Airtel Payments Bank announced on Tuesday that it has partnered with NPCI to enable UPI (Unified Payment Interface) payments at more than 500,000 merchants across India, thus allowing consumers to pay digitally for goods and services using any UPI-enabled bank or payments app on their mobile phones. UPI is a mobile payment mode that enables users to make instant money transfers directly between two bank accounts. Additionally, users can also make payments to merchants who accept UPI as a payment mode.

The new feature will allow consumers to make instant cashless payments directly from their savings bank accounts by scanning a merchant QR code through their preferred UPI enabled app. Airtel Payments Bank users can also use this QR code to pay directly through their savings bank account or wallets using the Airtel Thanks app. The company said the new feature will also benefit merchants as they can now easily receive payments directly into their bank account, thereby reducing the risk of cash management. Airtel Payments Bank said it plans to significantly ramp up its offline merchant base and aims to power at least one million offline merchants in the coming months.

Government’s plan to make UPI QR codes mandatory for shops

Last month, we reported that the government of India was considering making it mandatory for all shops “above a certain threshold” to offer UPI payments through QR codes, and give customers and shopkeepers GST benefits for using UPI. While the move could indeed increase the adoption of digital payments, it would also give NPCI a monopoly as it owns India’s only two interoperable QR code systems — one that is solely for UPI transactions and the other, BharatQR, for payments through cards as well as UPI.

“This would amount to a virtual monopoly for NPCI as companies such as Paytm with their own closed QR code systems would be locked out,” payments expert Shashidhar KJ had told MediaNama.

Google Pay leads in UPI transactions

Google Pay is the current market leader in UPI transactions, having recorded more than 240 million transactions in May, as per the Economic Times. PhonePe, which is owned by Flipkart, recorded 230 million transactions in May, followed by Paytm with 200 million UPI transactions. In March, Google Pay had tied up with Pine Labs to offer UPI payments at 330,000 point-of-sale terminals in 3,000 towns across India.