Amazon is beta testing mobile recharges in India via its payments product Amazon Pay. This was first reported NDTV Gadgets. The recharge option is available on the Amazon website and as well through the mobile app and is open to all networks except Airtel. An Amazon spokesperson confirmed the beta launch with MediaNama: “We continuously innovate on behalf of our customers. Our focus is on creating better shopping and payment experiences for them. Our new offering is towards this end. The offering is currently in beta,” the statement said.
Amazon Pay was launched in December last year as a rebranded version of its Gift Card balance feature which allowed users to top up and generate an online gift voucher. In April this year, Amazon India received a wallet license from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), which enabled it to do away with the two-factor authentication system for Amazon Pay. It also invested Rs 130 crore ($20.17 million) into its Amazon Pay (India) business in July. The payment service works as a:
- Wallet service: It can be loaded with digital cash using credit and debit cards and net banking. Users can shop on the ecommerce website using this balance.
- As a refund option and as a faster check out option: Amazon claims that via Amazon Pay, refunds for orders will be processed in 24 hours while ensuring faster checkout at the payment stage.
But with entry into recharges, Amazon is signalling a broader entry in the payment space in India. Amazon Pay is still a closed wallet since the money cannot be transferred to a bank. In India, apart from as a refund and check out option, the payments service can be topped-up and used with third-party services as well. The balance in Amazon Pay can be used for other apps/services like AbhiBus, Faasos, Justickets, Haptik, Housejoy, Box8, Byjus, Café Coffee Day outlets among others.
Note that this isn’t the first time that the company has tried to enter the payments space in India. The older ‘Pay with Amazon’ service went live in India in October 2013 for refunds and check out. It was then expanded as payment service in India in 2014 as a semi-closed wallet system, following its investment in e-gifting platform QwikCilver Solutions in 2014. QwikCilver had secured a five-year prepaid mobile wallet license from RBI in August 2013.
On the payments space, Amazon earlier had a P2P payments service called WebPay in U.S which existed since 2007, but was later shut down in October 2014 due to competition from bigger services like Google, Square and Paypal. Note that the shutdown October 2014 was around the same time that Amazon expanded its wallet service in India through tie ups with third-party vendors like Babyoye.com, Webmallindia.com, Cart2india.com, Sapnaonline.com.
The payment space in India is getting more competitive. Apart from payments service like MobiKwik, Paytm, Freecharge, telcos including Airtel, Vodafone, Idea, Jio and private banks are also competing in the digital payments space. One of the largest private sector bank in the country, Axis Bank recently acquired Freecharge for $60 million. While the NPCI’s United Payments Interface has tie ups with third party vendor like Samsung Pay.
The biggest focus in the payments segment in India right now is RBI’s payments bank license, which allows any holding company to run as a stripped down version of a traditional bank with support for ATMs, sending and receiving money to bank accounts, etc. apart from lending money as credit. Fino was the fourth Payments Bank in the country, after Airtel, India Post and Paytm.
Note: The story has been updated with comments from Amazon India