It would be wrong to say that digital payment methods are something that have come into existence only on the back of the demonetization announcement. Mindfully or unmindfully, we have been slaves to digital payments for a very long time now with the use of debit cards and credit cards dominating this sphere for as long as one can remember. It was not so long ago that payment options such as Airtel Money, Paytm, Freecharge came into existence though it never really managed to catch on. Then why this sudden hullaballoo over the government’s decision to go cashless and digital, you may ask?
The reasons behind this are perhaps a matter of debate but one thing is certain – shopping has become considerably easier in the city in the absence of cash. Here’s how.
You Don’t Have to Worry about Carrying Change
You wake up in the morning and head out for the local grocery market to buy your daily essentials. Having purchased all the necessary items you get into a mighty haggling with the shopkeeper over the price. Finally you come to an agreement before realizing that you are short on loose change. The shopkeeper refuses to part with more coins than necessary and you end up losing the bargain. It spoils your mood because you feel cheated. You return home feeling foul and give everyone close to you a hard time for the rest of the day. Indeed, a day well spent!
Digital payment is a great way to avoid such everyday problems as one does not have to deal with any loose change while making the transaction. We often come across notices pasted across the front of shops reading “Please tender exact change” and digital payments help us do exactly that, even when your final bill includes a ridiculous figure of, let’s say, twenty-two paisa.
You Have a Safer Payment Option
Digital transactions are also safe and secure to carry out. There is no risk of accidentally paying more than required or forgetting to collect the balance from the shopkeeper. You also don’t have to worry about running short on cash as long as there is sufficient money sitting in your bank account. There is a possibility that you will forget your wallet at home while going out but how likely are you to forget your mobile phone? Then again someone picking your pocket will have a lot of use for the cash while the cards may be of some value but with security features enabled or logged out digital wallets cannot be accessed in a stolen smartphone. (You must always enable security features and properly log out of your digital wallets as a measure of security).
There is an added advantage as apps like Paytm, Freecharge, Mobikwik, etc. sets reminders about due dates of electricity, mobile or DTH bill payments once you pay these bills through these apps. As we use the mobile phone on a regular basis, it is very convenient to get reminded about the due dates so that we don’t miss the dates and pay fines.
How convenient is it to pay digitally for a movie ticket, for example, rather than buying the ticket in advance (means lot of wasted time) or to go to the theatre and find that the hall is full?
BHIM app Can Be a Game Changer
The effort of the Government to popularize digital transaction took the path of the development of UPI platform. The platform enables payment through interbank transfer which is far safer than other payment methods as your personal and financial information is not shared.
Recently National Payments Corporation of India, the developer of the UPI platform, launched an excellent app called BHIM for transfer of money based on the UPI platform. The app became a roaring hit and downloads crossed a million as the app is extremely user-friendly and safe.
As the mobile phone is increasingly becoming the wallet, transactions are being carried out through such apps. The added advantage of using such apps is that you can keep track of your expenditure, as the transaction details are easily available.
As happened in many countries, digital transactions have the potential to transform the society in more ways than one. It is found in many countries that digital payment helps people control their expenditure and on the other hand, it helps businesses comply with tax laws better. In fact, crimes like mugging came down in many European countries after people started using digital payment methods in a major way.
Some Chinks Need to Be Ironed out
While digital transactions in payments seem to be the way forward there are a number of issues that still need to be sorted out. In a country where a large section of the population still does not own a bank account, how will they avail the facilities of credit and debit cards? What about the poor Internet connectivity in most places that will hamper the use of payment apps? Also, as witnessed recently after the cash crunch, the bank servers are not equipped to handle massive transaction loads. How does one sort that out?
The use of digital payment systems may have revolutionized the way Kolkata thinks about going about with its shopping but a lot still needs to be done in order to make it the seamless feature that the leaders of the nation want it to be.
However, if implemented correctly, digital payment systems have the capacity to empower people. Recently, Bill Gates lauded the effort of M-Pesa in Kenya in transforming Kenyan society. In fact, as much as 53% of Kenyans are comfortable with using digital payment systems. As Bill Gates predicted, mobile banking can transform the lives of the poor.
Popularity of the Retail Giants and Online Shops
Thanks to the proliferation of digital payment, popular supermarket chains such as Big Bazaar, Reliance Fresh, and Spencer’s are witnessing higher consumer footfalls. In fact, it is extremely useful for many overworked executives, single parents and senior citizens to buy even daily provisions from online shops where you can buy even vegetables, groceries, fish and meat sitting at your home. Therefore, digital payment methods have not just made shopping easier for residents in Kolkata but are also likely to reshape the real estate landscape of the city as more homebuyers begin to prefer residential projects in the vicinity of major retail chains and shopping malls. Also, it won’t come as a surprise to see these more giants choosing adequate presence of upcoming residential projects for setting up their next major stores in Kolkata.