If you live in India, you are in for a surprise. There is a sudden change in the way we perceived monetary transactions. What was termed as means to justify currency duplication has now turned to digital money and cashless transactions. As futuristic and convenient as it may sound, India’s attempt to become a cashless economy needs a boost.
Urbanites have been exposed to cashless transactions much before it was enforced on the masses. A majority of Indians are still scratching their heads as a part of this evolution. The government of India wants to support the transition through their own software solutions. While most of it involves installing a new app on your phone, most are still sceptical on installing a government controlled app on their phones.
On the other hand, there is one app that has us hooked. WhatsApp is one of the most popular apps across phones and locations in India. What primarily started as an instant messenger app is now capable of making video calls, sharing audio/video clips, transferring files and much more.
Being the most accepted app among masses, this app could be the key to boosting digital monetary transactions in India.
Digital transaction scenario in India might change
Many apps have already evolved to enable digital payments after the cashless revolution was set in motion by the government of India. WhatsApp wants to ride this bandwagon. If every other app is doing the same, what makes WhatsApp so special?
To start off, WhatsApp as an app, has a much larger penetration in tier 2 and tier 3 cities of India. Hence, it also enjoys a massive user database. If this factor was not enough, WhatsApp plans to integrate their digital payment service with unified payments interface (UPI). UPI is a service developed by the National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI). This allows for seamless peer to peer transactions within several bank accounts. It eases the process using a virtual payment address linked to the accounts and to the user’s phone.
Having used the UPI service, it was/is deadly scary to see the government’s potential in pulling up details of your bank accounts! That apart, it is the easiest method as of now to use multiple bank accounts for virtual transactions. WhatsApp integrating this service saves them from wasting several developer hours and permissions management to formulate their own wallet service. Our own government has launched an app of their own, BHIM, of which PM Modi stated,
Like Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar worked to give rights to the common man through the Indian Constitution, one can expect the BHIM app to do similarly great work through the financial system.
The immense reach of WhatsApp and the ease of payments through UPI facilitated/protected/monitored by NPCI, could possibly make WhatsApp your digital wallet as times keep changing.
How will it work?
Imagine another tab added to the existing WhatsApp tabs namely – camera, chats, status and calls. This tab might read PhonePe or something else related to payments. If you’ve ever used UPI service through PhonePe app, you already know how it works! For everyone else, it is an amazingly easy process to get aboard. Once in, your bank accounts and credit cards are at your disposal through your phone.
Here is where the future morphs into reality. Imagine after shopping for your groceries, you come to the billing counter and open WhatsApp to pay. Touch your NFC-enabled phone to the card swiping machine. In case your phone does not have NFC (get a new one that does), you can authorise the payment through a QR/numeric code at the counter. Authorise the payment through your OTP and/or fingerprint sensor. Smile at the cashier and leave with your bags.
With a digital payment service available in your most recently used app, you could be doing much more than you imagine. Users can transfer money to friends or family, perform transactions on e-commerce websites, recharge your/others phone, invest in wealth management funds, pay DTH and electricity bills, maybe order and pay for a cab, book train or flight tickets, book hotels, buy movie tickets and much more.
Who would have thought?
When you came aboard WhatsApp, were you aware of the possibilities of a simple instant messaging app? What comes as a surprise to us is already in motion in many other countries. Having travelled to China last year, it was astonishing to see people pay for just about everything through the app WeChat. Though the app failed to gain user base when it arrived on our shores, it is broadly used/accepted in China.
People were paying for McDonald’s meals through WeChat and were rewarded with instant discounts/wallet cash backs for using this digital payment service. If that was not enough, people in China preferred chatting through voice messages as compared to text messages. You can see taxi drivers in China chatting on WeChat as they drive without even turning their heads to the phone screen.
If the history of technology has taught us something, it has to be the universal adoption based on what users prefer.
While I got a preview of these services in an alien nation, the possibilities of adoption in India seem real than ever before. How will we adapt to technological advancements depends solely on mass adoption.
Years from now, it would be interesting to see the possibilities of technology as it stands true to its definition and surpasses it.