Eroute Technologies is planning to unveil a UPI-based offline payments solution that will be facilitating digital payments without internet connectivity. Last month, the company got RBI’s go-ahead to initiate the test the solution as part of the first analysis of regulatory sandbox on retail payments.
Abhishek Saxena, an alumnus of IIT, BHU and co-founder and COO of Eroute, stated that the company is aiming at commercial availability of the solution by the middle of the year.
The technology is already in use in countries such as China and Kenya and Japan, involves a smart card that acts like a SIM overlay. According to the communiqué, once installed, a feature phone user will have a SIM toolkit-based user interface available on their feature phone via which they will be able to initiate fund transfer, merchant payments and bill payments.
“In India, there are around 500 million feature phone users who can be brought into the digital payments fold using their phones. Connectivity is still a challenge in parts of the country and even smartphone users often do not get good internet. So, RBI came out with a sandbox and invited companies who have solutions for feature phone users,” said Saxena.
Adding that the company is in discussion with financial institutions for deployment, Saxena said, “We are doing a pilot with a limited audience as of today as per the requirement of sandbox. Once we get the results, we will then introduce the concept for commercial use. We have worked with NPCI so that users can use UPI on feature phones. The solution is telecom agnostic.”
Established in October 2018, Eroute Technologies is promoted by Abhishek Saxena, Sanjeev Pandey, former group president of Yes Bank and Jason Ho, chairman of Taisys Technologies, a Taiwan based company that has developed technical expertise on sim overlay.
Phone users today already have an option to initiate a non internet based alternative to digital payments. They have to dial *99# on their phones to access their UPI linked accounts through unstructured supplementary service data (USSD), a GSM protocol. But stability and user experience have emerged as a key challenge in the area. Furthermore, the option is not available for Jio subscribers on account of LTE technology.
“USSD has not been successful and right now it is almost at a dead end. There were so many session breaks. User experience was also a big use,” said Saxena talking further about the challenges that will be addressed through sim overlay.