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ET Financial Inclusion Summit: Speed of internet is still a drag

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Evolution of consumer technology is largely premised on internet speed. India is on the threshold of becoming a leading digital economy. But for a country clocking more than a billion payments a day, the need for more reliable internet connectivity has never been felt more acutely. Industry leaders believe that while assisted help in this mode of doing business is a great bridge in rural areas, internet lags are excluding many from using digital platforms.

“Trust is important. In business, when the customer is depositing money, he needs to be sure that the transaction will go through,” said Rishi Gupta, CEO, Fino Payments Bank. Gupta was part of the panel on the ET Financial Inclusion Summit. Other panelists included Praveena Rai, chief operating officer of National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), Anand Kumar Bajaj, CEO, PayNearby, and Ganesh Ananthanarayanan, COO, Airtel Payments Bank .

Rai said that according to a survey done in 2020, some customers who would earlier remove all cash from their bank accounts are now returning some of the money via digital payments. “(They are) returning money, which means that they are getting more confident that when they want to have access to that money; they will be able to have that assistance service and access to the money,” Rai said.

Ananthanarayanan of Payments Bank said that many of Airtel’s customers use business correspondent agents for cash transactions and buying financial services and other products. In May, UPI processed 2.53 billion transactions, down 4.16% and 7.32% from April and March, respectively. Bajaj of PayNearby called it a “plateau”. He also highlighted that the splurges seen in the immediate aftermath of the first lockdown have reduced, with several consumers going into the “capital conservation mode”. Another concern raised is the gap between states in digital adoption. Bajaj said the gap is not because of lack of internet.

Industrialisation had a role to play and with improved telecom connectivity, the lag will ease out. Industry stakeholders have also raised the issue of cyber security concerns. Ananthanarayanan said that this problem had a two-part solution, in which the first one was customer education on not to reveal OTPs, while the second was building product innovation. But Rai defended the work done by players. “The ecosystem did a phenomenal job,” she said, adding that it showed improvements in infrastructure that managed to support high volumes of digital transactions.

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