The unified payments interface (UPI), a state-backed digital payments platform in India, was promoted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the G20 Summit in February. In India, UPI has exceeded the use of credit and debit cards since it was introduced in 2016. In January 2023, UPI, which is used by roughly 260 million Indians, recorded approximately 8 billion transactions totaling almost $200 billion.
International success for UPI has already been recorded. Singapore's PayNow national payment system and UPI began transacting internationally last month. India’s neighbors Bhutan and Nepal have also launched UPI, and from April 2023, it will facilitate remittances in 10 locations, including the United Arab Emirates, Australia, and Hong Kong.
UPI, introduced in 2016, has surpassed the use of credit and debit cards in India. Nearly 260 million Indians use UPI — in January 2023, it recorded about 8 billion transactions worth nearly $200 billion. The transactions can be facilitated using mobile numbers or QR codes, ranging from a few cents to 100,000 rupees ($1,221) a day. In 2019, Google recommended the U.S. Federal Reserve emulate UPI as it develops its own real-time payments system FedNow.
India has marketed its digital public infrastructure (DPI) as an independent, self-owned technological stack. DPIs are interoperable systems for digital identity, payments, and data exchange that enable governments to offer citizen’s basic services. For instance, during the Covid-19 outbreak, the Indian government was able to electronically distribute funds to almost 200 million vulnerable people by linking digital IDs to bank accounts.
“India has not aligned itself entirely with any one clique or power, or the other,” Anandaram said. He noted that India’s ambition is twofold: to promote the adoption of digital public goods, like its biometric identity system Aadhaar, in developing countries; and to expand cross-border acceptance of UPI among friendly nations.
More countries are willing to adopt technologies like UPI as India is viewed as a “benign and non-hegemonic power,” Sanjay Anandaram, an investor and the co-founder of the Network of Indian Cultural Enterprises (NICEorg) nonprofit.
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