UPI in India
In 2016, the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) system launched in India. Its goal was ambitious: a level playing field for small businesses and impoverished communities through re-imagined banking. In the midst of a global pandemic that has forced a socially distant lifestyle, UPI has never been more important nor more successful.

UPI’s Humble Beginnings

UPI’s primary purpose was to become an online platform that would eliminate bureaucratic and socioeconomic barriers to financial transactions. The goal was to allow anybody, from small Kickstarter businesses to multinational banks, to have the same access to banking capabilities.

UPI creates a standard set of rules for everybody on the platform—all Indian banks have access. Thus, smaller banks have equal opportunities to reach people as big ones. This goal is feasible due to UPI’s innovative techniques. With UPI, the party collecting money from an individual is decoupled from that individual’s bank account. This allows third-party apps such as Google Pay, PhonePe and Amazon Pay to collect and administer transactions without excess burden to the customer.

UPI makes things even more consumer-friendly by eliminating the need to enter long bank account and routing numbers for transfers. A virtual payment address, a simple username akin to an email address, replaces detailed information.

Finally, it is important to note that UPI serves a myriad of functions in the financial world. Simple peer-to-peer monetary transactions are carried out seamlessly. Advanced maneuvers are also handled with ease, including merging banking features from different banks, micro pensions and digital insurance.

UPI’s Growth

Since its launch, UPI has seen tremendous growth in both users and the number of transactions. Its user base is strong—recent numbers indicate over 100 million users. Its goal is to reach 500 million users by 2022. While this seems ambitious, early critics of the program did not expect UPI to gain the traction it has already.

The novel coronavirus impacted UPI both positively and negatively. During the worst of the lockdown, UPI’s transaction count decreased. People staying at home lowered demand for the platform’s services. However, since May 2020, UPI has boomed in both the number of transactions and the amount of money transferred. The number of transactions grew by 12% in July 2020, with 1.49 billion in the month of July 2020. UPI saw 822 million transactions in July 2019, indicating exponential growth during the last year. Similarly, the amount of money transferred in July 2020 was up to 2.9 trillion Indian Rupees, while July 2019 saw only 1.46 trillion Rupees.

As of July 2020, UPI reports services at 164 banks across India. With service 24 hours a day, seven days a week, UPI is lengthening its reach and its impact on the financial marketplace of India.

Looking to the Future

Looking forward, COVID-19 has provided a new opportunity for UPI and digital banking in general. India wants to decrease the amount of physical currency in circulation, and the pandemic has shown many people the virtues of online banking. For example, young adults wary of infecting their older parents have helped an older generation get on UPI and utilize everything it has to offer.

UPI’s recent boom focuses back to the platform’s original goal: creating an even playing field for all people, regardless of background or socioeconomic status. In 10 or 20 years, it would not be surprising to see all banking conducted virtually. Therefore, it is crucial to create a solid infrastructure that eliminates a system of preferential treatment based on wealth. UPI is helping to fight that fight.

– Evan Kuo
Photo: Flickr

The post UPI in India: Changing Banking for Millions appeared first on The Borgen Project.

Original Source: borgenproject.org

Data and artificial intelligence (AI) can add $450-500 billion to India's GDP by 2025, representing about 10 percent of the $5 trillion economy aspiration of the Indian government, a report by industry body Nasscom said on Tuesday.

Nearly 45 percent of this value is likely to be delivered by three sectors – consumer goods and retail ($90-95 billion), agriculture ($60-65 billion), and banking and insurance ($60-65 billion), the report said.

Artificial Intelligence

Image Source: Shutterstock

Also ReadH-1B visa woes: Nasscom says new US executive order based on misperceptions, misinformation

The report, titled Unlocking Value from Data and AI, presented an action plan with five key building blocks to promote increased data utilisation and adoption of AI, including strategy, data, technology stack, talent and execution.

It emphasised that datasets of national importance be identified with each ministry with specific use cases, a programme to create a marketplace of data and derived assets be created, and a central agency be established for defining and enforcing data standards.

The report said platform(s) to securely host data, AI services, models, open-source libraries, applications and testbeds should be created and that policies be formulated to ensure the security, reliability, interoperability, and economic viability of the stack.

It also suggested the launch of the National Programme for AI and creation of a central, apex body to steer its execution, in collaboration with various ministries, industry groups, and other stakeholders.

The report highlighted the importance of building an AI innovation ecosystem and seeking greater participation from the private sector and entrepreneurs.

Engaging the AI ecosystem

It added that schemes to engage the AI ecosystem (industry, startups, civil society, and academia) should be created and guardrails be set up to protect public interest, while accelerating programme and economic impact.

Launching lighthouse projects in the public sector, partnerships to create data, tech and services, and grants or incentives to invest in research and innovation were also key suggestions of the report.

Unveiling the report, Electronics and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said Digital India had reimagined how the government connects with citizens, and the accelerated deployment of AI and other emerging technologies would help this objective further.

"…the kind of data we are generating because of the sheer size of India, we need to leverage it…data is a national asset and this asset, we have to leverage it…

"What COVID has done is enable the world to see India's potential…we need to further exploit it. AI for three areas of human development (education, agriculture and healthcare) is very important to be focused upon," the minister said.

Debjani Ghosh, President of Nasscom, said the report can help India emerge stronger from the COVID crisis.

"Data and AI's true potential emerges from its ability to drive transformation across multiple sectors through a diverse range of applications. The report articulates the key structural steps that India needs to take to realise the value of this opportunity," she added.

The action plan and report has been reviewed by industry leaders, including Tata Sons Chairman N Chandrasekaran, Wipro Chairman Rishad Premji, Infosys COO UB Pravin Rao, and Microsoft India President Anant Maheshwari.

Nasscom will also hold Xperience AI summit 2020 in partnership with the Telangana AI Mission from September 1-4 with curated discussions on four key themes – Build AI from and for India, Scale AI Adoption in India, India's AI Policies, Thought Leadership in AI.

Additionally, deep dive sessions will be organised for developers to understand latest trends in AI technologies and use cases.

(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)

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Original Source: yourstory.com

Facebook-owned global messaging platform WhatsApp will be the newest entrant to India’s payments market now that it is in compliance with the country’s data-localisation norms. Entering the country with a beta launch in 2018, the payment feature will now be rolled out to its 400 million-strong user base once the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) gives the go-ahead.

Feature imageAlso ReadWhatsApp to work with partners in India to enhance access to financial products

This comes on the heels of the National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI) certifying to the Supreme Court that WhatsApp had now “localised five data elements” that were identified by the banking regulator and mandated them to store in India.

WhatsApp has said that it has spent “significant engineering time and effort” over the last seven months to comply with the guidelines laid down by the country’s banking regulator.

According to an official statement from parent company Facebook, “An independent third-party auditor, certified by CERT-in (the government agency under the IT ministry), has confirmed that WhatsApp’s payments feature satisfies the data localisation requirements under the RBI circular and frequently asked questions (FAQs).”

According to an affidavit filed by RBI in the Supreme Court, the central bank said it was satisfied with WhatsApp’s compliance with the regulator’s data storage rules and was good to go live on the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) platform. WhatsApp Pay is already running a beta rollout with some users in India.

“More than four years ago, Prime Minister Modi launched this (UPI) ground-breaking initiative to provide Indian citizens with the ability to make digital payments to one another and to the more than 60 million Indian small businesses that serve local communities and the world,” said Will Cathcart, Head of WhatsApp, in an opinion piece in The Financial Express.

Cathcart added that UPI is a world-class payments system, that can also anchor a broader suite of fintech applications like micro-pensions, digital insurance products, and flexible loans which WhatsApp can facilitate. “These powerful tools can build on the extraordinary success India has made in lifting millions of people out of poverty and build resilience to future economic shocks,” he said.

Also ReadHow a WhatsApp group metamorphosed into a telemedicine collective to combat COVID-19
Partnering for progress

As part of its efforts to further integrate with the Indian fintech space, WhatsApp has also become the platform of choice for both SMBs and large businesses to talk to their customers and grow through the pandemic. Payments is that last step in that journey.

“The launch of payments can truly accelerate financial inclusion by giving access to the users that need it the most. For your average rural women entrepreneur, the internet is synonymous with WhatsApp, making it seamless to use digital payments once made available on this simple platform,” said Abhijit Bose, WhatsApp’s India Head at the virtual Global Fintech Fest on July 22.

He added that WhatsApp would also work with partners such as banks and other financial institutions to give people, especially those in rural areas and from low-income groups, easier access to financial instruments like insurance, microcredit and pension. This will also accelerate the use of digitised payments by small and medium businesses.

2Also ReadHow these social warriors are using WhatsApp to make a difference in people’s lives

“We will take risks, but we’ll do it with controlled pilots. And, based on user acceptance, we will invest and scale the solutions that deliver results," he said.

Bose also said that WhatsApp had been working closely with banks — including ICICI, Kotak Mahindra and HDFC — over the past year to explore ways to increase financial access to these individuals who were yet to enter the mainstream banking market.

In his opinion piece, Cathcart had stated that rapidly scaling UPI is the need of the hour and one of the best ways to strengthen India’s digital economy. “Today people can send money to their ageing parents isolated during this time of physical distancing. Migrant workers can support their families. Farmers can make sales outside of the market.”

He said that WhatsApp shares PM Modi's belief that “there has never been a better time to invest in India. With courage, ambition, and boundless potential, India can emerge from this pandemic stronger than ever before—a leading democratic digital powerhouse that will lead the world through the 21st century.”

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Original Source: yourstory.com

Will I get allergies when visiting India?

hospital-in-indiaToday I want to introduce to you Andrea (pictured). Andrea has kindly shared her experience of getting allergies in India and what it was like to go to an emergency room at a hospital in Hyderabad on her recent business trip.

Below is Andrea’s firsthand account in her own words:

I’m a fairly seasoned international traveler; so when I headed to India for 9 weeks armed with travel tips generously provided by Asher, I felt confident I was prepared. You know when you think that, you’re in for something special!

Read on to learn from my experience as you contemplate or travel to the wonderful country of India.

Three weeks into the trip and I’d had no issues. On a Tuesday, around midnight, I woke up to feel my hands, forearms, and legs burning with an internal heat that just kept growing. What causes internal heat? I was horrified by the mirror’s reflection – big red welts appearing, spreading and getting bigger as I looked. I assumed this was some type of reaction, but it wasn’t responding to Claritin and getting worse. It was time for outside intervention.

allergies-in-india-on-leg-and-forearm

Getting to the ER of Maxcure Hospital was a perfect reflection of how you need to navigate India. As a starting point, read the address: Behind Cyber Towers, Lane Next To McDonalds, Hitech City, Madhapur, Hyderabad, Telangana 500081, India

But this story isn’t about how to navigate the roads of India.

Back to the ER:

A very professional environment greeted me. It was clean, well lit, had A/C (bonus!) and a very professional staff. Very quickly, the diagnosis was made – allergic reaction with potential anaphylaxis. I was sure this wasn’t correct since I’d never had an allergic reaction in my life.

iv-inserted-in-hand-at-indian-hospitalBecause of the severity, I received IV injections (not pills) of corticosteroids (to bring down systemic inflammation) and anti-histamines (to combat the histamines causing the allergic reaction). This would fix the symptoms, but not the cause. For anyone who’s had an IV inserted, I was very impressed with the nurse’s skill causing me the least amount of discomfort while still pushing a very long needle into my hand.

With IV inserted, first steroid injection goes in, followed by 2nd antihistamine injection. Sure enough within 30 minutes, all symptoms had cleared and I looked perfectly normal again; sure, slightly dopey from the drugs, but no welts!

With no cause determined, the ER strongly advised admittance to the hospital for continued observation, which I promptly declined, feeling certain this was an adventure I was finished with. I came, I saw, I conquered and was happy with the care I received. So they discharged me.

The following night (Wed), at midnight, the welts came to visit AGAIN! Now, no one said anything about this. Repeat visit to the ER, repeat injections of steroids and anti-histamine. This time, the staff insisted on admittance to the hospital. I was whisked into a pink gown, assigned a room, and rolled into the hospital at 1:30am on Thursday in a wheelchair at the insistence of the staff.

Although I had a shared room (3750 rs/night), I was the only occupant, leaving us some privacy and room for my husband to sleep on the “bed” next to me. The staff was kind enough to bring a pillow and blanket for him!

man-sleeping-on-hospital-bed-in-india

The entire experience of being in an Indian hospital alternated from ridiculous to hilarious to impressive. Every hour, on the hour, the lights came on and 3 cleaners entered to sweep, wash, and clean the room. “Cleaning” in India means: throw a bucket of water on the floor and slosh it about in your bare feet. Then leave. For the patient this means: the floor is wet, the toilet is wet, and the toilet paper is wet (we did learn to put it away). EVERY HOUR. Trying to ask them not to clean was completely fruitless; they were going to do their job.

4am saw another worker come to change my bedding. I was poked and pulled out of bed with no idea what was wanted until she ripped my gown off, threw a new one at me, then started stripping the bed. While I certainly did appreciate the change of bedding (after 2 hours of being there), why did it need to be 4am? Ah, the paradoxes of India. At the next 4am call, we successfully managed to convince her to leave the bedding/gown to change later.

allergies-in-india-on-womans-upper-backIt was a surprisingly efficient system though – the admin arranged meals for me as well as my husband (hospital food is hospital food, barely edible). Hot milk and chai was regularly delivered, as well as the newspaper (if you can read Hindi). Seeing the doctor and allergy specialist assigned to me was a waiting game. Most of your day is spent waiting. But they did come. They tested my blood and urine and saw nothing to indicate the cause.

By now Wed night symptoms have passed and Thursday has been uneventful. The entire night staff was alert for the next anticipated midnight outbreak. I was pretty sure this wouldn’t happen since I was in the hospital and what kind of allergic reaction ONLY happens at midnight? Those were my thoughts as I drifted off to sleep. At 12:30am, the nurse begins to look me over. I didn’t disappoint and the welts were there in force. Her concerned clucking and “show and tell” to the rest of the staff wasn’t entirely comfortable, but it was clear they were concerned.

A 3rd round of injections followed. The next morning saw a lot of discussion from the doctors. Finally, after much waiting, I was released a day later with another dosage of injections and a boatload of strong steroid and antihistamines pills to take 3x/day to try and hold the reaction at bay.

selfie-in-indian-hospital-of-girlAnd you know what? It worked.

I took 3 weeks of the medication and that was the last I ever saw of the welts or symptoms. To this day, I have no idea what caused the allergic reaction, nor do the doctors.

While not entirely pleasant, I still view the whole experience with a positive attitude – the care I received, the knowledge of the doctors, and their course of action was very impressive. Even more impressive was the total cost, which came to just under $300 – for 2 ER visits, 2 days/1 night in the hospital, injections, prescriptions and 2 doctors.

So what’s the moral of the story?

If you’re traveling to India, consider taking some strong antihistamines, just in case you wake up in the middle of the night with huge welts. Recognize that it may just be India giving you a little nudge to remind you to respect the beautiful country you are visiting.

This experience also highlights why travel insurance is a good idea.

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The post Am I Allergic to India? A Firsthand Account of Serious Allergies appeared first on Asher & Lyric.

Original Source: asherfergusson.com

WhatsApp will work with partners like banks and financial institutions in India to make it easier for people to access products such as insurance, microcredit, and pension, its India Head Abhijit Bose said on Wednesday.

The company will also support multiple pilots to test potential solutions to solve problems related to distribution of financial products, Bose said at the Global Fintech Fest.WhatsAppAlso ReadOver 15M in India use WhatsApp Business app every month

The Facebook-owned company has been working for more than a year with banking partners to see how it can supplement their digital presence and accelerate the pace of financial access across segments and geographies in the country, Bose said.

"We now want to open up with more banks…over this coming year to help simplify and expand banking services, especially to the rural and lower income segments…we also aim to expand our experiments with partners for other products that the RBI highlighted as basic financial services, starting with micro pensions and insurance," he added.

Bose said the collective aim over the next two to three years is to be able to help low wage workers in the unorganised informal economy to easily access three products – insurance, microcredit, and pension.

WhatsApp had started testing its payments service – WhatsApp Pay – in India in 2018. The UPI-based service, which allows users to utilise the messaging platform to send and receive money, competes against SoftBank-backed Paytm, Flipkart's PhonePe, and Google Pay in India.

While a full-scale national rollout is yet to happen for WhatsApp Pay in India over regulatory issues, the company had launched WhatsApp Pay in Brazil last month.

Bose noted that the fintech innovation happening in India is years ahead of other countries, including the US.

He said, over the next year and a half, WhatsApp will be supporting multiple pilots to test potential solutions to solve problems related to distribution of financial products.

"These pilots will be done jointly with our partners as well as innovative tech partners in each vertical. Each pilot will start with a small experiment to test our hypotheses and based on the results, we will co-invest and scale the ones that show promise," he informed.

Bose emphasised that even a small conversion of the demand will translate into significant infusion of savings into the financial system, and said the company's ultimate goal is for every Indian to have access and affordable micropension, and insurance services.

He highlighted that the core principles of WhatsApp – simplicity, reliability, privacy, and security – are the reasons that people trust and are comfortable with the platform, and these tenets are "critical" when one talks about adoption of new digital services, especially financial services.

With over 400 million users, India is currently among the biggest markets for WhatsApp.

(Edited by Megha Reddy)

Want to make your startup journey smooth? YS Education brings a comprehensive Funding Course, where you also get a chance to pitch your business plan to top investors. Click here to know more.

Original Source: yourstory.com

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