Google to bring India’s Unified Payments Interface to the world

Including for cross-border remittances, which could shake things up nicely

Google has decided to bring India’s Unified Payments Interface to the world.

The Interface (UPI) was created by India’s government and allows individuals to use a single app to make peer-to-peer payments to or from multiple bank accounts. Third parties can include UPI in their own payment systems or apps, with payments flowing seamlessly between all participants.

UPI has around 300 million active users and handles over ten billion transactions a month, traffic not far behind Mastercard and about half the volume handled by Visa.

The service is, however, utterly ubiquitous in India, and has already been made available in other nations – partly to help Indian tourists as they travel, and also to facilitate cross-border payments.

Google has now decided to spread both use cases around the world.

A Wednesday announcement reveals that Google India Digital Services Limited and NPCI International Payments Ltd (the international arm of the National Payments Corporation of India which oversees UPI) have signed memorandum of understanding to do three things:

  • Extending availability of UPI payments for Indians when they travel abroad;
  • Establishing UPI-like digital payment systems in other countries;
  • Easing the process of remittances between countries by utilizing the UPI infrastructure.

Pursuing the first goal will see foreign merchants offered the chance to offer UPI payments with Google Pay and other apps. The Register can imagine tourist hotspots will advertise their UPI-readiness in the same way one occasionally sees Alipay signage. Indian outbound tourism is growing, but not to levels that will make achieving this goal a massive win.

The second item is very much aligned with India’s plan to engage more nations around its “Digital Public Infrastructure” – code like UPI that provides useful digital services proven to run at Indian scale and therefore capable of meeting almost any nation’s needs. India uses Digital Public Infrastructure, and offers of help to implement it, to engage with governments around the world, a very different diplomatic tactic to those used by the USA and China. India has already signed several nations as potential UPI users. With Google helping, and always keen on increasing use of digital technologies, UPI has a chance to go large.

The last goal is also fascinating, as cross-border payments are a market felt to be ripe for improvement, with numerous blockchain-based efforts offering themselves as alternatives to existing money-moving services like the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) or the likes of Western Union . Google and the National Payments Corporation have given themselves the goal of “reducing dependence on conventional money transfer channels.”

Which could rather put the cat among the pigeons.

No timeframe has been determined for making the three goals real, as is often the case when Memoranda of Understanding are signed. ®

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