After almost two years of planning, the National Payments Corporation has at last finalised the proposed unique India Card which once commercially launched would be an domestic alternative to the global real-time payment processing firms like Visa and MasterCard.
"We have finalised name of the proposed card as Rupay at our board meeting. We have also finalised the logo for the same," a senior official of the RBI-set up National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), told PTI on Monday evening.
The official sought not to be named.
The official further said the leading financial consultancy firm Ernst & Young(E&Y) will develop and roll out the entire architecture, including the design and software for the Rupay card rollout.
A senior E&Y official confirmed the development to this agency. He further said, the NPCI will initially launch a domestic ATM/debit cards to begin with and then would hit the credit card market later on.
In 2009, the RBI had asked the Indian Banks Association to launch a not-for-profit company and design a rival card, then tentatively called India Card, that meets the requirements of the domestic banks.
And finally, RBI plan is materialising and Rupay will be like the Union Pay of China, which is the domestic real-time payment processing firm for Chinese banks, and was planned to be launched last year.
The commercial launch is expected in a few months, once the systems and network are in place.
Domestic banks now have no option but to tie up with Visa or MasterCard for connectivity between cardholders, merchants and issuing banks not just within the country, but across the globe in the absence of a domestic card.
Every transaction done here using a debit or credit card issued by a domestic bank is routed through network switches owned by Visa or MasterCard, which are based outside the country. But now the Rupay would eliminate the need for this connectivity.
Domestic banks paid around Rs 500 crore last year as fees to these global card firms for processing debit and credit card payments, 90 percent of which were domestic deals.
The Rupay initiative entails the setting up of a network switch, which acts as a payment gateway that connects all the ATMs and points-of-sale terminals. The domestic system is meant to gradually replace payment settlement providers like MasterCard and Visa, which now control all payments and settlements that happen through cards.
NPCI is registered as a company with nine public sector, private sector and foreign banks owning stakes. RBI will oversee its operations in the initial years. Thereafter it will function as an independent company regulated by RBI, according to the RBI policy paper on Payment systems vision 2009-12.
"The concept of a domestic payment card (India Card then and now Rupay) and a PoS switch network for issuance and acceptance of payment cards would be looked into. The need for such a system arises from two major considerations (a) the high cost borne by the domestic banks for affiliation with international card associations in the absence of a domestic price setter (b) the connection with international card associations resulting in the need for routing even domestic transactions, which account for more than 90 percent of the total, through a switch located outside the country," the RBI had said in its vision paper.
As per the latest RBI data, debit card transactions rose 49 percent to Rs 3,712.67 crore in January 2011, against Rs 2,491 crore y-o-y. The number of debit cards in use also rose by 25 percent in the reporting month to 21.82 crore up from 17.41 crore as on January 31, 2010.
In the April-January period, the total transactions carried out by debit cards jumped by 47.06 percent, to Rs 32,029.24 crore, from Rs 21,779.83 crore in the first 10 months of the last fiscal, said the RBI data.
Against this, credit card transactions rose 28 percent in January to Rs 6,934.65 crore, despite a 10 percent drop in the number of credit cards in circulation. As of January 31, 2011, there were 1.81 crore active credit cards in the country, down from 2.02 crore y-o-y.
During the April-January period of the current fiscal, the total transactions carried out via credit cards increased 21.78 percent to Rs 62,335.44 crore as against Rs 51,188.94 crore in the year-ago period.