A letter from a disgruntled Rs.100 note reminding UPI that cash is still king.
“This is an outstanding accomplishment. It indicates the collective resolve of the people of India to embrace new technologies and make the economy cleaner.” – PM Modi
That’s PM Modi lauding UPI crossing 6 billion transactions in July. Like any icon, UPI has gained its share of admiration and envy. Last month, we intercepted a letter from a Rs. 100 currency note to UPI. It gets ugly. Reader discretion is advised.
I know everyone loves you. But I loathe you.
In my glory days, I used to be the only way to pay. People came from far and wide to ‘withdraw’ me from the bank. Safely tucked away in their wallets, I’d go everywhere with them. When we parted, I’d find home in a new wallet. Now ‘wallets’ are on the phone. They’re called e-wallets, I hear. Sheesh. And you, insufferable UPI, have found a way to pay through these e-wallets too.
I have, admittedly, been found in a few compromising positions – stuffed in a few pillowcases and under a few mattresses. But I’ve also found myself in pockets of migrant workers. 46 crore bank accounts were opened under the Jan Dhan Yojana. 18% of these accounts remain inactive. Which means that I’m still the lifeline for many Indians.
I’m also, admittedly, not cheap. The RBI and banks spend Rs.21,000 crores annually on currency operations. A Rs.100 note like me costs Rs.15-17 over a 4-year lifecycle in printing, distribution and storage. But let’s not pretend you’re ‘free’. Consumers and merchants don’t pay for you, UPI, only because payment service providers foot the bill. And it’s a hefty bill – Rs. 5500 crores annually. Even the Rs.1300 crore government subsidy comes from the taxpayers’ kitty.
Oh, and need I remind you of the war against my people – demonetization? Where my brethren, the beloved 500, was mercilessly hunted. I saw you sweep in and make hay while my tribe was under attack. Many wrote my obituary then as the cash to GDP ratio dropped from 12% to 8%. But I survived. And now I’m stronger than ever, with the cash to GDP ratio at 14.5%. My tribe is resilient. We found our way back into the hearts, pockets, and mattresses of our countrymen.
So, UPI – you insufferable teacher’s pet – don’t forget that while you may be the golden prince, I’m still the king.
Luke-warm (mostly cold) regards,
(This post has been authored by the fintech team at Ikigai Law. It was originally published in the August 2022 edition of our monthly fintech newsletter, FinTales.)