Dr. Manoranjan Sharma, Chief Economist, Infomerics Ratings, Delhi & Advisor, InsPIRE
The RBI’s June 2022 Monetary Policy has justifiably been in the news for the hike in the Repo rate by 50 bps to 4.90 per cent, the withdrawal of the accommodative stance, the raising of the RBI’s inflation projections for FY 23 by 100 bps to 6.7 per cent, the evolving growth-inflation dynamics and the risks of un-anchoring of inflation and inflationary expectations to macro-economic stability. While all these are valid concerns, the issue of the renewed thrust on digitization has not quite received the attention it rightly deserves. The limited purpose of this brief piece is to highlight the impetus provided in this Policy to the inexorable forces of digitization, which are now sweeping the banking and financial world.
Considered in a proper historical and comparative perspective, digitization and disruption have altered the rules of the game and brought about a new normal in this VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) world.
The issues of disruptive innovations and domain knowledge together with big-picture issues facing industries and organizations have become commonplace. These competitive realities have blurred industry boundaries, transformed standard practice and rendered conventional blueprint of development obsolete making it necessary to leverage the power of the digital by extrapolating the unknown.
In this evolving socio-economic order, there have been game changing changes in data analytics, digitalization and disruption because of the confluence of innovation, big data, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), deep learning (DL), robotics, analytics, internet and entrepreneurship.
Progressive digitalization is reflected in Direct Benefit Transfers (DBTs), the JAM Trinity (Jan Dhan, Aadhaar, Mobile- RuPay Cards) and Unified Payment Interface, Digital India initiative and literacy programmes.
India is surging to a digital-first economy to meet the “revolution of rising expectations”. This implacable process has significantly influenced employee empowerment, customer engagement, operational efficiency and business models. All four dimensions of technology- revenue, expense, experience and accuracy or compliance- impacting a company-have improved remarkably. Aadhar has become a unifying platform with performance transcending ‘reach’ and ‘legacy’.
Digitization has transformed the entire financial sector because of reduced costs and unimaginably higher scale. Factors driving banking digitisation include digitally evolved consumers; smartphone penetration and low cost internet connectivity; cheaper products / services using M-banking and Wallet; government and RBI initiatives like Digital India, UPI, Bharat QR, Aadhaar, Point of Sale (PoS) and equipped market players.
The adoption and adaptation of new technology and digital payments have transformed conventional banking and significantly enhanced banking outreach. Progressively rising digitization has transformed lending processes, viz., credit assessment and loan approval, disbursement, repayment and customer services. But there is certainly a long road to traverse, as, for example, reflected in the fact that at end-March 2020, banks lent ₹ 1.1 lakh crore digitally vis-à-vis ₹ 53.1 lakh crore physically; NBFCs had ₹ 23, 000 crore digital loans as against ₹ 1.9 lakh crore loan physically. Enhanced mandates on recurring payments via credit and debit cards from ₹ 5,000 to ₹ 15,000 per transaction will drive digitization.
Electronic payments lead to convenience, discounts, tracking spends, lower risk and enhance gains. Linking of RuPay credit cards to UPI network could expand the credit market from the present level of 50 million to about 250 million users (at present UPI has 250 million users and 50 million merchants on-boarded), i.e., a massive five-fold rise.
With this game-changing development, the UPI’s coverage would transcend debit cards and bank accounts to credit cards. While pricing remains an issue, permitting UPI-based payments to credit cards could divert some expenditure from CASA accounts to credit cards. This would drive boost card utilisation level and enhance spends per card for banks with a higher share of RuPay cards.
UPI-based payment more than doubled to ₹ 84.16 lakh crore in 2021-22 from ₹ 41.04 lakh crore in FY21. The overall credit outstanding against credit cards stood at nearly ₹1.5 lakh crore as on April 22, 2022. With this strategic measure, both convenience and short-term liquidity will be greatly facilitated. As Victor Hugo (1802-1885) said in a different context, this is “an idea, whose time has come”.
Real time data on turnover, customer profile, lifestyle, spend, customers customer’s instantaneous data can transform Indian fintech’s rapidly expanding space. This is doable with convergence of data, technology and money to transform lives of borrowers, investors and businesses. But cyber security emerges as a key concern, particularly with data moving data offline to the cloud.
Revamped digital ecosystem and the winds of change sweeping India provide an enabling environment to revolutionise India’s socio-economic landscape, similar in its range and sweep perhaps only to the mobile or the internet revolution. This onward march would thus positively influence both growth and distributive equity.