“Change is one thing. Acceptance is another”- God of Small Things.
These words by Arundhati Roy can perfectly express the current pandemic situation especially when it comes to the payments industry. Just as the ancient barter system was replaced by the cash system, the way we handle our cash is gradually breaking with the past. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacted a bitter toll on economies and financial markets across the board. Following the lockdown, the global trade has been truncated, but digital transactions have entered the picture. Technology has become the kingpin of the payments industry. While data security and privacy concerns are major stumbling blocks, the pandemic turned out to be a spark plug. What really drives the digital payments industry? Without a doubt we can say it is the development of technology and smart devices.
Currency notes moving through swift change of hands can lead to unfettered contacts and the whole country will be in a state of jeopardy. The risk could be even more pronounced on card payments as it is an extension of physical touch. Keeping in mind the safety of people, along with trying to curtail the virus spread, the government, the RBI and banks are encouraging folks to use net banking, mobile wallets, and UPI as the notes could act as vectors for virus transmission. Moreover, investments in contactless, scan-to-pay and Secure Remote Commerce has witnessed a whopping spike.
From groceries to utility bills to cab fares to fee payments, for everything consumers shift to contactless money transfer. From tea hawkers to local mom-and-pop stores, the use of digital wallets and other online payment methods has seen a colossal rise due to the virus fear. Without any question Covid-19 has elevated digital payment as a primary payment mode, and it has caught up rapidly in the semi urban and rural cities where even demonetisation failed to change the payment routine of people. In my opinion the shift to digital payments is sure to unveil the real potential of the technological world.
Moreover, integration of AI and blockchain technology in the payment industry will make digital transactions secure and smooth in every spot. Innovations in this arena could further give a facelift to risk tools and avert shams in the digital payments’ ecosystem. Contactless payments enabled by smart features such as facial recognition and Quick Response (QR) codes can greatly reduce the occurrence of virus infections. Also, NPCI is planning to enable international cross border payments on UPI, as it can become a key part in reducing fraudulent actions.
A cashless digital society model must have been contemplated in many parts of the world long ago, and the pandemic has added the much-needed fuel to accelerate the adoption of digital payment technologies. Now, as economies begin to mend itself, digital payment players are seeing the world through rose-coloured glasses. The new normal for payments will soon be on an average one-two ATM withdrawal and around 30 digital wallet payments per month by a person, and the lion’s share by a QR code.