India’s Penniless Day: Will India become a Digital Economy?

cashless payments design

Digital economy in India?

We are sure #NaMo’s announcement came as a surprise to most of us. The funny part was people went berserk post the announcement lining up in front of ATMs just to take some cash out only to realize the ATM is still spitting old currency. What exactly is the digital economy?

People found a new topic for troll and jokes and social media witnessed an avalanche of funny messages.


And then came my Mom’s phone at 10.05 PM, “Take some cash out. Bank would be closed, ATM would not work.” and as usual I didn’t bother.” Didn’t this happen to most of us.

In today’s Digital World, our lives revolve around everything Digital. We buy groceries, we fill petrol, we eat out and how do we pay through Digital Mediums. Out comes our ATM card/Credit Cards and we swipe, swipe and swipe or we pay using some or other digital means.

In the last two days, since the news broke, people have started using e-wallets like paytm for their transactions. Paytm noted 1000% growth in money added to the wallet and the app downloads has been gone up by 200%.

A large number of Indians, took uber for travel instead of travelling in buses or auto rikshaws. People ordered food online instead of going to hotels.

But does this digital economy work in the same way for everyone?

An instance that one of our colleague experienced was, petty shop owners accepting 500/1000 notes since that’s the only source of their daily income they bowed down to the demand and would somehow try and exchange notes in Banks later.

Another instance was to buy vegetables from a small shop vendor, another friend had to borrow change to pay them because they don’t accept digital money.

Banks are seeing long queues as people are rushing to swap defunct Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes. ATMs are either shut down or have no cash as people are queuing to withdraw cash.

Why is this happening?

Because people think cash is everything for them. People are of the assumption that if they have cash they can buy anything, anywhere. They need this cash to pay to the small vendors because they don’t accept digital money. This made us realise, even though we have advanced manifold digitally, at the same time we have ignored to educate and take our daily necessity providers ahead with us.

People don’t trust digital transactions as electronic cash could bring lack of anonymity to every single transaction that is made. For people in rural areas, cashless transactions just aren’t practical.

How do we tackle this problem?

Create an eco system of easy on boarding for the vendors/merchants in their local language giving them one information at a time to digest. Develop a SMS channel to keep them informed while giving them notifications as well. Constantly remind them of offers, services and other benefits of getting digital. And last but definitely not the least customize based on language choices and adapt the interface based on the connectivity.

Why people are reluctant to cashless transactions and digital economy?

Due to lack of trust and credibility . In India, nearly half of the plastic money users are concerned about frauds related to payment through cards. People don’t trust digital transactions as electronic cash could bring lack of anonymity to every single transaction that is made. For people in rural areas, cashless transactions just aren’t practical. Moreover, security bothers them more than that of their personal experience.

But imagine a Truck Driver now who needs to send money to his wife immediately while he is on a highway some 2000 kms away. What are his options currently, call someone and ask for money on UDHAAR or quickly go to his phone types a USSD code (the same code you type on phone *121*1# types) and select his wife’s name and makes the transfer while his wife then could go to a merchant tied with this telecom partner and get the money.

There are other examples like these which creates the need for Digital transformation of Banking and Telecommunication based Money Transfers in India. And all we need if everyone to come to some sort of understanding. Could this be an initiative by Government, we don’t know but we do know this will help create flexibility, support and connectivity for each and everyone of us.

While we do understand the concerns of putting up a Trustworthy app or channel is tough but all we are trying to answer is the many possibilities it brings together.

Let’s just start jogging our minds to some of these ideas and contribute so as to create systems which works!

Here is a list of NB’s two cents.

Localize, localize & localize – Create app that works, behaves and responds the same way in any language you choose to go with

Personalize – Create an environment of personalized spaces, through app or USSD channel to allow for greater participation and engagement!

Contextualize – Put up information as needed; go ahead full throttle on 4G and subsequently reduce your animations, effects, interactions as you hit 2G. Give user the freedom to do transaction the way he prefers rather than what you prefer. Context across age groups, working environment, specific tasks..everything matters.

Work on Multi-Omni Channel Approach that bridges the real and the digital world across domains of finance, education & empowerment.

But hey, these are just our thoughts. We know you understand your market, users and channels better and hence would request you to work with the best to create Experiences that work!

Hope you enjoyed reading this. Please share, comment, ridicule or praise. Look forward to hearing from you all.