And the next big thing in Mobile Payments is…

An app review on India’s answer to mobile payments.

I just completed a cross bank transfer using UPI and I could not believe just how easy it was.

So there has been a lot of talk and newspaper releases on NPCI’s [National Payment Corporation of India, an RBI backed and supported org] latest product — Unified Payment Interface, an interface that allows money transfer between any two bank accounts by using a smartphone. What is UPI? [for the uninitiated]

I have been following the UPI for some time for the potential it promises for the future of digital India. So when I found that one of my banks has an app specifically focused on UPI payments I was curious to give it a try. [To check out if your bank is part of the network. You can use any bank’s UPI app as long as your bank is part of the UPI network today. For the list of apps with UPI facility]

So in order to mimic the conditions of an average Indian user, I decided to download and use the app completely on 2G network. The size of Axis Pay mobile app is 12 MB and it took me around 25 minutes to download it.

But what ensued was something I did not expect entirely.

So what sets UPI based AXIS Pay apart from all the payment apps that are in vogue today?

1. No clutter design

The app has a minimalist design with an intent to avoid clutter. As a mobile UI/UX enthusiast this is definitely one of the best designs I have encountered in recent times.

The user experience designed for on boarding a new user is so simple that you seldom loose your way on the app, even as a first time user. For example find below the home screen of the app — send and receive — as simple as that.

And the Explainer screen

2. Virtual Payment Address

You do not have to give detailed account numbers, name, IFSC code to send or receive money from some one. You do not even have to wait for registering the beneficiary’s account with your bank. All you have to do is use your receiver’s virtual payment address and trigger the transaction. That simple!

A virtual payment address is as simple as an username for your account that is registered with UPI through the app. Once you add your account using the app, its as simple as filling a field for VPA. Now this is your universal address for sending and receiving payments.

If PayPal simplified payments simple, UPI has gone as step ahead and made it way simpler.

3. Speed of transaction

Adding a new account takes 4 clicks.

Doing a transfer or receive request takes 3 clicks.

I have not experienced this simple form of transfer since PayPal! And in mobile transfers never before!

And the speed of transfer is magic, transfer gets completed in seconds — and according to what I heard it works 24/7 365 days a year.

I thought the experience and speed could be because I used an axis bank account. So now I tried it with a different bank that is available in UPI. Same number of clicks, same time taken for money transfer, the same level of information on the app and SMS. Amazing!

Also by requesting users to enter minimal data the speed of adding and using the accounts is unbelievable!

4. Receiving money

UPI in a slew of “first time” stuff, has also given the users the control to get payments from people who owe them .

You can now initiate an ASK transaction where you ask for a transaction amount from the payee by just giving the payee’s virtual payment address.

Your app gives notification when some one asks for you to send the payment. All you have to do is just validate it by giving your MPIN. That’s all ask transaction is complete.

By making Ask transaction as simple as send transaction, UPI is a blessing in disguise for all merchants, schools and other businesses who have a tough time tracking their payments today.

5. Other important features to not miss!

  • No minimal amount to be transferred [ I transferred 10 Rupees]
  • No charges [at least for now :) ]
  • SMS being automatically read and validated for MPIN makes on boarding so quick you do not notice.
  • Minimal places to enter data manually with bank accounts being automatically listed, adding to the ease and speed of on boarding and transactions.
  • SMS integration with all information being communicated to user instantaneously convinces us of the security aspect of the whole transaction and the app.
  • Setting MPIN for other bank accounts that are part of UPI has also been made really simple. Just validate last 6 digits of your debit card and OTP and your are done. No need for having one app for each and every bank you have account on.
  • The information available on the app is good enough for any user to understand the status of their transactions, accounts present etc

So its all hunky dory?

To a great extent yes but still there is one big gap in the app which is its English language usage.

My cook who uses the latest smart phone has trouble reading the SMSes he gets from his telecom operator. Every time he receives a new message about something related to money he asks me to read it and help him understand. And am sure this is true for 90% of the country whose understanding of the language is low

And knowing how much time our tier 2, 3 and rural population spend in sending and receiving money through banks, the app needs to be on vernacular to achieve the reach its intending to.

Few other small improvements that could be made are :

  • Today only fewer banks are part of the UPI. But this will change in a months time, I assume.
  • Why OTPs are not also being read automatically? Not sure if there is any legal ramifications but if MPIN authorizing SMS could be read by the app, why not for OTPs? This could really reduce the even minimal manual entry that is available today.

In short UPI is an example of how we can build home grown solutions based on robust technology for the local audience and still compete with the best of the world! Just cant wait for it to go vernacular and reach out to the wider audience for which it would make mountains of difference in their daily lives!

PS: To those with concerns on the reliability and security aspect of UPI, which I have addressed here.

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