FinTech is disrupting the very fundamentals of money management the world over, and India is no exception. With the Prime Minister’s focus, especially, on making India “digital”, a number of programs and schemes have been launched. In fact, many of the schemes have taken a cue from the private sector and have upped the innovation game to deliver a comfortable and convenient money management experience. From the point of sale (POS) machines to merchant cash advance to e-wallets, we are seeing a plethora of FinTech products and services change the way we pay. And this phenomenon is occurring across industries, whether it is the fast moving e-commerce sector or the heavy-duty manufacturing sector.
Consumers are at the receiving end of these changes and need to fast adapt to the new payment means. First it was a revolution of the plastic money, with cash bring replaced by credit and debit cards. This demanded the use of other paraphernalia, such as the point of sale devices at the checkout counters. Now, with niche FinTech innovators such as Paytm and MobiKwik, even the point of sale devices are not required. It is just scan and pay. The government has taken this ease of payment a step further by bringing to light the Bharat QR payment method.
What is Bharat QR
Bharat QR is a payment process driven by a Quick Response Code or QR code. A user who has the Bharat QR-enabled bank application on his or her mobile phone can make a payment quickly, easily and safely. The best part is that scanning the machine-readable optical grid translates the bank account information without your having to swipe or hand over a card, making it extremely convenient! This is because the QR grid stores the person’s bank information. This is similar to using a Paytm or a FreeCharge or a MobiKwik e-wallet, the advantage being that in Bharat QR, payments are linked directly to your bank account rather than to a separate e-wallet. There is thus no hassle of transferring money to your Paytm wallet or MobiKwik wallet. Alternatively, the user can also access Bharat QR through the Bharat Interface for Money or BHIM universal app, which is a UPI developed by the National Payments Corporation of India (NCPI).
Currently, Bharat QR is available on the mobile applications of 15 nationalised and private banks, namely – Axis Bank, Bank of Baroda, Bank of India, Citi Union Bank, DCB Bank, Karur Vysya Bank, HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, IDBI Bank, Punjab National Bank, RBL Bank, State Bank of India, Union Bank of India, Vijaya Bank and Yes Bank. It is also linked to VISA, MasterCard, American Express and RuPay cards. Its scale is expected to increase in the coming days.
A look at Point of Sale
Bharat QR is thus a leap ahead of the Point of Sale payment mechanisms, which were the mainstream payment devices used at most commercial and consumer locations such as shops and restaurants. The Point of Sale or POS terminal is a computerised replacement for a cash register that can process credit and debit cards. A customer swipes their card in the machine and enters the PIN number to verify and complete the transaction. The POS is installed at the merchant location, mostly by the bank that they associated with. Not only does the merchant bear the cost of the device and the installation, but they are also compelled to pay the issuer bank a merchant discount rate (MDR). This is a percentage of the transaction value. In a bid to boost cash transactions, the RBI had rationalised the Merchant Discount Rate (MDR) for debit cards. Accordingly, a cap has been introduced for debit card point of sale payments, capped at 0.75% for transaction values up to Rs 2000 and at 1% for transaction values above Rs 2000. However, it continues to be an expense for the merchant, and is often passed on to the customer by increasing the selling price of the product or service. Often, buyers may not even realise that they are being charged extra for the MDR.
Other payment instruments: e-wallets
The first leg of replacing the point of sale was the onslaught of e-wallets such as Paytm and FreeCharge. Although they operate on the same principle as that of scanning a QR code, they are somewhat restrictive because they require both the transferor and the receiver to have the same e-wallet installed on their smartphones. The need was thus felt for a faster and easier money transfer mode, which caused the Bharat QR to come to the fore, thanks to the design and development by NCPI.
Advantages of Bharat QR
The Bharat QR is a step towards financial freedom by means of cashless transactions. It relieves one from the hassle of swiping at the point of sale or of facing detection troubles with one’s plastic money at the point of sale. Because there is no requirement of a physical use of a card, the risk of data theft or security issues through tampered or cyber-compromised point of sale devices is also minimised. Costs are reduced from both the consumer and merchant viewpoints, since the need for expensive point of sale devices and their MDR charges is eliminated. A significant advantage of Bharat QR is its ease of operation; i.e., the buyer and seller need not download the same payment application to make the payment happen, unlike Paytm. This is because the Bharat QR is directly linked to a single bank account. It poses a logistical relief, since businessmen now need not shuffle between different wallets and track their credits and debits – a tedious task. Moreover, the money transfer happens instantly because Bharat QR uses an IMPS service. Bharat QR truly has the potential to create a FinTech revolution.
It is clear that Bharat QR paves a convenient way ahead for paying and receiving funds. It is a great idea to get started on this universal tool. As a merchant, you must register with your banks to get authorised to receive payments through Bharat QR. Link your bank account to the BHIM app and generate your unique Bharat QR Code, take a print of your QR code and stick it onto your payment counter to get started.