I read with excitement about the launch of BharatQR – a common format QR code for payment acceptance. My excitement was soon followed by disappointment when I realized that it only supports Visa, MasterCard and RUPAY. At the same time a leading wallet provider today announced investment of 600 Crores to spread its QR Code.
While it’s great that they have a common format, it sure is disappointing that this is only used to replace Card Machines and plastic cards. Well, what about the future of interoperable payments in India, the Unified Payment Interface (UPI). What about the massive fragmentation of open-loop, semi-closed-loop and closed-loop wallets?
Why can’t we have one common QR code that supports them all)?
From a consumer and merchant perspective we all want just one QR Code to be in place. All that a QR Code contains is a URL – a pointer to a server that defines who the merchant is, what payment types they support and who their settlement bank is. Who owns the format of the QR code is completely irrelevant – the most important is that any app should be able to scan it and use it. It’s also important that more and more payment or loyalty programs that come up in the future must use the same QR Code – and applications that generate QR Codes to be scanned also use the same standard. There is no reason to keep it closed or restricted – its just a URL at the end-of-the day – all security can easily be achieved via software.
I’ve mocked up a user experience in the image above – with the common format QR Code issued by the acquiring bank (HDFCBank in this case) and any third-party application being used to make a payment with any of the payment instruments – cards, wallets, UPI, etc.
I’ve given a lot of thought to the requirements and am convinced that a common, future-proof, QR Code is entirely possible and required as a solution for widespread acceptance in India. The fact that a Visa/MasterCard or RUPAY or wallet or a UPI payment should be accepted by a merchant is critical and it serves no purpose except that of the closed-loop systems to have a proprietary, closed QR Code.
India is at a key inflection point in digital payments – and I appeal to my peers in the industry that every entity – Wallet providers, Payment Banks, Banks, Visa, MasterCard, RUPAY, UPI must ONLY support a common and open QR Code format.
Certain rules of branding can be quickly agreed upon so that the merchant acquirer does get the benefits of having signed up the merchant – but we should NOT miss this opportunity to bring all of India into the Payment Acceptance Network in an Inter-operable – nay Universal – manner.
It’s time to make Digital Payments really take off in the country – and a common QR Code is a must!