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*99# – Digital banking for everyone in INDIA

  • Nikila Kothari
  • March 24, 2017
  • 5 minutes read
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Mobile number has become critical identity and is being used in numerous financial transactions. Although communication is the primary goal of a mobile number, they have quietly become a global identification number.

Did you know your Mobile number can now act as a debit and credit card and it is powered to make banking transactions accessible even if you do not have a smartphone or internet connection?

Imagine your parents living in a village sends you a request for money by dialling simple USSD codes Or you ride a taxi back home from work, instead of paying by cash you can ask the driver his mobile number or virtual payment address and transfer the amount to his account. No worries about carrying cash or change here! BIG RELIEF, Right!

We know most of these payment problems have been solved by digital wallets. However, the rural areas are the ones that are facing the brunt. Rural India which constitutes 70% of India’s population has limited or no access to technology.They do not have smartphones and even if they have smartphones they don’t know how to use them. To fill this gap an innovative payment service has been launched by NPCI called *99# service, which works on Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) channel.

Digital banking for everyone in INDIA
*99# service has been launched to take the banking services to every common man across the country. Banking customers can avail this service by dialing *99#, a “Common number across all Telecom Service Providers (TSPs)” on their mobile phone and transact through an interactive menu displayed on the mobile screen.

Digital Banking *99# Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) is a technology that allows users to access various services through the use of short codes. It usually consists of number that start with * and end with #. USSD is currently the best available communications technology to deliver mobile financial services to low-income customers.

Your SIM is powered to pay for everything
Key services offered under *99# service include, interbank account to account fund transfer, balance enquiry, mini statement besides host of other services. *99# service is currently offered by 43 leading banks & all GSM service providers and can be accessed in 12 different languages including Hindi & English.

Key highlights of *99#

  1. Saves Time: No more standing in long queues, rushing during work hours for depositing or withdrawing, or traveling long distances for your banking transactions. *99# service is available round the clock. It works even on holidays.
  2. Safe and Secure: Every transaction is initiated from an active mobile number and using a confidential UPIN.
  3. Ease to use: All transactions are carried out through simple USSD codes. The menu for the transactions can be accessed by dialing *99#. No internet connection or a smartphone required to access your account.
  4. Convenient: It is very easy for people to use this as it is available in various vernacular languages and as it works even without internet.

Complexity of the existing service
As of now, there are 22.5 crore Jan Dhan bank accounts in India and more than 100 crore Indians have a mobile phone. But still, usage of USSD based mobile banking service is not expanding as per Government’s expectations.

What is stopping Indians from using USSD based mobile banking services?

Well, the biggest factor is the information flow not structured in a way that is easier for someone to go through the process.IA for *99#

  1. There is no option to go back to previous screens or main menu. If the user wants to go back to main menu, he has to cancel the transaction process and then re-initiate the process.
  2. The account number from which the user is performing transactions is not displayed upfront. To check from which account the user is transacting he has to click on My details option and then start the transaction from the beginning.
  3. There is no confirmation for the amount one can request or transfer. Incase the user makes a wrong entry, he has to go back and start the transaction process again which is painful.
  4. The main headings of each option selected are not shown. The user who has selected an option would not know which level he has entered because there is no heading.

Highlights of the Proposed IA:
We understand that every USSD based message has a limit of 182 alphanumeric characters. And hence, it becomes very important to strategically place the information without confusing the user.

Hence we thought, is there a better way of representing this flow of information. Read further to understand how strategic design thinking can solve such problems.



1. Personalisation: By adding the user’s name on the welcome screen and My Favourites option in the main menu, we are adding the personalisation factor in the service which is flexible, user-oriented and is based on user’s past transaction history.

My Favourites in the main menu which will have 5 most used activities of that particular user. Basically, helping him with deeper personalization by clubbing frequent transaction(s) all under one navigation.

Personalized messages like “Nikila, Welcome to *99#” will make the user feel more comfortable. Users will be happy that the bank knows them and they won’t hesitate to use their services.

2. Smooth User flow: Users will appreciate time-saving features like “Reply 9 for Main Menu, 0 Back” which will let them for easier user flow, without having to cancel the transaction and starting it from the beginning every time.

3. Displaying Important data upfront: In case the user has multiple accounts linked to the same mobile number, he has to know from which account his transactions are happening. By displaying important information on the main menu screen like the bank account linked removes ambiguity and lets the user know from which account he is making the transactions.

4. Showing the transaction limit: This keeps the user informed that he can make transactions only between 1- 5000 INR, any other entry would result in failed transaction and the user will have to start the transaction process from the beginning.

We have redesigned few screens of *99# and have strategically placed the information chunks for easy user flow.
Information flow for *99#The Bottom Line:

USSD provides a convenient way to carry out transactions from anywhere, anytime and makes banking accessible for everyone in India. Streamlining mobile banking and digital payments is the need of the hour. By creating more awareness about this service and with a proper information flow, Government can digitize rural India. Go digital INDIA!

Look forward to your comments!

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