After BHIM app comes India’s first UPI payments facility in retail store - Meet the creator

1st Apr 2017
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A Dynamic QR solution has been architected by Innoviti and the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) for in-store transactions between shoppers and stores. It will enable users to make payments with almost no touching, right from their mobile phones, with apps like BHIM or other bank-promoted UPI payment apps.

Engineering a brand new and much more “real” use case of UPI, UPI@POS has been crafted by the NPCI in collaboration with Bengaluru-based payments solutions company Innoviti. At the official launch at St. Regis in Mumbai, YourStory caught up with the man of the hour, Innoviti Founder and CEO Rajeev Agarwal, to understand the run up to working with India's apex payments solutions body and launching a solution that is a potential game-changer in India's UPI story.

(L) Rajeev Agarwal, Founder of Innoviti | (R) How UPI@POS works

UPI, when launched last year, was predominantly a peer-to-peer money transfer platform. But, one of the biggest arenas where digital transactions took place at the highest frequency – more than peer-to-peer transfer or online shopping – was, in fact, the offline retail world, in terms of everything – the number of people who make such transactions, the number of cities where it is commonplace, as well as the variety of offline retail transactions that happened digitally – food, travel, retail. And yet, UPI had not tapped into this immense segment. Having dealt with over 50,000 retailers, the real challenge in retail, Rajeev discovered, was how a customer can transfer money to a company, via mobile phones.

“In the case of retailers, the MD is not going to be sitting at the desk, it'll be a cashier. Even if I transfer money to the company's account, how does the cashier get to know that the money has been sent, to then hand over the goods? In a normal person-to-person situation, the parties get an SMS. In a multi-lane retail situation, cashiers keep changing, so a mobile phone notification would not work, as it would take constant tracking and updating of databases. So, we wanted to do something where we could minimise the changes in the life of a cashier, with a solution that would allow customers to make payments using the mobile applications while shopping. And this new use case will catapult UPI into a huge success story,” narrates Rajeev, adding, “As a fintech company, we work closely with a host of retailers, and we knew that it is a real life problem, one that we were poised to solve - and the NCPI shared this belief.”

The Bangalore-based, Titan Company, Catamaran Ventures and New India Investment Corporation, Canada-backed Innoviti, that is experienced in processing over Rs. 12,000 Cr. of payment transactions annually including Rs. 1,000 crore of credit, used its insights into the retail industry to engineer a fitting, easily adoptable solution. The most difficult thing in a payment solution, according to Rajeev, is changing user behaviour. But their solution worked without changing the cashier's behaviour, on the machine they were already used to, and with a dynamic QR that already contains all the details of the transaction – right from payee information to the amount, thus minimising the touching, typing, and tapping required. “We made a prototype and showed it to the NPCI, and they moved with amazing speed. The whole project left the ground in less than two months,” says Rajeev.

“As part of NPCI’s overall mission to encourage faster adoption of cashless payments in retail, the current rollout opens the path to extending UPI payment acceptance to potentially all the card accepting merchants in India. With the fast growing popularity of UPI payment apps like NPCI’s BHIM app, which has seen close to 20 million downloads, this initiative was to increase UPI payment acceptance points in retail stores,” said A.P. Hota, MD and CEO of the NPCI, at the launch.

How UPI/BHIM at POS works:

This innovative dynamic QR code-based solution uses the store’s existing credit/debit card POS terminal to enable UPI-based cashless payments. When a customer requests UPI Payment mode, the cashier simply needs to select the ‘UPI Payment’ option on his existing card POS terminal and inputs the relevant bill payment amount. This triggers the generation of a dynamic QR-code on the POS terminal screen itself, which can be scanned into any mobile-based UPI apps like BHIM used by the customer. When scanned, the QR code automatically transfers relevant transaction details and displays it on the customer’s payment app for authorising payment transfer.

Once the payment transfer from the customer’s UPI-linked bank account to the store’s UPI-linked account is completed, the payment solution triggers a settlement confirmation to the initiating in-store POS terminal for printing out a transaction completion charge slip.

Benefits:

- It's scalable. The possibilities are exciting for this new rollout, for rapidly scaling up, given the vast existing base of over 1.7 million card accepting merchants.

- Simple, instant money transfer, it leverages the IMPS technology.

- It entails zero capital investment, and can be integrated into any merchants' existing payments terminal.

- It's fast, touchless, and error free. No typing of amounts, addresses, or IDs is required at all. The Dynamic QR with the merchant VPA (Virtual Private Address) or UPI ID and amount eliminates the need for typing in of the customer or merchant credentials in the POS, thus minimising errors.

- As it is the only system where merchants get money instantly, rather than the promise of payment, it's the most similar to cash. Unlike a small single cashier store, where such payment confirmation could be received via a simple text message to the single cashier’s own mobile phone, in multi-lane retail, especially given the high churn-rate of cashiers, payment conformation could not be generated before this solution. In fact, this enables the crucial payment confirmation to be received on a cashier-independent device, like the store POS terminal - a necessity for multi-cashier stores with high cashier churn.

Taking on existing players that leverage QR code-powered payments like Paytm, Rajiv Anand, Executive Director, Axis Bank – which also operates a UPI-based app called Axis Pay – said, “The enemy is cash, not Paytm, and there is enough room in the market for more players. With the ability to make payments from any bank account instantly and securely, UPI is all set to drive the growth in digital transactions.” Besides, the dynamic QR code is a further improvisation on the QR code system, to make the consumer experience even more convenient and fast.

A royal pilot

As soon as it was ready, the NPCI decided not to keep this futuristic and conceptual, but to deploy it as soon as possible. Reliance Retail, one of Innoviti's existing clients, was the brand chosen for the debut of this service, owing to their pan-India network and immensely large customer base. “We immediately approached them and asked them if they would like to come onboard as we tested this. It was developed in absolute stealth mode – Reliance got the bombshell only two weeks back. We fixed the date of the launch a month ago, and started working backwards from there. They readily agreed, and the deployment in Reliance's Mumbai's stores took about three days, and it's up and running now. It's one of those things for which everybody just came together to say, 'Let's do what's right for the country.' UPI is something that is going to change the face of payments in India, and we want to be a part of that story,” says Rajeev.

Reliance Retail thus became the first organised retail chain in India to offer customers the option of mobile-based UPI app payments at its stores. The new UPI Payments facility is currently live across more than 200 Reliance retail stores across various formats, including Reliance Fresh, Reliance Trends, and Reliance Digital, among others, in Mumbai. The pan-India rollout of this offering at Reliance is also in the pipeline, and further outreach programmes will ensure that this solution reaches locations where cards are very very few.

V. Subramaniam, Director, Reliance Retail, also present at the launch, said, “Reliance Retail is happy to be the first organised retailer in the country to introduce this additional convenience and choice of digital transaction for customers. This spirited initiative will further enhance the digital transaction ecosystem in the country.”

Mr. Brian Bade, CEO, Reliance Digital, added, “It is our pleasure to be part of this landmark initiative as we lead the introduction of NPCI’s new in-shop UPI payment facility with the maiden transaction at our Reliance Digital store.”

While Aadhaar authentication at POS terminals is on the agenda of the government, that is deferred until July; the NPCI-Innoviti coalition also wants to integrate biometrics like iris and fingerprint scanning, albeit in the long run.

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