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Indian government-backed payment networks to go global

NPCI kicked off its global expansion last year, starting with UAE and Singapore, where both UPI and RuPay have a presence.

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In its bid to make real-time payment system Unified Payments Interface (UPI) and card payment network RuPay globally available, India’s retail payment organization National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), has set up an international arm.

On Wednesday, NPCI in an official statement said, it is tasked with the responsibility of “exporting NPCI’s indigenously developed offerings and technological acumen to foreign markets, thereby revolutionizing the global payments landscape.”

The new entity, NPCI International Payments Ltd (NIPL), will primarily focus on the “internationalization of RuPay and UPI, along with a few more offerings of NPCI,” it said.

The aim is to enable Indian travelers to use homegrown payment channels across the world. This essentially means Indians’ dependence on alternative global payment networks such as Visa and Mastercard would eventually reduce.

NIPL plans to help other countries first develop their domestic networks by providing them the technical knowhow and then collaborate with them to enable cross-border payments. NPCI said several nations have displayed an inclination towards establishing a real-time payment system or a domestic card scheme inspired by the corporation’s innovations in the country.

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“It is a matter of pride for NPCI that several countries, in regions such as Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, have displayed interest toward replicating our model in their own nation,” said NPCI MD and CEO Dilip Asbe. The retail payment organization has appointed Ritesh Shukla as the new chief executive of  NIPL, who was earlier a part of Mastercard’s business in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

As such, UPI has become a huge success in the South Asian nation since its roll out in 2016. This is evident from the fact that in three years of its operations, UPI completed 10 billion transactions, totaling over USD 226 billion. UPI virtually replaced the need for e-wallets on which payment companies such as Alibaba-backed Paytm, Mobikwik, and a few others were banking on for their growth. With the advent of UPI, every digital payment company, including traditional banks had no choice but to integrate UPI in their systems.

The healthcare pandemic and the subsequent lockdown earlier this year has also given a boost to digital payments. According to NPCI data, in July, payments transacted on UPI hit an all-time high of 1.49 billion, with the value of transactions reaching USD 38.8 billion.

RuPay, on the other hand, has taken longer to pick up in the domestic market. Launched in 2012 by NPCI to promote the use of electronic payments, it got a leg up when Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched his flagship scheme for financial inclusion–Jan Dhan Yojana–in mid-2014 under which RuPay debit cards were issued with every account opened.

As the adoption for its retail payment networks went up, over the last few years, NPCI kicked off its global expansion strategy in the second half of last year, starting with UAE and Singapore, where both UPI and RuPay have a presence. RuPay is also present in Bhutan, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea, among others.

With the creation of a separate international entity, NPCI has now accelerated its efforts to take its payment network across the countries, just as its Asian peers. China’s domestic network called UnionPay has already been expanded into a global network, while Japan’s JCB network is present across 190 countries.