Indians traveling abroad may soon be able to use the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) to pay for goods and services there, according to two bankers in the know of the matter.
UPI is an inter-bank fund transfer mechanism run by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) and enables instant fund settlement through a smartphone.
NPCI is working to enable this feature within the next six months, starting with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Singapore, sources told ET.
“These two countries already have opened up to RuPay cards; now the target is to enable UPI payments. This will be a big boost for Indians traveling in those countries and, just like their debit card or credit card, they can pay via UPI,” said a senior banker.
NPCI did not respond to ET’s queries till the time of going to press.
This is NPCI’s attempt to create a global payment product that can expand the use case of UPI, the banker said.
UPI has emerged as a major challenger to card payments, as more and more merchants accept UPI payments. UPI recorded close to 955 million transactions in September, according to the latest data shared by NPCI.
If Indian travellers use UPI abroad, its acceptance as a common payment mechanism will go up in India as well, said one of the sources cited earlier.
The Nandan Nilekani-led committee on Digital Payments formed by the Reserve Bank of India had suggested that NPCI should expand the international footprint of its payment systems like UPI, RuPay and BHIM.
This will not only help in easing international remittances, but also aid Indians traveling abroad, the committee’s report had suggested.
“Many global companies like Facebook, Google and Xiaomi have started entering the UPI payments space, which can boost the use case of UPI payments in other geographies,” said one of the two bankers mentioned earlier.
The biggest challenge, however, is to onboard merchants in those countries.
NPCI will have to rely on banks and merchant aggregators in those geographies to onboard merchants. A few Indian payment companies are also eyeing those geographies, which could help in rapid onboarding of merchants.
“While the advantages are many, there are many challenges in creating the infrastructure as well. Settlements between banks in different countries is not as easy as between Indian banks, a lot of work will need to be done in that space,” said one of the bankers.