Plastic age: India's RuPay breaks Visa and MasterCard's grip

  • Mahua Venkatesh, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Aug 19, 2015 00:16 IST

Hiding behind Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s high-decibel financial inclusion push is a rather unnoticed growth story: RuPay, India’s own payment gateway.

About 190 million, or one in three of the total 580 million debit cards currently in use in India are RuPay cards.

Clearly, the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) have given a head-start to a one-year-old card system that now stands almost shoulder-to-shoulder with global peers such as Visa and MasterCard in India, at least in user volume. And it has its own advantages (see graphic).

Modi launched the Jan Dhan scheme in August last year, with the promise to end “financial untouchability”.

So far, more than 175 million accounts, which come with a RuPay debit card and an overdraft facility of Rs 5,000, have been opened under the scheme.

Already 154 million RuPay cards have been issued to these new non-frills account holders. Banks have also issued another 40 million RuPay debit cards to “non-Jan Dhan” customers.

“We are now focussing outside the PMJDY and promoting these RuPay cards even to other savings account holders,” AP Hota, MD and CEO, National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), which runs RuPay, told HT. “Until one year ago MasterCard and Visa Card were predominant in the market while now RuPay has made a mark and we are hoping to increase its presence further.”
MasterCard said Indians are fast adopting digital payment technologies. “There is plenty of room to grow in this segment,” said Vikas Varma, executive director, South Asia, MasterCard.

“Low personal consumption expenditure penetration presents a significant opportunity for electronic payments growth, in line with the government’s less- cash society vision,” said TR Ramachandran, group country manager, India and South Asia, Visa.

NPCI’s nine promoter banks include State Bank of India, Punjab National Bank, Canara Bank, Bank of Baroda, Union Bank of India, ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, Citibank and HSBC.

For RuPay, which the RBI first conceptualised in a vision paper in 2009, making it more acceptable in retail merchandise and e-commerce transactions, and globally remain key challenges.

China has a similar card called the Union Pay of China.

Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), billed as India’s biggest e-commerce site, has launched a RuPay pre-paid card that allows railway passengers to book tickets, shop and pay service bills.

NPCI has tied up with Discover Financial Services and Japanese card network JCB for international acceptance of its cards.

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