How I Adopted Mobile Wallets

I am an overtime working mother of two with a husband who travels extensively hence also the “man” of the house. Thanks to my flexi-time job, I can manage all home and workplace responsibilities quite well. As a destress therapy, I get off the work-home treadmill from 8 to 9 PM and love to watch re-runs of F.R.I.E.N.D.S. However, on the evening of 8th November 2016, a whatsapp message from a friend forced me to change the channel to Aaj-Tak (because it is sabse tez!) and I was shocked beyond my wits by the re-runs of the news. I opened my wallet and four notes of Rs. 500 were looking at me with a sullen expression. I called my girls and explained them the situation. Took a good ten minutes to explain to my nine-year-old that I am not trying to rob her piggy bank. Reluctantly, they took out their treasure and my heart sank to see only notes of 500 and 1000. Well, Nana-Nani, Baba-Dadi, Bua-Mama ­ — everyone’s love used to be expressed through these only. I counted all the notes that I had at home and it came close to Rs. 25,000. I had an anxiety attack holding the useless pieces of paper. I felt even Gandhiji staring back at me with an empathetic smile. Next two days were Bank holidays. On the first day the banks opened, I was second in the queue. I deposited all and exchanged Rs. 4000 for a Rs. 2000 note and a bundle of Rs. 20 notes. My younger one threw a fit when I explained to her that I cannot return her piggy bank money right now. For the first few days, I tried not to spend any of the newly acquired notes. I bought vegetables like one capsicum, one cauliflower and three carrots. In between all this ruckus, my husband had to travel and his stroller broke down hence we ventured out around 8.30 PM to look for a decent one in the nearby market. We found one at the local bag store but how to pay him Rs. 3800? So, we gave him a little gyan about Paytm. He said he had also been exploring the idea. Oh! The thrill we experienced when we transferred Rs. 100 to test and it happened! That day, at 9 PM, in a local bag store, three people became a part of the late majority of mobile wallet adoption — me, my husband and the shop owner.

So who all are using the mobile wallets?

Mobile wallets have existed for quite some time however it did not interest me to download and use them because I never felt the need. But after 8 Nov 2016, my everyday auto fare and weekly grocery shopping at the local sabji mandi seemed like impossible tasks with a cashless Esbeda wallet. To my surprise, within a week of downloading Paytm, I could see the blue-white Paytm boards and stickers coming up along the entire market in my area. I was shocked to see the Paytm board on a cart full of oranges!

So who are these people, sticking a Paytm board on oranges and flashing a Paytm App on their smartphones?

The Innovators (2.5%): These are the tech-super-savvy people whose hobby is to explore new technology. Typically, in the age group of 18–30, these guys love to take up a new technology, try it, review it and talk about it passionately, in the same way a book lover would talk about a recently read book. Their review influences a large group of people because of their tech-savvy reputation. Like my brother-in-law who would search for best deals on Paytm and wait patiently till he got offered a Rs. 20 cashback.

The Early Adopters(13.5%): This group of people adopts the technology right after the innovators. It is a little larger segment as compared to the innovators, quite similar in profile to the innovators but they use technology more as a need rather than a hobby. These would be the people who already had the mobile wallets on their phones before Nov 8, 2016.

The Early Majority (34% approx.): This group is a larger segment, comprising of people who are influenced by the feedback by the innovators and early adopters. They typically wait to get enough feedback on the working of a product before investing their time and money. Play safe is their motto.

The Late Majority: That’s me. Don’t play a game unless absolutely forced to. Now typically this segment is almost equal to the early majority however, I feel that this segment may be a little bigger in case of mobile wallet adoption in India because of the tipping scale event of demonetization.

The Laggards (16%): This is my grand-uncle. Anytime there is an online fraud in a bank, he messages all of us and calls up to say that this is the reason why he doesn’t have an online account or an active debit card. Old people, who are uncomfortable with technology form a large part of this segment.

Paytm ya ATM?

Right after demonetization, the usage of mobile wallets shot up. According to a News report on 21 Nov 2016, Paytm was witnessing about 7 million daily transactions worth about Rs. 120 crore, crossing $ 5 bn Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) sales, four months ahead of its target. Other mobile wallet companies such as MobiKwik and Freecharge also witnessed steep growth. State Bank of India’s SBI Buddy wallet became the fourth largest mobile wallet in the country. In January 2017, the Government mobile wallet BHIM was launched which is an Aadhaar-based mobile wallet to make digital payments directly from the users’ bank accounts. “In the future only your thumb will be needed to make a payment,” PM Modi said during the launch.

Now that the initial frenzy of demonetization has died down, where do the mobile wallets lie on the payment instruments usage curve? The February release of the RBI bulletin states that there was close to an 114-percent rise in the number of wallet transactions between October and December. While the total number of wallet transactions stood at 995 lakh, it successively grew to 1,380.9 lakh in November and shot up to 2,131 lakh transactions in December.

However, the mobile wallets still could not overshadow the credit and debit cards because credit card users were never stopped using them and as the cash flow improved, debit card loyals like me were back to the que-less ATMs. After all, how do I pay my bai with a mobile wallet?

So, despite an unprecedented number of downloads, what are the barriers that prevent the mobile wallets adoption in India?

Barriers to Adoption

1. The first barrier is the problem of plenty. To transact through a mobile wallet, both parties should have the same app. Now how many apps I am supposed to download and link my bank accounts to?

2. The dream is of digital India but the basic requirement of this dream — seamless connectivity — is still a dream; and a faraway dream now because of the Jio free internet scheme closing.

3. People have recently become used to the idea of online transactions amidst all the online frauds. How safe is money in a phone app which can easily drop off my hand during the local train rush?

4. Banks and Government are launching their own wallets e.g. UPI and IDFC’s Aadhar-linked POS machines. People would trust these institutions more than wallet companies.

5. Money makes money in the bank which is not the case in mobile wallets.

So how to get people hooked to mobile wallets?

Do you remember that silly prank where someone ties a ten rupee note with an invisible string and you keep following the note as the other person keeps pulling the string? Well, that same hack works quite well for the mobile wallets. The cashback feature is so addictive that after I got Rs. 10 cashback for an order on Zomato through Paytm, I have been ordering food and paying my electricity and phone bills through Paytm in the hope of getting that 100% cashback every hour to the Chosen One. Other hacks include advertisements and offers in outlets, sponsoring events and presence on social media.

To conclude, I feel mobile wallets rode a huge wave during demonetization scare and they are still riding on it (because this time when my kids’ Bua visited, she transferred e-money-love through Paytm!). However, the wave is soon turning into a plateau. The mobile wallet companies now need to up their ante, what with the latest news of Amazon getting a nod from RBI for a mobile wallet. “We are pleased to receive our PPI license from the RBI (Reserve Bank of India). Our focus is providing customers a convenient and trusted cashless payments experience,” Amazon India said in a statement yesterday (13 Apr 2013).

So Paytm, ab kuch aur bhi karo, else the Amazon smile may widen enough to engulf a large share of the mobile wallet companies.