also intending via its DPI exercise to comprehend in detail the impact of its policy decisions on the digital payments market. By ‘policy decisions’ what is meant to be conveyed is such decisions as the waiving of Merchant Discount Rate (MDR – the fees paid by a merchant to a bank for accepting payment from their customers through cards or the Unified Payments Interface (UPI)) on UPI transactions. In the recently held Union Budget 2020 it was announced that no charges shall now onwards be levied on UPI and RuPay transactions, and that MDR might also get scrapped on all of the transactions initiated via debit cards.

With the DPI scoring analysis, consumers and various stakeholders will be able to analyse developments of the local area in terms of infrastructure, access, demographic, and acceptance concerning growth in relation to broader domestic and global digital payments standards. DPI is also expected to steer the financial inclusion agenda.

The RBI considered development of a DPI owing to the stupendous growth recorded by the digital payments industry in India in the recent years. As reported by Inc42, in regards to the volume of total digital transactions, RBI numbers state that a growth rate of 58.8% in 2018-19 was recorded. The 2017-18 transactional volume was 50.4%. In value terms, digital transactions soared by 19.5% in 2018-19, as against 22.2% in 2017-18.

Throwing light on the preceding developments revolving around the digital payments space, it’s worth mentioning that the RBI, in January 2019, constituted a five-member Digital Payments Committee with Nandan Nilekani as its head. The “High-Level Committee for Deepening of Digital Payments” had as its objective to encourage digitisation of payments and boost financial inclusion. Preceding to this development, the NITI Aayog in its report titled, Digital Payments – Trends, Issues and Opportunities, released in August 2018, had projected the industry to grow $1 trillion by 2023.However, on the flipside, the incumbent government should also now act upon considering submission of a draft Bill on Payments Regulatory Board (as was recommended by the panel headed by Economic Affairs Secretary Subhash Chandra Garg – awaited since Q4 2018) for Cabinet approval. Given that UPI recorded 955 million transactions valued at Rs. 1, 61,456.56 crore in September 2019, it’s a high-time time now that an independent PRB gets established to streamline the payments industry in India. Whereas, per the reports by Statista, in India, the total transaction value in the Digital Payments segment amounts to US$81,197m in 2020. It should also be noted that Google has recently expressed its recommendation for the US Federal Reserve to ‘replicate’ India’s UPI model for its proposed interbank real-time-gross settlement (RTGS) service. The DPI is set to strengthen India’s position of being a globally advanced digital payments leader.

FinTech India – Mobile Phones, FinTech & the Incoming of New Players

The economic challenges presented in 2019 coupled with protectionist regulatory measures didn’t actually hinder the development of the FinTech ecosystem of India as the startups in this domain managed raising over USD 365 million in July 2019, while the total investments entering in this sector being USD 1.16 billion, per the research conducted by IBS Intelligence. 

The FinTech sector is poised to witness established firms entering with much optimism. These include companies such as PhonePe and PineLabs (both having raised 100 million), BharatPe (raising USD 75 million), PayMate (raising USD 25 million), and Niyo (raising USD 35 million). As reported by Tracxn, the total investments entering in India’s FinTech sector stood at USD 800 million in the 1st half of CY 2019 (up 14% from the USD 688 million raised in 1st half of CY 2018. Whereas in 2019, FinTech startups raised over $3.2 billion.

However, that’s not all; a couple of top smartphone vendors are also making their presence felt in the FinTech startups space of India. Xiaomi launches MiCredit, in association with domestic startups such as CreditVidya, ZestMoney, Aditya Birla Finance Limited, Early Salary and Money View (to determine credit worthiness and financing eligibility). Xiaomi is intending to offer digital lending (credit in the range of Rs. 1000 and Rs. 100,000 at reasonable interest rates). In March 2019, Xiaomi started Mi Pay (a payments app powered by UPI) in India as a unit of its Mi Finance ecosystem (having around 20 million registered users).

Following the trend of entering the FinTech domain are other popular mobile phone brands, viz. RealMe, OnePlus and lately OPPO, as well. OPPO Kash by OPPO, is scheduled to be launched in June 2020 in India, to offer 1-click micro-loans coupled with flexible repayment features. Realme India started its payments service, Realme Paysa in December 2019, with the aim of being top-5 new financial services offering entity in 3 years.

As reported by AsianAge, mobile wallet transactions in India soared by 40 times in the preceding 5 years. Much of this momentum can be attributed to the mobile phone-based financial services global standard of FinTech, the Unified Payment Interface (UPI – enabling secure, real-time transfers even without a bank account). Mobile wallet transactions in India have increased 40 times in the preceding 5 years. Compared to traditional financial models, mobile finance gives distinct advantages, as follows: 1. Digital transactions generally don’t cost when initiated. 2. In-person services and cash transactions are now innate elements of routine banking expenses. 3. In the case of mobile finance, clients maintain their balance money in digital format. 4. In the absence of transaction costs, sending and receiving money from individual banks or mobile service providers is easy. 5. Mobile communication leads to high-volume of data, usable by banks and service providers to develop optimally profitable services. 6. Traditional credit scores get done away with as the subscribers without financial credit history also obtain the necessary credit to run their small businesses. 7. Mobile platforms have bank accounts linked to their clients on a real-time basis, thereby, banks can process account information. 8. Microfinance is also made accessible to those no credit risk proofs.

As per Financial Express, smartphone users in India are poised to double to reach 829 million by 2022 (growing at a CAGR of 15.5%). Coupled with this, there is also the influx of mobile form factor in the Point of Sale (PoS) devices to accept device-based payments (the growth numbers have been forecasted at a CAGR of 54.2% in the period 2019-23, per the Mobile PoS Payments, Statista, 2019

FASTag is LIVE! Buy, Activate, Recharge, & More Info

FASTag

Introduction: The Policy Brief

The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) and National Highways Authority of India (NHAI)-introduced National Electronic Toll Collection (NETC) mechanism, FASTag – having an embedded chip and antenna – is now live. Operational at 604 toll plazas across national and state highways (click here for the full list), w.e.f. 15 Dec. ’19 (although initially the roll-out of FASTag was scheduled for 1st Dec. ’19 – per the letter sent by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways to the NHAI), FASTag enables automatic collection of toll charges. The government then decided to provide enough time for vehicle owners to switch to FASTags – hence the deferred extension.

Dubbed to be the leading disruptor on India’s national highways, FASTag was first envisioned in 2014. All cars, jeeps, vans, buses, trucks and, commercial and private off-road vehicles that pass the toll booths on national highways will now pay FASTag-enabled toll. The FASTag payments at national highways are incentivised with a cash-back scheme of 2.5% – for eligible customers – until March 31, 2020. FASTag is also poised to facilitate seamless traffic monitoring and fitting policy revisions.

Previously, only a single hybrid lane was to be allotted at every toll plaza having FASTag and other modes of payment – facilitating passage and monitoring of over-dimensional or over-sized vehicles. Depending on the traffic situation at high-traffic volume fee plazas, not over 25% ‘FASTag lane of fee plaza’ were planned to be temporarily converted to hybrid lanes – per the instructions given earlier by the ministry to the NHAI.

At this stage, it was to be ensured that the minimum number of the declared FASTag lanes be converted into hybrid lanes for the time being. Further, a minimum of 75% lanes of every fee plaza were to remain declared and operational as FASTag lanes so as to incentivise the vehicles carrying FASTag.

The One Nation One Tag – FASTag ensures interoperability via cashless electronic processes at toll booths. According to the Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) that the states and the highways authority signed, the states’ are poised to receive 50% of the capital expenditure (capex) for the toll infrastructure construction.

Buying FASTag

Buying FASTag is possible by visiting any of the Point-of-Sale (PoS) locations at Toll Plazas or PoS outlets of the NETC Member Banks or their distribution agents or their Sales offices. Otherwise, FASTag can also be availed by applying online at the respective issuer bank’s website or by visiting this NHAI portal link. If you have bought FASTag from Amazon, you will need to download the MyFASTag App and link it to your bank account.

Activating FASTag

  1. Do-It-Yourself Activation: FASTags don’t have banks assigned in advance as they are (bank) neutral at the time of buying from a POS terminal or online platform. The online FASTag can be activated by yourself when you enter vehicle details in the ‘My FASTag’ mobile app. There also exists the flexibility to link the FASTag with any of your current bank accounts via the My FASTag Mobile app. The NHAI Prepaid wallet facility is also offered in My FASTag mobile app for you to load money and get your toll fee debited from the prepaid wallet as against getting it debited from your bank account directly.
  2. Activation by Certified Bank Branch: Alternatively, you can also buy FASTag at the closest certified bank branch and can then link the FASTag with your current bank account.

Document Submission for FASTag

A customer is required to submit the following documents along with the application form for FASTag:

  1. Signed FASTag application form, given by issuer bank that customers must fill and submit to the bank.
  2. Registration Certificate (RC) of the vehicle.
  3. Passport size photograph of the vehicle owner.
  4. KYC (Know Your Customer) documents as per the category of the vehicle owner.
  5. A valid driving license.
  6. Vehicle image (optional).

Recharging the FASTag

Recharging the FASTag account is possible in the denomination of Rs. 100. The maximum amount of recharge is decided depending on the type of vehicle and account link to FASTag. In case the FASTag has previously been linked with your bank account, loading money individually in a prepaid wallet will not be necessary. Although, maintaining enough balance in your FASTag-linked bank account to allow for toll payments is necessary. NHAI prepaid wallet can be recharged via different channels, viz. payment via cheque or via UPI or debit card or credit card or NEFT or Net Banking.

  1. Limited KYC FASTag account holders can’t have a balance of over Rs. 20,000 in their FASTag prepaid wallet. The monthly reload limit is Rs 20,000.
  2. In full KYC FASTag account holders aren’t permitted to have over Rs. 1 lakh in their FASTag prepaid wallet (no monthly reload cap exists).

Recharging a FASTag via the BHIM UPI app is also possible – although, buying FASTag via the BHIM UPI app isn’t possible.

Know FASTag – The NextGen Smart Electronic Toll Collection System

NHAI (National Highways Authority of India) has introduced FASTag – a program for Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) on Toll Plazas on National Highways. FASTag is a simple to use electronic toll collection system. FASTag is a refillable tag that allows automatic deduction of toll charges – making it swift to pass the toll plazas. The Indian Highways Management Company Limited (IHMCL – a National Highways Authority of India incorporated company) and National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI), are executing the FASTag program in cooperation with the Toll Plaza Concessionaires, FASTag Issuer Agencies, and Toll Transaction Acquirer (certified banks).

FASTag

With FASTag, stopping for the cash transaction at toll plaza is now passé. Linked to a prepaid account that is used for deducting the applicable toll amount, the FASTag uses Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) technology. It is affixed on the windscreen of the vehicle after activating the tag account. Touted to be a fitting solution to make the hassle-free trip on national highways a reality, FASTag is currently operational at 180 toll plazas across national and state highways of India.

FASTag, currently, can be bought from official Tag issuers or (22) certified Banks via various channels like Point-of-Sale (POS) at National Highway toll plazas, and even on the e-commerce platform, Amazon. Having a validity of 5 years, after purchasing FASTag, you will need to recharge or top-up it only as required. It offers an almost non-stop movement of vehicles all the way through toll plazas. The convenience of FASTag-enabled cashless payment of toll fee with nation-wide interoperable ETC Services has numerous advantages.

The FASTag benefits are as follows: 1. Saves Fuel and Time. 2. SMS alerts for toll transactions, low balance, etc. 3. Online recharge (via Credit Card / Debit Card / NEFT/ RTGS or Net Banking). 4. No need to carry cash – ease of payment. 5. Web portal for customers. 6. Reduced air pollution. 7. Reduced use of paper. 8. Minimised instances of toll payment hassles. 9. Enhanced highway management via analytics. 10. Toll plaza management made easy. 11. Eased central monitoring.

FASTag adoption was initially voluntary. However, starting 15th December 2019, FASTag adoption is mandatory – it’s applicable to all categories, kinds, makes and types of vehicles. FASTag is useable for as long as they are legible at the toll plaza and are not tinkered. However, it should be noted that using one FASTag is possible only for one vehicle.

FinTech Valley: The Vizag Agenda

FinTech Valley Vizag (launched in Visakhapatnam on 17 December 2016) is a global FinTech Ecosystem focusing on converging finance and technology for generating massive growth prospects via industry facilitators, exceptional infrastructure, and innovative entrepreneurship. It is an ambitious initiative of the Government of Andhra Pradesh (India) to endorse business infrastructure, and draw investors and MNCs to open offices in the state. In September 2016, the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh released the ambitious document titled ‘Sunrise Andhra Pradesh Vision 2029’ carrying the blueprint of the growth trajectory for the state.

Endeavouring to be a “happy and globally-competitive society” by 2029, the Andhra Pradesh state, as stated in the vision statement, envisages transforming into an inclusive, accountable, and competitively innovative society. Initiating structural transformations and committing to sustain high economic growth, the state government of Andhra Pradesh placed FinTech as the epicentre of focus to create an ecosystem of digital banking, financial analytics, cybersecurity, and blockchain (database) technology. Among the various promising initiatives taken under the auspices of the FinTech Valley Vizag, the two initiatives pertaining to the FinTech ecosystem are: 1. The Andhra Pradesh – Purse mobile wallet offering 13 mobile banking and 10 mobile wallets for transactions. 2. The Marpu Nestam—an incentivised setting of agents for educating people on digital financial literacy.

Following the FinTech Spring Conference (March 2017) and Blockchain Business Conference (October 2017), the successful 5-day Vizag FinTech Festival (22—26 October 2018) directed towards GovTech (technological advances fostering invisible government, visible governance), BankTech (future of banking, investments and payments), InsurTech (technology enablers in insurance), EmergeTech (emerging technologies: AI, Cybersecurity, Blockchain, IoT, & Big Data), and Financial Inclusion (increased access to financial services for the underserved) was organised to set the good governance and inclusive growth agenda right for 2022. According to J.A. Chowdary, Special Chief Secretary & IT Adviser to the Andhra Pradesh government, under the auspices of the Vizag FinTech Festival, 25 out of a total of 40 startups were shortlisted for participating in the finale of $1-million FinTech Challenge.

Notably, the Andhra Pradesh government’s accord with FinTech Association of Hong Kong is aimed at utilising Hong Kong’s FinTech ecosystem and developing an Andhra Pradesh—Hong Kong entrée for FinTech startups and knowledge transfer.

Given the incumbent and future ambience of FinTech ecosystem in India—with 1 billion smartphone users by 2020, FinTech market projected to reach $2.4 billion, 600+ operational FinTech startups, massive growth potential in digital banking, government support (Startup India initiative), and a CAGR of 22%—such promising initiatives like the FinTech Valley Vizag should also be modelled in other promising IT & Financial hub states such as Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Gujarat. An entire ecosystem of such promising initiatives can lead to winningly achieve the aspired financial inclusion objectives. This milieu can make the dream of India ideally transforming into a digitally smart nation a resounding reality.

FinTech Adoption, Financial Inclusion, & The Next Regulatory Challenges

Introduction to FinTech

Investopedia defines FinTech as: “new tech that seeks to improve and automate the delivery and use of financial services. At its core, FinTech is utilised to help companies, business owners and consumers better manage their financial operations, processes, and lives by utilising specialised software and algorithms that are used on computers and, increasingly, smartphones.”

Ernst & Young’s (EY) definition of FinTech is as follows: “FinTech: organizations combining innovative business models and technology to enable, enhance and disrupt financial services.” EY also states that its FinTech definition also encompasses, apart from early-stage start-ups and new entrants, a reference also to scaling firms, growth-stage firms, and non-financial services firms. The uniqueness of FinTech stems from the nature of its characterisation and the market conduct regulation (of the firms), collectively to which it’s (the FinTech industry) subjected owing to the fact that it manages assets, incomes, wealth, retirement funds, and salaries of people subscribing from all walks of life (for this reason, FinTech’s mass-adoption-rate and financial inclusion matters, to ensure a holistic growth of the financial services industry and its stakeholders).

Continue reading “FinTech Adoption, Financial Inclusion, & The Next Regulatory Challenges”

Trending Consumer Internet Firms Eyeing FinTech Services

The perception of consumers towards the relatively new facility of the mobile wallet is that of it being a next-generation payment alternative. The technology facilitates a totally seamless disbursement of payments through an electronic wallet, making cards or cash seem passé. The elevating smartphone diffusion having assisted the companies seamlessly communicate with their customers, has also led to the increasing volume of internet users (consumer segment) getting escalated into the network of content and commerce.

Continue reading “Trending Consumer Internet Firms Eyeing FinTech Services”

Tech Integration in Supply Chain Management

Supply Chain Management (SCM) is a concept that arises from two crucial ideas. First, the collective effort of all the organizations involved is mirrored in the product that is handed to an end user. Together, all these organizations are called the supply chain. Second, a lot of companies have overlooked the minute details and efforts needed to be perfected to implement a supply chain that was not disjointed and incompetent. Continue reading “Tech Integration in Supply Chain Management”