With an aim of transforming India into a cashless economy, the government of India has been promoting digital payments. Demonetization of old currency notes has indeed helped boost digital transactions, but we re still far away from having complete a cash-less society. To make digital payments easier, the government has introduced Unified Payments Interface (UPI) for Android smartphones, and Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) that lets you send money, check account balance and mini statement, even without an internet connection. However, both platforms are in their nascent stages and now the government is working on launching their improved version. Also Read - India may soon announce its own ‘Atmanirbhar’ app store as alternative to Google, AppleAlso Read - FASTag is now free until February 29, NHAI waves off charges for 15 days
What makes UPI useful is the flexibility to use any bank s app and connect your account. For instance, even if you have an account with ICICI bank or HDFC bank, you can download SBI bank or Canara bank UPI app to register for UPI and make transactions. During initialregistration it will ask you to choose your bank and it will fetch all the liked details. However, each app has a different interface, which can be confusing for the users. ALSO READ: How to use USSD-based mobile banking, here s everything you should know Also Read - FASTag Update: How to recharge FASTag account for Electronic Toll Collection
Common UPI app
To streamline things for users, the government will be launching a new and stripped down version of the UPI app. This app will allow users to transact across multiple banks. The app is expected to be launched sometime within a week. As of now, the UPI Android app is offered by 33 banks. But the UPI interface is built into the existing app, with other features and banking options. With the common UPI app, the government aims to simplify the use of platform. ALSO READ: Unified Payments Interface: UPI-based apps of every bank on Google Play Store
However, the new UPI app won t replace the existing apps. It will just be a skeletal version having basic features, giving users the ability to send or receive money, save user profile, link bank accounts, save beneficiary details and change language. Users can either use the new common app, or use the bank s in-house app which may offer a few extra features.
Since demonetization on November 8, the number of daily transactions on UPI platform has doubled to70,000, and has 4.2 million registered users. “But we are not very happy. 70,000 is not really a number to be satisfied with. We believe that in the days ahead, further improvement can happen,” National Payments Corporation of India (NCPI) MD AP Hota told ET. “In due course, when more functionalities are added, we hope that instead of upgrading their individual apps, banks may switch over to the common app,” Hota added. ALSO READ: Demonetization: How to get started with UPI apps and go cashless to beat the cash crunch
Interpolating UPI with USSD platform
The UPI app is great for Android smartphone users, but a lot of people, especially in the rural areas are still using feature phones, which mostly don’t have internet access. This is where the USSD platform comes to their rescue. One can simply dial *99#, followed by bank code and get details such as account balance, mini statement, or send money using the recipient phone number and MMID. it does not require any internet connection, and is as simple as checking your mobile. However, the number of steps involved are quite annoying. ALSO READ: Bharat Bill Payment System launching soon, a platform for citizens in rural areas to pay bills
Furthermore, having multiple payment systems is just creating more confusion among the users. For UPI, you need Virtual Payment Address (VPA), for USSD-based mobile banking you need Mobile Money Identifier (MMID) number, and so on. However, now the government is looking to integrate UPI into USSD platform, making it available offline too. ALSO READ: Aadhaar Payment App: Here s how it will ease payments process for everyone
After demonetization, the USSD-based transactions have jumped from 1.5 lakh per day to 6.5 lakh per day. The platform is now supported by 51 banks and integration with UPI for offline transactions could further help bolster USSD platform. Instead of having to put the mobile number and MMID, which will also be hard to remember, entering a VPA will also ease things to a greater extent. With this push, the government wants to give a major push to enable 600 million Indians to make use of digital payments.
Common helpline number for digital payments
Sure, a lot of users have questions about digital payments, be it with the understanding of process or how it works. And there is no one-stop-shop of sorts to address those issues. But, with the government giving a major push to digital payments, it is also looking forward to introduce a common helpline number. It is already working with NASSCOM and telecom operators to create a single point number – 14444.