India readies rollout of national electronic bill-payment system

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In the next phase of India’s push to diminish the country’s heavy reliance on cash, the Reserve Bank of India has approved the rollout of a national electronic bill-payment system.

After a yearlong pilot conducted by the National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI), the central bank’s payments technology arm, the Bharat Bill Payment System (BBPS) is launching across India, enabling consumers to make online payments for a broad range of utilities and receive instant confirmation, according to the Economic Times of India.

More than 70% of Indian consumers’ utility bills currently are paid by cash or check, and observers say the launch of BBPS may go a long way toward driving broader use of digital payments as India pursues a multipronged campaign to displace cash transactions, beginning last fall with a mass devaluation of currency to encourage use of digital payments.

BBPS is launching with the support of three public-sector banks including Bank of Baroda, Union Bank of India and Indian Overseas Bank, which are working alongside 10 private lenders, five co-op banks to create an interoperable platform enabling consumers to pay bills by cash, check or electronic channels through a national network of agents, banks and bill aggregators.

More than 40 large billers of electricity, telecommunications and satellite TV, water and gas services are ready to accept online payments through the system now. India’s largest public bank, the State Bank of India, is expected to add support for BBPS soon.

India's top 20 cities generate more than 30 billion utility bills annually, and the NPCI aims to convert the majority of those to online payments within a year via the BBPS.

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