Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday launched the BHIM-Aadhaar platform—a merchant interface linking the unique identification number to the Bharat Interface for Money mobile application—at Nagpur on the 126th birth anniversary of Dr B.R. Ambedkar.
“Like Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar worked to give rights to the common man through the Indian Constitution, one can expect the BHIM app to do similarly great work through the financial system,” said Modi.
The new interface will enable customers to make payments using a merchant’s biometric-enabled device. The merchant merely has to download the BHIM app on his smartphone and link the device to an Aadhaar biometric reader.
“Any citizen without access to smartphones, Internet, debit or credit cards will be able to transact digitally through the BHIM-Aadhaar platform,” a government statement said.
To avail of this service, a customer has to first link his bank account to his Aadhaar number. To make a payment, all he has to do is select the bank’s name and enter the Aadhaar number. His fingerprint will serve as the password to authenticate the transaction.
To start with, no transaction fee will be levied on either the merchants or customers to encourage adoption of the new digital payment service, especially in small towns and rural India.
The government statement said 27 major banks had already tied up with 300,000 merchants for accepting payments using BHIM-Aadhaar. It went on to add that all public sector banks have been instructed to go live with Aadhaar Pay.
In his speech, Modi said that the time is not far when premise-less and paperless banking will become part of people’s lives. He announced two new incentive schemes for the BHIM app—cashback (for merchants) and referral bonus (for customers). The schemes will start from 14 April and end on 14 October, he added.
Under the referral bonus scheme, an individual will earn Rs10 for every new referral made—i.e., educating another person or merchant about the BHIM app and ensuring that they carry out three transactions using the same.
“Even in one day, if you refer around 20 people, you can end up earning Rs200 per day. This can continue for a period of three months,” said Modi.
Under the cashback scheme, merchants can earn up to Rs300 per month for transactions made using BHIM.
An updated version of BHIM (version 1.3) is available on Android and ioS. Several new features have been added to its interface such as new languages, the option to block unwanted collection requests and pay by scanning QR (quick response) codes.
“The new upgrade is aligned to facilitate government’s initiative of launching customer referral bonus and merchant incentive schemes. We have added more regional languages, enhanced user experience and security features for wider acceptance and usage of the BHIM app,” said A.P. Hota, managing director and chief executive of National Payments Corporation of India.
Three new languages—Punjabi, Marathi and Assamese—have gone live on the app.
According to Ravi Shankar Prasad, Union minister for electronics and information technology, 20 million people have downloaded BHIM so far, and payments worth Rs823 crore have been made. The app was launched on 30 December.
It was one of several measures aimed at promoting digital transactions in the aftermath of the 8 November demonetization of high-value banknotes, which triggered a nationwide cash crunch.