A P Hota

With the Bharat Bill Payment System (BBPS), a customer of Reliance Energy will be able to pay his electricity bill at any Oxigen outlet even though the two companies do not have a direct agreement for payments, AP Hota, managing director of the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) told MediaNama in an interview.

The BBPS is a centralized system where banks and non-banks can allow a network of their agents to access bill payment services in an interoperable manner. More on that here.

“The billers are connected to multiple banks through bilateral contracts. The signing of them is a painful process with each individual bank and is quite expensive. So if the biller is connected through one operating unit, it will be open to the customers of all operating units. This is how the BBPS will be transformational,” Hota added. Excerpted parts of the interview:

What kind of bills can be paid: “To begin with only the utility bills can be paid through the BBPS. Namely the electricity bill, telephone bill, DTH, water bill and gas bill. We’re talking to 10-15 major power distribution companies in the country. The telcos are well known and a few DTH companies.  For water bill, we’ll take a few metro cities.

In a recent meeting with operating units, we decided that the billers need to be sensitized. They need to be told what requirements are needed to be on the BBPS. In Chennai, the water billing system is highly computerized and is available on the web where people can make the payment. I was told that in Mumbai it is not possible and people have to pay the bill at the municipality office.”

How will billers get on the BBPS: “First thing is that the biller will need to be on the computing platform. That means, the biller must have a method of sending out the bill, consumer number, address  and the amount. This should be available on the web and should be accessible by the operating units.  Either the operating units can take the information from their computers or there should be some connectivity in its computing infrastructure.

For example Reliance Energy has piloted this with quite a few banks. Reliance Energy and the banks have real-time connectivity. On every morning, Reliance Energy would be uploading all the new bills that are generated. So there should be a method of pumping the bills to the operating units.”

Instant confirmation: “One of the hallmark of the BBPS is that, if a customer would like to pay through the BBPS, the transaction should get completed instantly and get a confirmation. If you’re paying via cash, you should get a confirmation immediately on the phone that your personal account is updated.”

Who are the operating units: “Just a few days back, the RBI released the names of the operating units and we are the central unit. As of today, there are 37 banks and 7 non- banks who are operating units. The non-banks are the institutions dealing with bill payments mostly like BillDesk, Oxicash and Euronet.”

Note that PayU and TechProcess payment have got the RBI’s nod to act as an operating unit.

When will the BBPS start operations: “We had a meeting yesterday where all the operating units were called. We would be ready, technically, by the end of June and we were reviewing our position. We will start testing the BBPS in the middle of June. We are examining if we should start the pilot with seven or eight banks or if we should be going with about 20 banks or something. Then the commercial models need to be worked out. But with the operating units who are ready, the technical integration can begin.”

Read the first part of the interview: Wallets aren’t on UPI because banks needed time to catch up