Payment Giant Has SWIFT Alternative for Indian Expats

·2 min read

(Bloomberg) -- The company that built India’s digital payments backbone plans to make it cheaper and easier for the nation’s 32 million expatriates to bring their money home.

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Indians overseas remitted $87 billion last year, the biggest inflow for any country tracked by the World Bank. The remittances market, where it costs $13 on average to send $200 across borders, is ripe for disruption, according to Ritesh Shukla, chief executive officer of NPCI International Payments Ltd.

“We have displaced cash in India to a large extent and are now looking to repeat the success in cross-border corridors,” said Shukla in a recent interview. “Overseas Indians can use our rails to remit money inwards straightway into their bank accounts, and for the markets where Indians travel frequently, we will build acceptance for our instruments.”

Successful overseas forays by NPCI would give India a home-grown alternative to SWIFT, the Belgium-based cross-border payment system operator, though Shukla stressed that the objective was not to displace existing platforms. About 330 banks and 25 apps -- including Alphabet Inc.’s Google Pay and Meta Platform Inc.’s WhatsApp -- share NPCI’s unified payment interface, which has helped make instantaneous digital transactions a $3 trillion market in India.

NPCI is in the process of connecting the UPI platform to systems in other countries to replicate its domestic success. It is negotiating collaborations with governments, fintech companies and service providers around the world, aiming to reduce transaction costs and enable more small-ticket transactions, Shukla said.

Cutting Costs

“This is going to take the payments world by storm,” said Mayank Goyal, CEO of moneyHop, a cross-border banking app that lets users make international remittances through the SWIFT network. The company will seek to integrate UPI rails into the app as it makes cross-border payments easier, Goyal said.

UPI’s linkage with overseas nations will further anchor trade, travel and remittance flows between the countries and lower the cost of cross-border remittances, the Reserve Bank of India said in a report.

The Reserve Bank of India set up NPCI along with the country’s lenders to make retail payments faster, more accessible, and cost-efficient. A user just needs a virtual payment address to instantly transact with vendors and exchange cash between friends or family members.

(Corrects NPCI’s acronym in fourth and last paragraph.)

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