Pickup your mobile phone and dial *99# .
What you see next represents the ingenuity of the Indian payments industry. India is a nation where people at the extreme ends of the spectrum co-exist. The richest to the poorest. The highly tech savvy to the least technologically aware or inclined. Therefore, when we rollout a scheme, a solution or a business targeted at the Indian consumer, it must be suitable to all walks.
It needs to be easy to understand, easy to adapt, easy to onboard and easy to use. It needs to be sophisticated enough to meet the localized needs. It also needs to be universal enough to operate across the entire geography.
Besides, one third of the Indian population migrates from their home state to other states and this number is growing rapidly. Hence the solution must be operational wherever they are and wherever they travel to so that they can rely on it anytime anywhere and under any condition.
The Unified Payments Interface or what is famously called in India as UPI is one such solution. The UPI platform is adapted by as many as 40 payment service providers who have launched their own apps to serve the Indian consumer.
However most, if not all, of these apps require smart phones and 4G internet bandwidth to operate. These two requirements will likely exclude two thirds of the Indian population. This is where the *99# dial option comes handy.
*99# is an option implemented by all telecom services providers operating in India through the USSD platform supported by National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI). Since this is in USSD platform and it is implemented by all telecom service providers, the option is available under the simple voice plan.
Imagine this. You may hold a bank account in any bank in India. You may use simple voice call facility of any telecom provider in India and no data service. You may use any mobile device, most basic to the most sophisticated, feature phone to smart phone. You can still access all the mobile banking facilities and perform financial transactions in your bank account.
The functions offered under *99# include, but not limited to (a) Send money using VPA (or through the UPI platform) to any account in any bank (b) Send money via mobile number (as long as it is linked to a bank account) to the corresponding account in any bank (c) Send money to any bank account number (d) Send money to any AADHAR number (e) Request money from any VPA, mobile number, Aadhar number or bank account (f) Check account balance (g) check transaction status.
Whilst the intent of the *99# is to cater to the customer base with most basic mobile facility, it can come handy to anyone who may find themselves in situations deprived of access to a mobile data or sophisticated mobile phone. So, *99# facility can prove to be a true lifesaver for all Indians in times of desperate need.
Welcome to the true Indian Ingenuity.
National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) has been in the forefront envisioning and rolling out payment innovation in India. Beginning with the digitization of cheque transactions, NPCI has rolled out multiple game changing payment initiatives towards digitizing high value and low value corporate payments, consolidating utility payments, simplifying peer to peer instant transfers and creating low cost card alternatives. Ubiquity, simplicity, security and reliability have been the common attributes across all payment initiatives of NPCI.
About the Author
Balaji is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Evolvus Solutions Pvt Ltd. He plays a critical role in anchoring strategic priorities for the company to gain leadership position in the payments domain.