In a landmark move that promises to significantly enhance the usability of India’s central bank digital currency (CBDC), Yes Bank has announced its integration with the Unified Payments Interface (UPI). This integration made public on August 30, 2023, marks the first time the UPI has been linked with the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) digital rupee. The development is expected to broaden the scope of digital transactions for Yes Bank customers, who can now make payments using the digital rupee by simply scanning UPI QR codes.
The UPI is a national payment system operated by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), an arm of the RBI. The NPCI is responsible for providing the infrastructure for the UPI and the digital rupee. According to local media, the UPI is already being used by 150 million merchants across India, making it a robust and widely accepted payment platform.
The promise of interoperability: A statement from Yes Bank
Ajay Rajan, a Yes Bank executive, expressed optimism about the integration, stating, “The transition to an interoperable CBDC platform holds the promise of seamless, efficient, and broader transactional capabilities for Yes Bank customers. This transformational enabler will facilitate a quantum leap in CBDC usage, driven by the enhanced convenience and accessibility.”
Yes Bank was among the eight original banks that participated in the retail digital rupee pilot project launched in December. The pilot project involved 5,000 merchants and 50,000 CBDC users and had successfully executed 800,000 transactions amounting to $134 million by February. Integrating the UPI with the digital rupee is seen as a natural progression in the CBDC’s journey, offering a more streamlined and efficient transaction process for merchants and consumers.
Expanding the digital rupee ecosystem: Other notable collaborations
The digital rupee has been gradually gaining acceptance in India. It is already being used in some stores of the country’s large Reliance Retail chain through a program that began in February. This program was initiated in collaboration with ICICI Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank, and Innoviti Technologies, and it also employs QR codes for transactions.
A separate wholesale digital rupee pilot was also launched in November, indicating the RBI’s commitment to exploring various avenues for the digital currency. The wholesale pilot aims to facilitate transactions between financial institutions, reducing the cost and time associated with such high-value transactions.
Integrating the UPI with the digital rupee is a significant milestone in India’s journey towards becoming a digital economy. It not only enhances the usability of the digital rupee but also promises to make digital transactions more efficient and accessible for a broader range of users. The move is expected to encourage more people to adopt the digital rupee, contributing to the RBI’s vision of a more inclusive and efficient financial ecosystem. As India continues to make strides in FinTech, integrating these two powerful platforms—UPI and the digital rupee—serves as a testament to the country’s commitment to innovation and financial inclusion.