Can India Maintain its Digital Payments Growth?

Part of the reason for the Indian government’s unexpected demonetization move in November last year was to help spur the country’s digital economy and reduce the use of cash.

Card and other electronic transactions did increase dramatically in the months after the cash was removed from the system, but will citizens return to their previous habits?

Digital payments methods the government has promoted certainly continue to show positive growth several months after the limits on cash withdrawals ended.

The National Payments Corporation of India recently reported that its BHIM app, which launched in December, now has 4 million active users and has been downloaded 16 million times. The NCPI provides infrastructure for retail payment systems in India.

The organization also reported this week that transactions using its United Payment Interface (UPI), which was launched in August last year, rose more than 10% to 11.6 million in July.

But a recent article in Firstpost argues that initial statistics are overblown in light of the work that is still to be done in India.

“The required infrastructure needs to be built before we hope for a mega change,” the article said. “Yes, the demonetisation has certainly acted as a trigger to encourage more people embrace digital transaction channels and the government’s efforts to create awareness is helping the drive. But let’s not over-hype the progress.”

Mastercard’s Digital Evolution Index, which looked at the adoption of technology globally, placed India among the countries it labeled as Break Out – countries that have the potential to become strong digital economies because of consumer demand or innovation in the space, but whose infrastructure may be holding them back.

The report specifically cites mobile and internet access and affordability as infrastructure issues for many Break Out countries.

“Countries such as India, where appetite for mobile telephony is established but where internet adoption is low, must address these factors if they want to catch up,” the report said.

Mastercard produced the index in partnership with The Fletcher School at Tufts University.

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