India’s Cash Ban Is the Best Thing to Happen to Digital Payments 1

Vijay Shekhar Sharma’s Twitter feed has come alive these past two weeks. From a roadside egg-seller in Bhopal to a soda hawker in Bangalore, the founder of Paytm has posted snapshots of the unusual array of merchants who ply the teeming streets of India — and are now turning to his digital payments startup for help.


Those fishmongers, vegetable vendors and rickshaw drivers count among the thousands who’ve signed onto India’s largest digital payments service since Prime Minister Narendra Modi triggered a nationwide cash crunch when he scrapped the country’s two largest note denominations. While the aim was to vanquish “black money,” it could end up being the best thing to happen to its nascent online finance industry and haul its antiquated economy into the 21st century by making digital payments mainstream.

Sharma sensed the opportunity in a country where over 90 percent of the transactions are cash-based. Within hours, Paytm designed full-page ads to run in the biggest newspapers, proclaiming “Ab ATM Nahi, Paytm Karo” — no ATMs now, use Paytm. On Wednesday, the startup — which counts Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. as a backer — outlined plans for what it called India’s first mobile checkout service, updating its app to accept credit and debit card payments.

  • Demonetization an unexpected boon for Paytm and MobiKwik
  • Investors are eyeing the sector with renewed interest

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