New Delhi: With over 1.3 billion transactions every month, the Unified Payments Interface or UPI has emerged as one of the fastest growing payment platforms in the world. A large number of these transactions are taking place on smartphones. That isn’t surprising, as feature phones are not very convenient when it comes to doing anything beyond calling and messaging, let alone making UPI payments.
In order to boost UPI payment among the large demographic of feature phones users, National Payments Council of India (NPCI) is encouraging startups to come up with solutions that can overcome the limitations of feature phones and deliver a more user-friendly experience.
According to IDC, India had 550 million feature phone users compared to 450 million smartphone users in Q4 2019.
Mumbai based start-up Minkville is one such startup that has developed a solution called MissCall Pay which allows users to initiate a payment by giving a missed call on a number. The customer will then get a call back with the request to enter the amount along with their UPI pin for verification.
The pilot to test the efficacy of the solution is expected to start in a few months. The company expects the service to be commercially launched by January.
“Most of the time spent on feature phones is on messages or phone calls. Making payments through an app can be too complicated for feature phone users. It is important to make payments easy and secure for them in the language they understand,” said Mitesh Thakkar, founder Minkville.
MissCall Pay is device and app agnostic and will work with any of the existing feature phones.
Another start-up Gupshup, which has headquarters in Silicon Valley, has built a solution that uses APIs and encrypted SMS to enable UPI payments. The solution is integrated into the phone message, contact and camera. If users get an SMS with requests for payments from merchants or from friends, they can initiate payment via the pay button in message options. Users will have to enter the UPI pin for verification. Similarly, users can pay money to a contact on the phone by selecting the pay option and following the same process. The solution can also leverage the phone’s camera to scan a QR code at a point of sale at a retail store.
The company is engaged in talks with feature phone vendors in India to integrate the solution on their handsets. The solution is expected to be available to customers by the end of the year.
“There are lots of payment technologies on feature phones that require users to punch in on a smaller screen with the small keyboard. For non-tech savvy users this can be error prone. Our objective was to bring a one click payment experience available on feature phones,” said Beerud Sheth, founder Gupshup.
Bengaluru based ToneTag is another startup with a solution that will make UPI payment on feature phones a lot more user-friendly. Their proximity based contactless payment solution uses encrypted soundwaves for payments. The company already has more than a million ToneTag enabled card swiping devices. The same device can now be used for UPI payments through feature phones.
Among available solutions for UPI payment on feature phones, there is this option to request and send money through UPI by dialing and following a series of instructions on *99#. However, it is not very simple.
Whether having more convenient solutions will boost digital payments on feature phones is yet to be seen. Making users aware about existing and upcoming solutions will go a long way in boosting digital payments.
“I think the issue isn’t of availability of solutions. It is about awareness. It is a long haul to make the typical feature phone users educate about the functionality and services. It’s not just like a smartphone where you can do OTA updates and send out messages through notifications,” said Faisal Kawoosa, founder and chief analyst, techARC, a research firm.