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Public banks have their own UPI apps, but customers prefer BHIM: RTI

Over the last few weeks, Indian public sector banks have been branding their UPI apps with ‘BHIM’, the name of the government-supported UPI app run by the National Payments Corporation of India. Some private banks like Axis Bank and RBL have also been adding BHIM branding. The NPCI, set up by Indian banks, also created the UPI standard itself. One reason for that branding, aside from being eligible for sops, may be this — even as these banks roll out their own UPI apps, their customers are mostly flocking to BHIM and Flipkart-owned PhonePe. The data, obtained via RTI to multiple public sector banks by MediaNama, shows a huge disparity in registrations on banks’ own UPI apps and in BHIM and PhonePe.

Note that the data received by us varies on date (see note below), and is thus indicative of the percentage, at that time. Not all the banks gave a breakdown of all UPI registrations among their customers’ bank accounts. Some did not even have the number of UPI registrations on apps that were not made by them. As such, the above information is based mostly on banks that shared specific UPI registration breakdown by VPA.

BHIM muscles through

BHIM has been wildly successful across all banks — more so than the banks’ own UPI apps.

  • In Allahabad Bank, BHIM has almost twice the number of registrations than the bank’s own app. Allahabad Bank’s UPI app has around 120,000 registrations, while BHIM has almost twice the number at 237,000. That’s over 51% of its overall UPI registrations.
  • Syndicate Bank’s own app has 460 registrations, while BHIM has 7,109. BHIM constitutes 55% of the bank’s UPI registrations.
  • Perhaps the only exception here, Union Bank of India has over 460,000 registrations on its own UPI app, more than the almost 389,000 BHIM installs. Even here though, the BHIM and PhonePe installations combined outnumber the bank’s own-app registrations. And BHIM alone is almost 40% of all UPI registrations.
  • While many banks did not provide the breakdown of other apps, based on those who did, it can be assumed that a significant chunk of their non-own app installs came from BHIM and PhonePe.

Read: SBI doesn’t know how many of its customers use UPI

Banks unable to woo other banks’ customers

Even on an aggregate, banks are not successful at getting other banks’ customers to enrol on their UPI app:

  • 4.34% of Syndicate Bank’s UPI customers are on other UPI apps (excluding BHIM, PhonePe, Truecaller and Samsung Pay).
  • Less than 2% of Union Bank of India’s UPI customers are on other banks’ UPI apps.
  • Allahabad Bank, whose customers have the highest representation on other banks’ apps by a thin margin, has 4.76% of its customers’ UPI registrations on other banks’ apps.

Own app vs everything else

Things get worse when you look at the percentage of a bank’s UPI registrations that are on their own apps versus all other installations, including BHIM and PhonePe:

  • Only 3–9% of Syndicate Bank and Indian Bank UPI registrations are on their own UPI apps.
  • UCO and Andhra Bank have 11–22% of their UPI registrations on their own app.
  • The UPI app most popular among its customers is by far Union Bank of India, with around 46% of its UPI registrations on its own app.

Samsung Pay and Truecaller lagging

  • Only Syndicate Bank gave data in particular for the mobile payments app Samsung Pay’s UPI feature, it does not look too good — only 62 of Syndicate’s 12,627 UPI registrations are on Samsung Pay. That is a penetration rate of less than 0.5%. Even assuming an increased rate for other banks, the number doesn’t seem to be too promising.
  • The same goes for Truecaller, which has partnered with ICICI — only 2,345 of 4,62,815 UPI registrations from Allahabad Bank accounts are on ICICI’s UPI apps, which may not all be on Truecaller (only 6 Syndicate Bank customers registered on an ICICI UPI app). Since Truecaller is partnered with ICICI for UPI tech — no third party firm is allowed to do UPI transactions without licensing UPI from a bank — a low number of UPI registrations on ICICI translates directly into a small number of UPI registrations on Truecaller.

Why this matters

Keep in mind that since UPI is an unbundled interface, bank account holders can register their account on as many UPI apps as they want, regardless of which bank created those apps. And then there are apps created by third party developers who license UPI tech from banks, like PhonePe and the recently released Tez app by Google. This means that established banks are competing (and cooperating) with third parties to create the application of choice for customers across all banks. And right now, it would seem that a government-supported app created by a private corporation of banks — BHIM — is leading the race.

This also suggests that “integrated” UPI apps, like those in Truecaller and Samsung Pay, aren’t really taking off. As more and more messaging players like WhatsApp eye UPI integrations, the seeming lack of headroom for growing UPI subscriptions outside BHIM may prove challenging, even with WhatsApp’s humongous customer base in India.

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Note on dates

Since different banks have sent data for different periods, there can be no direct comparison between banks; there can only be comparison of different UPI apps within a single bank.

Syndicate Bank, UCO Bank, Indian Bank and Allahabad Bank’s data is as at July 2017. Union Bank of India, Andhra Bank, and IDBI Bank’s data are from August 2017.

Written By

I cover the digital content ecosystem and telecom for MediaNama.

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.



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