February was a month of mixed results for the National Payments Corporation of India’s (NPCI) flagship payments platform. While several payments platforms operated by the NPCI saw a marginal growth in transactions, others saw a marginal dip in transactions in February compared to January this year. Nonetheless, transactions on these platforms have grown significantly over the last year signifying the extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic pushed people to use digital payments platforms.
Transactions on the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) platform have nearly doubled in value over the last year, while transactions on the Bharat Bill Payment System have more than doubled in the last year, reflecting a higher user base on both the consumer and merchant ends. On the other hand, platforms like FASTag and the Aadhaar Enabled System have seen a significant jump in transactions due to a push by the government, according to NPCI data.
In fact, since January this year the NPCI has begun upgrading each of its payments platforms and its IT system in anticipation of a surge in transaction volumes going forward. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, digital payments adoption has increased significantly with several of NPCI’s platforms clocking historical highs every month. But this growth has been unsustainable as the underlying banking infrastructure has been overwhelmed by the surge in transaction volumes in the last few months. According to MediaNama’s calculations, based on NPCI data, the transaction failure rate on the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) stood at 3.4% as of December 2020 compared to 0.99% in January 2020.
Unified Payments Interface
The NPCI’s flagship platform, UPI, has become central to the lives of consumers and merchants across the country in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, overall UPI transactions declined slightly to 2.29 billion transactions worth Rs 4.52 lakh crore in February 2021 compared to 2.3 billion transactions worth Rs 4.31 lakh crore in January. This is perhaps due to the fact that February has fewer days than other days of the month. On annual basis, UPI transactions have grown by 91% from Rs 2.22 lakh crore in February 2020.
Immediate Payments System
IMPS is a real-time payments system which is mainly used for high-value transactions. Overall, IMPS transactions declined to 318 million transactions worth Rs 2.75 lakh crore in February 2021, compared to 347 million transactions worth Rs 2.88 lakh crore. On an annual basis, transactions on IMPS have grown by 28% from Rs 2.14 lakh crore in February 2020.
National Electronic Toll Collection or FASTag
FASTag is essentially an automated toll collections system, whereby registered vehicles can pay toll fees on highways without needing to stop and use case. The system works on the basis of RFID scanners, which are scanned at toll plazas and funds are debited automatically from the vehicle owners’ e-wallet. In February 2021, there were a total of 159 million transactions worth Rs 2,556 crore compared to 148 million transactions worth Rs 2,397 crore in January. Overall, FASTag transactions have grown by 38% on an annual basis from Rs 1,841 crore in February 2020. From January 1 this year, the government made FASTag mandatory for all 4-wheeler vehicles.
Bharat Bill Payments
BBPS is an inter-operable bill payments platform, owned and operated by the NPCI, that connects consumers with biller entities which could include utility providers, telecom and DTH providers, educational institutions and others. There were 28.23 million transactions worth Rs 4,222.4 crore on BBPS in February 2021, up from 27.24 million transactions worth Rs 4,052 crore in January. On an annual basis, BBPS transactions grew by 107% from Rs 1,958 crore in February 2020. There are a total of 19,571 billers on BBPS as of date, compared to 19,474 in January.
Aadhaar Enabled Payments System
Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the lives of ordinary people last year, the government has been using the AEPS platform to transfer welfare benefits to targeted beneficiaries. As a result, transactions on AEPS have grown manifold in the last two years. There were a total of 66.7 million transactions worth Rs 18,661 crore in February 2021, compared to 79 million transactions worth Rs 19,919 crore in January. On an annual basis, overall AEPS transactions grown by 68% from Rs 11,389 crore in February 2020.
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