Friday, December 16, 2016

Making Small Payments Work

Cashless payments are getting a lot of attention nowadays, but have you seen an auto not affiliated to Ola which accepts a cashless payment? I haven’t seen one! I believe that the notion of cashless payments is a bit forbidding for a significant fraction of the people, including many auto drivers. When I talk about auto drivers, it includes people manning small shops as well. I had filed a related post earlier. Visit

A society that does not facilitate cashless transactions is a senseless society. The issue is not merely one of black money; it is also about avoiding waste of people’s time.

Why do so many of our people insist on continuing to use cash? I believe that that technical people involved should study the difficulties new users of technology face and work to eliminate these difficulties. Using technology should make transactions easier, not harder! The app on a mobile phone should require very little from the customer making a payment or the driver receiving it. You should be able to touch the app’s icon, point the phone’s camera at the auto’s meter or a similar display in a shop and touch the icon a second time. That should transfer money from your bank account to the recipient’s bank account or digital wallet. Who has a wallet, who uses a bank account, what is the name of the bank, etc., should be irrelevant at the moment the transaction occurs. Neither the customer nor the recipient of the payment should have to enter any numbers or addresses into a phone.

Character recognition is robust enough to let the app read off the amount to be paid as displayed; the app should similarly read the recipient’s Unified Payments Interface address from a sticker on the meter. (For information on UPI, visit Unified Payments Interface). 

While the front end described above has to be implemented, UPI already provides you the infrastructure to support it. I believe that student projects can easily achieve the goal of demonstrating such a user-friendly front-end for cashless transactions, integrated into the UPI network. A word for those who wish to carry out this project: print information to be read by the app using an Optical Character Recognition (OCR) font. This may not be necessary if you use a standardized font carefully chosen for the purpose, but it may simplify your task.  

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