Flipkart's PhonePe looks at features to differentiate itself from BHIM

The logo of India's largest online marketplace Flipkart is seen on a building in Bengaluru (Photo: Reuters)
Flipkart-owned digital payments app PhonePe will focus on bringing new disruptive payment products, such as standing instructions and instant refunds, to win over customers, even as the government-backed BHIM app continues to add users at a blistering pace.

PhonePe, launched in August last year, recently crossed the milestone of 10 million downloads, a feat its rival BHIM has been able to achieve in just 10 days. While not disregarding the competition, Sameer Nigam, the CEO of PhonePe, says the growing popularity of BHIM is good for his company.

“We decided to build on UPI in 2015 and the one thing we were nervous about was whether the network would take off. But because the government is pushing UPI and BHIM so aggressively, it’s actually amazing for us,” said Nigam in a telephonic interview. “IMPS took almost three years to become mainstream in the remittance space, but with UPI that’s practically happening overnight.”

The uptake of UPI payments in India is expected to spearhead the growth of digital payments in the country, an agenda which Modi has been pushing personally in the light of his demonetisation scheme. Nigam believes this has rightly jolted the space and that people would soon flock to PhonePe after the “plain vanilla” experience that BHIM offers.

PhonePe plans to drive value for its users by imagining new ways of enabling digital payments on top of the same architecture that every other UPI-enabled app is built. The company will innovate on top of upcoming features of UPI such as being able to give banks standing instructions for recurring payments digitally, something which rival BHIM isn’t focusing on.

“We’re a full feature app in the sense that you can do recharges, bill payments or pay directly to a mobile number, whereas they are base vanilla,” added Nigam.

Going forward, PhonePe plans to integrate with more online merchants, claiming that 25 of the top 100 e-commerce sites have partnered with it. Previously, digital payment providers such as Paytm have struggled to onboard services who saw them as competition, forcing the company to open its own e-commerce portal. Moreover, BHIM, its biggest competition is focusing solely on the consumer payments space.

With an average transaction value of close to Rs 2,000 thanks to customers paying bills, transferring money and buying high-value products online, PhonePe says it is miles ahead of the current crop of digital wallets that have an average transaction value of less than Rs 100. While the UPI platform already enables small transactions, Nigam says “it’s only a function of time” before his teams can go offline and enable small offline merchants to accept payments through the PhonePe app.

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