After having struggled with my MTNL mobile network everywhere in the city to use PayTM at shops that would accept payment through the app, my enthusiasm for digital transactions apps such as the new, much vaunted BHIM (Bharat Interface for Money) app was, to say the least, not high. But for the purpose of this review, I used the app in a wi-fi area to ensure my phone had a stable internet connection, and as with PayTM, it (mostly) does what it advertises. I was able to send money.
The app is only available for Android users, and is not available on the Apple App Store. I downloaded the BHIM app from the Android Play Store on my Moto G phone. It’s a small file that downloads and installs quickly. The app (available only in English and Hindi) requires a passcode to access and allows you to set one up as you use it for the first time. Once I did that, I spent the next three minutes looking at a ‘Please Wait’ screen, before I shut down the app and restarted it. That seemed to fix whatever the problem was and it took me to the home screen that has three options – ‘Send’, ‘Request’, and ‘Scan & Pay’.
Below it are the ‘Transactions’, ‘Profile’, and ‘Bank Account’ tabs. To add your bank account, it only needs you to identify the bank in which you have an account and for which you intend to use this app (picked out of a list). A drawback here is that it allows the adding of only one account. This account can later be changed, but you cannot select payment from one of several of our accounts. Once you select your bank, it automatically fetches your account number and details by matching the number of your phone as the registered mobile number with the bank you selected.
Once I got over how much of my information is so easily available to be linked with each other and my bank account, I proceeded to try and send some money to a friend to try the app out. The first step here is to go to ‘Profile’ and create your UPI payment address. This is by default the phone number, but you can change it. Now to sending some actual money. This required the creation of a UPI PIN, something the app does not automatically guide you to do. After giving me four ‘Error Updating Balance’ messages, and much google-ing, I figured I would have to go to the ‘Reset UPI PIN’ option in my Bank Account and create one. Head’s up: this step needs the last six digits of your Debit Card and its expiry date.
Once that was done, paying money was simple. Add the Virtual Payment Address or registered mobile number of the person to who you want to send money (this will be verified before you can go further), enter the amount, put in some remarks, and hit ‘Pay’. All done.
Receiving money, on the other hand, proved to be a slightly bigger challenge. As luck would have it, the person I was sending money to has an iPhone. So, there was no question of transferring money through the BHIM app. So we tried sending money from that person’s bank UPI. Even after I had sent a request to receive money, the bank UPI at the other end refused to accept my Virtual Payment Address, even after several attempts. After blaming the Android/Apple platform differences for the problem, we realised that the Bank UPI could simply transfer the money to my account number, without the BHIM app mediating.
And if you thought my BHIM experience this morning was entirely humourless, think again. While struggling to transfer money without having changed my UPI PIN, and not knowing why my existing PIN wasn’t working, I tried the ‘Call Bank’ option at the bottom of the screen, impressed that the option existed. My bank is ICICI. The app called the IDBI Customer Care number.
(Vidya Subramanian is at the Centre for Studies in Science Policy, JNU)