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The Indian Government-backed Niti Aayog has rewarded about 10 lakh people in India with over Rs. 153.5 crore for using digital transactions.

The government initiative to popularise digital transactions across India, active for nearly two months now, has reportedly been very successful. On December 25, last year, Niti Aayog, with the goal of making digital payments a mass movement, had launched two schemes – Lucky Grahak Yojana (LGY), and Digi-Dhan Vyapar Yojana (DVY). While Lucky Grahak Yojana is a scheme available to consumers, the Digi-Dhan Vyapar Yojana is available specifically to merchants, with the aim of incentivizing them, and of course, promoting digital transactions.

It has been about 100 days since the ban on old currency notes rocked India. With aggressive initiatives taken by the government to turn India cashless, it is good news to note that a majority of consumers are in fact approaching the concept of digital payment positively.

Of the 9.8 lakh winners under the two schemes, there are more than 9.2 lakh consumers, and about 56,000 merchants. Territory-wise, it seems that the states of Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Delhi are more accepting of digital transactions, with these states having the most winners under the two schemes. Further, both male and female participation was seen across all regions that participated actively.

Interestingly, there is a lot of diversity with regards to socio-economic background among the participants under the schemes, ranging from farmers to students and retired people. There is also diversity evident in the age of participants, from 15 to 66 years of age, which clearly challenges the pre-existing notion that the more elderly population would find it harder to embrace newer digital technology.

Other Initiatives

There have been several initiatives taken up by the government with regard to transiting into a cashless economy. The Digital India programme, which is a flagship programme by the Indian government, operates with a vision of transforming India into a knowledge-driven economy, empowered digitally. Under this programme, several new digital payment methods have now been provided to consumers and merchants. Further, government-backed payment initiatives such as the BHIM app, BharatQR code, and the Unified Payments Interface(UPI) have been enabling hassle-free digital transactions in addition to the existing modes such as internet banking or Immediate Payments Services (IMPS).

Despite the reported slack growth in digital payments, the future for digital transactions and a digitally empowered India looks promising. Not only are there more payment options being offered to the public, but India’s smartphone market also shows a lot of promise with its rapid growth prospects. The Indian smartphone production is anticipated to double, to about 200 million handsets this very year.

Future of Digital Payments in India

The Indian government has, undoubtedly, been aggressively rallying for its cause – the macroeconomic shift towards a digitally enabled economy. However, despite the commendable efforts, the immediate challenge for the government concerning the cashless drive, is the cash that keeps coming back into the system. Sustainability of the shift to digital transactions should be of highest priority. Another pressing issue that the government needs to address urgently is the behavioural and cultural change that the nation is enduring on a massive scale.

While cashback initiatives such as the NITI Aayog-powered schemes are an excellent way to get more and more people to join the digital payments bandwagon, it is critical to remember that India predominantly is a culture that believes in cash transactions. And with over 97% of the nation still relying heavily on hard cash-backed transactions, the road to a digitally-empowered economy is a long, winding one. On the one hand, we see that more and more people are slowly transiting towards digital payments, on the contrary, however, are the large masses of the nation, that are still the focus of inclusive banking. The important question that needs answering is: Is India, a cash-dependent economy, truly ready for the digital revolution?