Digital pay­ment drive strug­gles to take off in ru­ral In­dia, shows au­dit


The Naren­dra Modi gov­ern­ment’s pet digital pay­ment projects — the mo­bile money trans­fer ap­pli­ca­tion BHIM and the Aad­haar-based mer­chant pay­ment sys­tem BHIM-Aad­haar — will need re­jig­ging and a more thought­ful im­ple­men­ta­tion process if ru­ral mass adop­tion is to be achieved.

An in­ter­nal study com­mis­sioned by the Na­tional Pay­ments Cor­po­ra­tion of In­dia (NPCI), a pub­lic sec­tor bank con­trolled en­tity in­volved in float­ing and man­ag­ing the pay­ment sys­tem, has re­vealed that poor aware­ness and a flawed user ex­pe­ri­ence has re­sulted in a high num­ber of ru­ral users “who have either deleted the ap­pli­ca­tion or are in­ac­tive”.

In the months after de­mon­eti­sa­tion, the Centre has em­barked on an ag­gres­sive digi­ti­sa­tion push that, as The Wire has re­ported, has been ag­gres­sive if not wholly ef­fec­tive.

In De­cem­ber 2016, Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi launched a UPI-based mo­bile ap­pli­ca­tion called BHIM (Bharat In­ter­face for Mo­bile) and claimed that “the day is not far when all busi­ness trans­ac­tions will be con­ducted through the BHIM app”.

And yet, BHIM hasn’t made it that far. Al­though the ap­pli­ca­tion has seen nearly 20 mil­lion down­loads, data shows that less than 30 per cent of the people who have down­loaded the app have ac­tu­ally linked the app to their bank ac­counts and en­gaged in ac­tive trans­ac­tions.

Less than six months after BHIM’s launch, Modi in­au­gu­rated the roll-out of the BHIM Aad­haar plat­form, a pay­ment in­ter­face for mer­chants who could link Aad­haar au­then­ti­ca­tion to the BHIM ap­pli­ca­tion.

“NPCI un­der­stands that BHIM hasn’t re­ally taken off and wanted to an­a­lyse the rea­sons why. And for Aad­haar Pay, the mer­chant sys­tem, they wanted to un­der­stand the road bumps after the ini­tial roll-out hap­pened. This is why they com­mis­sioned the study,” a per­son with di­rect knowl­edge of the mat­ter, who de­clined to be iden­ti­fied, told The Wire. BHIM: Who, what and why A five-state qual­i­ta­tive study car­ried out by Mi­cro Save — a sur­vey-firm well known for its crit­i­cal in­sight on the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Jan Dhan Yo­jana pro­gramme — shows that most semi-ur­ban and ru­ral In­di­ans sur­veyed have a lim­ited un­der­stand­ing of the “why and how” of BHIM.

How­ever, the BHIM Aad­haar mer­chant pay­ment sys­tem has big­ger fish to fry. The idea be­hind it was sim­ple: cus­tomers can make pay­ments us­ing their Aad­haar num­ber and a mer­chant’s spe­cial bio­met­ric de­vice. When the plat­form was launched, the Centre also promised that banks would roll-out Aad­haar-en­abled PoS ma­chines — es­sen­tially cheaper bio­met­ric de­vices when com­pared to the more ex­pen­sive tra­di­tional PoS de­vices that had greater MDR charges.

In Fe­bru­ary 2017, fi­nance min­is­ter Arun Jait­ley stated that banks “will be en­cour­aged to in­tro­duce two mil­lion Aad­haar­based POS by September 2017.”

Al­though Mi­cro Save notes that the Bhim-Aad­haar pay­ment sys­tem and ac­com­pa­ny­ing de­vices are “good prod­ucts”, they come with re­stric­tive lim­its (such as a ~2,000 ceil­ing per trans­ac­tion) and lack­ing nec­es­sary fea­tures (such as the abil­ity for a mer­chant to pro­duce a con­sol­i­dated re­port of all trans­ac­tions con­ducted).

In the few states that roll­outs have started, mer­chant se­lec­tion and the on-board­ing process hasn’t been done well. “Suitabil­ity of mer­chants was not ver­i­fied be­fore pro­vid­ing them the de­vice. This re­sulted in the mer­chants either not us­ing the de­vice or re­duced us­age of the de­vice,” the study states. Mer­chants that Mi­cro Save spoke to pointed out that the ab­sence of a griev­ance re­dres­sal mech­a­nism also hurt trans­ac­tion trans­parency and caused cus­tomer trust is­sues.

“…Were un­aware about whom to ap­proach in case of any trans­ac­tion fail­ure or any other tech­ni­cal glitches etc. Mer­chants re­ported that for cer­tain cus­tomers, trans­ac­tions did not get through, as they have an ac­count in a bank which is dif­fer­ent from the BHIM-Aad­haar Pay is­su­ing bank. They were un­aware as to whom to con­tact for re­port­ing this is­sue,” the study noted. The pay­ment plat­form is also re­stricted, with mer­chants able to see only day-to­day trans­ac­tions con­ducted by them. “A con­sol­i­dated re­port with all the trans­ac­tions con­ducted so far was not avail­able to them. Mer­chants were also not able to down­load or print the trans­ac­tion reports and needed to visit the bank to get their pass­book up­dated,” the au­dit states. The feed­back that has been given to NPCI is that is­suer banks need to have “pre-de­fined cri­te­ria for mer­chant se­lec­tion”, tak­ing into ac­count av­er­age trans­ac­tion value and that once on-boarded, shop own­ers needed to be given “train­ing on in­stal­la­tion, de­vice op­er­a­tions and prod­uct fea­tures”. Broader aware­ness push Aware­ness is­sues ex­tended to even ba­sic us­age of the BHIM app. “The num­ber of users who have either deleted the ap­pli­ca­tion or are in­ac­tive are high. One of the rea­sons is lack of knowl­edge about how to use BHIM and, more im­por­tantly, why it should be used, what are its USPs com­pared to the other modes they use. This could be a re­sult of lim­ited vis­i­bil­ity of the mar­ket­ing cam­paigns. Hence, they do not put the cog­ni­tive ef­fort to shift from their ex­ist­ing modes,” the study notes.

The is­sues start with when users start open­ing the BHIM app. “It was ob­served that re­spon­dents felt has­sled when they did not im­me­di­ately un­der­stand what task needs to be per­formed at each screen, how it is to be per­formed, and if there was some er­ror due to in­cor­rect en­try.” The great­est amount of trou­ble comes dur­ing the “set­ting up the UPI pin” phase, with users “not used to en­ter­ing and re­mem­ber­ing six-digit codes”. Mi­cro Save’s feed­back for smooth­ing out th­ese im­ple­men­ta­tion is­sues is to make “use-cases of BHIM more rel­e­vant to the daily lives of the cus­tomers” and in­clud­ing “in-app in­struc­tions to ease the process flow”.

“It’s clear that greater ver­nac­u­lar aid needs to be given as part of the app and per­haps a re­design of some user in­ter­face fea­tures to fo­cus more on im­ages and less on un­nec­es­sary text and nu­mer­als. This will hap­pen in the next few months,” a se­nior NPCI of­fi­cial, who de­clined to be iden­ti­fied, told The Wire.


Though BHIM, launched by PM Naren­dra Modi, has seen nearly 20 mil­lion down­loads, data show less than 30 per cent have linked the app to their bank ac­counts

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.