Paytm launch virtual sixteen digit Rupay card to up currency its digital wallet

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In a bid to increase the currency of its digital money, leading payments and e-commerce company Paytm is planning to launch a virtual card in partnership with RuPay and a bunch of national banks. The virtual card, which will have a 16-digit number, just like a physical debit or credit card, will expand Paytm’s reach significantly from 35,000 merchants currently using its digital wallet to 1.5 million merchants, who accept all kinds of electronic payments through plastic cards.

Once rolled out, the virtual card is expected to increase the utility of money stored on Paytm digital wallets, since it will make it usable across a much wider network, said Vijay Shekhar Sharma, “We are building this so that our wallet gets ubiquitously accepted across places.”

For instance, Taxi firm Uber uses Paytm, but some of its peers don’t. Similarly, leading e-commerce companies that may be competing with Paytm in the e-commerce space also do not use Paytm. However, after this virtual card is rolled out, consumers can shop from rival e-commerce sites or book a cab from aggregators other than Uber using their Paytm money. The virtual card will also give Paytm a leg up over its competitors which are offering similar services.

Sharma said the company is currently negotiating the commercials with banks and Rupay, and should be able to launch the product in the next three months. When asked why consumers will opt for a virtual pre-paid card when they can just shop using their debit or credit card, Sharma listed a couple of reasons. Using the debit card might put the entire bank account at the risk of cyber crime and very few people in the country have credit cards. There are only 20 million credit card users, compared to 81 million Paytm users, added Sharma. “Also, our goal is to provide online experience to even consumers who do not have a bank account.”

However, the company might face some challenges as Rupay is not currently offered by each and every bank in India and users might find the procedure too complicated. Once rolled out, a Paytm consumer will be able to see the 16-digit number in the application settings. The company is also exploring the option of issuing a physical card, which can be used at offline retail merchants.

Since Paytm has also applied for a Payment Bank license with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), it will be interesting to note how these new payment models pan out for the company. In a recent interview to Business Standard, Sharma had said, “Payment will be our primary play. We came into business to solve the payment issues of this country and I am confident we can solve those by using the mobile platform. RBI is expected to come out with the first list on August 1. If we get a licence, we can offer a bouquet of financial services.”

At present, Paytm has a user base of 80 million and 30 million for its mobile wallet service. The number includes users accessing its services through computers. Sharma expects to see 50 million Paytm app downloads and a wallet user base of 200 million by the end of 2015-16.

The company is backed by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba’s financial arm Ant Financial. It is set to get close to one million merchants from China on its marketplace and add about 100 million stock-keeping units (SKUs) to its platform by July-August as part of the deal. It will also increase the number of Indian merchants from 40,000 at present to 100,000 by the end of this financial year.

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Asmaa Mubita is a Kenyan journalist of international repute with over fifteen years of experience in broadcast journalism. Asmaa Mubita began his journalism career at the Kenyan state broadcaster (KBC) and later worked at the KTN owned by the Standard Group and Citizen Television, the flagship brand of Royal Media Services. These exploits together with his reporting experience with the Voice of America, CNN and BBC have been rewarded with local and global recognition.