PhonePe on September 2 announced Pulse, a data repository on digital transactions undertaken by its merchants and app users. The PhonePe Pulse website has an interactive map displaying a simplified broad-strokes of the data, but more granular data — right down to the PIN code level, according to the company — will be available through tools made available to developers and the government in the future, the company said. The company also released the Pulse Report, a 49 page study on digital payments over the past 5 years. PhonePe CEO Sameer Nigam said during a press conference that the data revealed some unexpected trends, such as many large metropolitan cities not being among the top ten cities by transactions (Nigam conceded that this may also be because of PhonePe not being as big as competing services in those places.)
PhonePe tips the portal’s launch as a tool for small businesses, and interestingly, regulators. While the company isn’t completely on board with the government’s Non Personal Data Framework proposal to require private businesses to share high level data like this with competitors and the government, the launch may pique the interest of regulators and competing businesses. PhonePe says it hopes other businesses share similar data, and depending on how this works out for the company (which has not yet gone public) it may be a test for the industry as a whole, depending on how in-depth the data is.
“We bought in to open ecosystems”
Nigam said in response to a query by MediaNama that he was not bothered by competitors having access to the data. “If you trust that there is no barrier to entry and innovation is the way to play, then you should not be worried about putting out very large datasets and being transparent about what’s happened in the past. I believe product innovation is about what’s going to happen in the future. And that was one of the major motivations were actually putting out Pulse data,” Nigam said.
So does that mean PhonePe supports the government’s Non Personal Data framework? “Strictly no, I am not for a law that mandates private enterprises to put out the data,” Nigam said. “I would like societal pressure for people to be more transparent about what’s happening if they can especially large platforms. I want to make sure that people don’t feel pressure because the government is saying that PhonePe put out Pulse, that they need to do the same. I think this should come from within. I genuinely believe that we put this out without any external pressure, any investor pressure, any market pressure. And that’s the best part about it. And I think the best thing has happened from genuine intent as opposed to a forcing function, especially the government.”
- How will Pulse help regulators? In response to a query by a reporter on how Pulse would help regulators (a key claim by PhonePe), Nigam gave the example of NPCI data. “A very large percentage of our transactions are UPI transactions. The National Payments Corporation of India [which administers UPI] started publishing playerwise data, about seven or eight months back, and we actually like the fact that it’s out there. About 85% of our transactions are UPI. So they do fall under the zero MDR regime [where merchants don’t have to pay a cut from transactions, like they do for credit or debit card payments]. It is our hope that if more and more data is transparent, policy makers will see — perhaps on a lagged cycle — the implications of decisions. For example, as for zero MDR, I do believe that it limits market participation. The NPCI data shows the number of participants in the market has come down by almost two thirds. There’s 45 companies that were making apps for UPI. That number on the NPCI website is now 15. That’s the power of transparency. You can’t argue data.”
Insights from Pulse
Here are a few insights that we were able to glean from Pulse — note that this data is gleaned only from PhonePe merchants and customers.
- Xiaomi and Samsung reign: This is not exactly surprising, but among people paying digitally, the companies selling the cheapest smartphones out there — Xiaomi and Samsung — reign supreme, with iPhones accounting for a negligible fraction:
- Top districts have some omissions: The top ten districts lack some particularly prosperous cities; Chennai and New Delhi for instance, don’t show up. Neither does Noida, in spite of that city having the #1 PIN code by transaction volume (201301 is where the DLF Mall of India is located, along with a bevy of other large markets).
- Tier 3 cities have more P2P payments: The data also shows a variation in how digital payments users in different cities use digital payments, PhonePe said. Per its data, recharges and peer to peer payments (as opposed to payments to merchants for sales) are a larger slice of the pie in smaller towns:
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