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  • Vinay Nair

Will India Become a Cashless Economy?

For the ordinary urban millennial in India, a smartphone is as essential as clean air, but not nearly as hard to find! It is hardly a surprise then, that so many of them routinely fall back on their nifty devices to do much of their work for them: from ordering food delivery to hailing a ride. With their ever expanding functionalities available to us at the tip of our fingers, it was only a matter of time before we switched to paying online as well.

2019 did not disappoint in that regard, becoming a defining year for fintech and digital payments in India, with UPI (United Payments Interface) and similar services taking the country by storm. Accelerating the momentum it had gained from the hugely controversial demonetisation policy of the government back in 2016, digital payments found thousands of new takers across the country, luring them in with the promise of convenience and cashbacks. The surge in popularity of online payments, alongside the usual card-based transactions, came as excellent news for the proponents of the Digital India campaign, as they gleefully celebrated our bid to go cashless.

As we usher in a brand new decade, those at the helm of the campaign and the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), are determined to steer us towards a cashless future as quickly as they can. In fact, today we are seeing more and more people fishing their phones out to pay at restaurants and theatres, or to simply settle dues with their friends. From all that we see around us, it is rather evident that a substantial chunk of Indians are now stepping out of their homes without stuffing their wallets with wads of cash; relying on a plethora of payment apps on their phones instead. 

However, despite the resounding success digital payments have seen so far, is India really ready to leave cash transactions behind in 2019?

The facts and figures tell us otherwise...

Cash Still Wears the Crown

Even though the Indian government did try quite hard to upsell the concept of digital payments in the wake of its heavily criticized demonetisation policy, data from the Reserve Bank of India tells us that we are still a long way off from those efforts bearing fruits.