India aims to curb cash – but this time it wants to do it properly.
A cashless society wasn’t the original goal of the country’s draconian currency ban in November 2016. But when an acute shortage of banknotes gave a fillip to digital wallets, that purpose was added as an afterthought to justify an act of farcical state overreach.
The real innovation in mobile payments in India began a few months prior to the cash ban. It’s called a unified payment interface, or UPI. The name is clunky, but the idea is simple. One smartphone owner who’s a customer of Bank A can request a payment from, or initiate a payment to, another owner who has an account with Bank B. Neither party needs to know anything more than each other’s mobile number or a virtual ID. They don’t even need to use the same mobile app to transact.