Financial services sectors the world over follow a common template: companies innovate, regulators regulate. The former searches for pools of customer dissatisfaction to target with innovative products that often push the regulatory envelope. The latter keenly observe from the sideline, stepping in every now and then to lay down rules to impose some semblance of order.

But in August 2016, India took its first formal step to break the walls that existed between those who were being regulated and those who were regulating. Impatient and wary with both the pace and quality of private sector innovation, The Reserve Bank of India, India’s apex banking and payments regulator, took the unprecedented step of revealing its hitherto invisible hand of regulation. It appeared in the form of an innocuous sounding three-letter acronym: U.P.I. Otherwise known as the Unified Payments Interface, a payment system designed to be the quickest way to pay. 

The disruption and opportunity created by UPI enabled the runaway success behind Flipkart’s PhonePe, which went from being an unknown payments startup to having 100 million registered users in less than two years. UPI was also what enabled the likes of Google and Whatsapp to launch peer-to-peer (P2P) payments in India.

It’s no wonder then that India’s payments and financial services players were eagerly awaiting the next iteration of UPI: UPI 2.0—an upgraded payment system with a slew of new features. Of these features, the most important one was “automatic payments”.

Automatic payments would allow users to instruct merchants to debit their bank accounts automatically—at pre-determined intervals.

This small feature would unlock a world of seamless, automated transactions. At the simplest level, this would mean automatic ‘first of the month’ payments like salaries to household help, children’s schools and loan payments. But the same feature could also enable online stores to automatically debit customer bank accounts every time they bought something.

After all, the best form of payments is not having to go through the payment process at all.

This meant the 250 million transactions that UPI processed in June could double with ease. It would have seen more people adopt digital payments, resulting in higher transaction volumes and higher revenues for payments companies. And businesses could, once and for all, stop losing customers because they couldn’t finish a payment.

But UPI 2.0 will not feature automatic, recurring payments, in what has come as a disappointment to the entire payments industry. Almost everyone we spoke to expected automatic payments to be part of UPI 2.0.

Blindsided

Automatic payments were such a given that most leading payment companies had already spent the last few months upgrading their products to support it.

Even as RBI-governed and bank-owned National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), which manages all the retail payments systems in the country, was negotiating with RBI on the various features of UPI 2.0, few banks and payment apps had begun work on recurring payments.

AUTHOR

Arundhati Ramanathan

Arundhati is Bengaluru-based. She is interested in how people use money in the digital age and how new economies will take shape based on that interaction. She has spent over 10 years reporting and writing on various subjects. Previous stints were at Mint, Outlook Business and Reuters.

View Full Profile

Subscribe to read this story

The Ken is the only business subscription you need. Questions?

 

Premium

  • 5 original and reported longform business stories every week
  • Access to ONLY India edition
  • Close to 250 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories
  • Pick up to 5 premium subscriber newsletters
  • 4 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to ONLY Southeast Asia edition
  • Close to 200 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to all paywalled stories since March 2020
  • Pick up to 5 premium subscriber newsletters

Rs. 2,750 /year

$ 120 /year

India Edition
Subscribe Subscribe
Most Asked For

Borderless

  • 8 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to both India and Southeast Asia editions
  • Close to 400 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories across India and Southeast Asia
  • Unlimited access to all premium subscriber newsletters
  • Visual Stories

Rs. 4,200 /year

Subscribe
 

Echelon

  • 8 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to both India and Southeast Asia editions
  • Close to 400 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories across India and Southeast Asia
  • Unlimited access to all premium subscriber newsletters
  • Visual Stories
  • Bonus annual gift subscription
  • Priority access to all new products and features

Rs. 8,474 /year

Subscribe
Or

Questions?

What kind of subscription plans do you offer?

We have three types of subscriptions
- Premium which gives you access to either the India or the Southeast Asia edition.
- Borderless which gives you complete access to The Ken across both editions
- Echelon which gives you complete access to The Ken across both editions along with a bonus gift subscription

What do I get if I subscribe?

The Premium edition gives you access to stories in that edition along with any five subscriber-only newsletters of your choice.

The Borderless and Echelon subscription gives you complete access to The Ken across editions and unlimited access to as many newsletters as you like.

What topics do you usually write about?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics. We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

Our specialised subscriber-only newsletters are written by our expert, award-winning journalists and cover a range of topics across finance, retail, clean energy, cryptocurrency, ed-tech and many more.

How many newsletters do you have?

We are constantly adding specialised subscriber-only newsletters all the time. All of these are written by our team of award-winning journalists on a specialised topic.

You can see the list of newsletters that we publish over here.

Does a Premium subscription to your Indian edition get me access to the Southeast Asia edition? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

We recommend the Borderless or the Echelon Plan which will give you access to stories across both editions.

Do you have a mobile app?

Yes! We have a top-rated mobile app on both iOS and Android which allows you to read on-the-go and has some amazing features like the ability to bookmark stories, save on your device, dark mode, and much more. It’s really the best way to read The Ken.

Is there a free trial?

You can sign up for a free account to experience The Ken and understand our products better. We’ll send you some free stories and newsletters occasionally, and you can access our archive of previously published free stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

The vast majority of our stories, articles and newsletters can be accessed only by a paid subscription.

Do you offer any discounts?

Sorry, no. Our journalism is funded completely by our subscribers. We believe that quality journalism comes at a price, and readers trust and pay us so that we can remain independent.

Do you offer refunds?

No. We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Just write to us at support@the-ken.com with details. We’ll help you out.

I have a few more questions. How can I reach out to you?

Sure. Just email us at info@the-ken.com or follow us on Twitter.