UPI system is limited to smartphones with internet connections only. At present, efficient access to UPI is available on smart phones. UPI can be accessed through NUUP (National Unified USSD Platform) using the short code of *99# but again this is a cumbersome process with less popular. There are more than 40 crore feature phone mobile subscribers in our country not having internet connectivity and other smart services are unable to explore UPI services. UPI is therefore more or less available only to smart phone holders having internet connectivity.
UPI has been launched in the year 2016 through Google play store as the beginning of digital payment revolution in India and is considered to be the largest digital platform for retail payment of India where transactions more than Rs 76 trillion in the current fiscal Year 2021-22 is completed as compared to Rs 41 trillion worth of transactions handled in 2020-21. It is noteworthy that 50 per cent of transactions through UPI were below Rs 200, indicating its success towards deepening the digital ecosystem and financial inclusion because one of the initial objectives of UPI was to replace cash for low-value transactions.
Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) is technology available for all GSM mobile phones where there is no need of any internet connection is required in order to use its service. Anyone can access mobile banking services by just pressing *99# from GSM phone and can check account balance, obtain mini statement and transfer money from one account to another just by entering a simple code of Mobile Money Identifier (MMID).But it is not accepted by the public as it is considered to be incomprehensible.
So,RBI has come up with another compatible digital banking product for all the feature phone holders ‘UPI123Pay which will enable them to make electronic payment transactions by using UPI without having an internet connection also. The customers will be able to use all other features, except the scan and pay UPI option available for smartphones. It is supported by another 24*7 support services ‘DigiSaathi’ to address the queries of digital payment users.UPI123Pay includes four distinct options as below:
- App-based Functionality:An app would be installed on the feature phone through which several UPI functions, available on smartphones, will also be available on feature phones.
- Missed Call: This will allow feature phone users to access their bank account and perform routine transactions such as receiving, transferring funds, regular purchases, bill payments, etc., by giving a missed call on the number displayed at the merchant outlet. The customer will receive an incoming call to authenticate the transaction by entering UPI PIN.
- Interactive Voice Response (IVR):UPI payment through pre-defined IVR numbers would require users to initiate a secured call from their feature phones to a predetermined number and complete UPI on-boarding formalities to be able to start making financial transactions without internet connection.
- Proximity Sound-based Payments:This uses sound waves to enable contactless, offline, and proximity data communication on any device.
Digi Sathi- 24×7 Helpline
RBI also launched a 24×7 Helpline – ‘DigiSaathi’. The 24×7 Helpline – ‘DigiSaathi’ – provides a channel to obtain help on the entire gamut of digital payments. Automated responses on information related to digital payment products and services are available in Hindi and English through multiple options like – (a) toll-free number (1800-891-3333), (b) a short code (14431), (c) website – www.digisaathi.info, and chatbots. DigiSaathi will assist users with their queries on digital payments via website &chatbot facility and through toll-free calls where user can dial or call out the options / products for which the information is required. More interactive options and language choices shall be enabled going forward.
Digital literacy means having the skills you need to live, learn, and work in a society where communication and access to information is increasingly through digital technologies like internet platforms, social media, and mobile devices. The new multi-channel digital payment product UPI123Pay and resolution services – ‘digisathi’ can make lot of difference in transforming the culture of using digital mode at the grassroots level. As the financial services sector in India becomes increasingly competitive to offer financial products to under-served populations, there is a need to further improve financial and digital literacy outcomes to not only ensure the uptake of these services but also to help new consumers make the best use of these services as per their needs The financial sector has to work on creating an ecosystem in how these new set of services are brought to the notice of intended target group of customers so that it will Impart digital literacy to the feature phone users to register their mobile number and to understand the scope and range of services will continue to be an important limitation. In our country many of the feature phone holders are aged and might not be literate enough to adopt the product.
After the successful implementation of this digital initiative definitely the footfall will be reduced in the branch and bank branches can undertake more qualitative activities so it is the responsibility of the bank to impart the knowledge among the community. In order to make it more fruitful and penetrate the same to ground level the collaborations to be done along with panchayats, post offices and block level authorities to record messages in local language, print small leaflets and broadcast them to bring these services closer to people while the state government and local self-government can also make collaboration among the banks, educational institute and other institutes to educate more people. Imparting the financial and digital literacy should be aggressively galvanised to create demand side while supply side is adequately taken care by introducing innovative digital products and the benefits of the financial inclusion can only be imparted only when the demand side of banking services is created in the community.
In addition to this also RBI should think to create more institutions like NPCI in order to tackle the economic environment where volumes and transactions are set to rise exponentially. Also strategies needed to create awareness among the masses along with introduction of New Umbrella Entity (NUE) for payment systems which will be combined to strengthen demand to create transaction volumes much higher than the systems can perceive.
The above initiatives are envisioned to accelerate the process of digital adoption in India, by creating a richer and inclusive ecosystem that can accommodate larger sections of population. Digital payments through UPI have grown more manifold since its launch in 2016. The number of digital transactions exceeds 400 crores involving an amount of Rs 8.26 lakh crore in February alone this year, twice the number of transactions made the previous year.
There are roughly about 40 crore feature phone users in our country, so choices are substantially limited. Henceit is important to make UPI available offline and on feature phones. The launch of UPI123Pay will boost digital payments and will deepen the digital payments network, especially in rural areas. But again it all includes about its importance, awareness, advertisement, knowledge and acquisition among the rural masses so that the same will be successful and more pronounced than that of earlier initiatives.