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HDFC Bank plans Alipay-like digital platform by Sept

By Shayan Ghosh, Gopika Gopakumar
After an embargo that lasted about 15 months, HDFC Bank received regulatory approval in March to resume launches under its digital banking initiative. Bloomberg 

“It will allow a small kirana store to be the local Amazon for its catchment," Parag Rao, country head (payment business, consumer finance, technology and digital banking) at HDFC Bank said in an interview. The bank, Rao said, has already piloted this with 355,000 merchants.

“We will be offering a new small and medium enterprise (SME) platform, a new corporate supply chain platform, a new merchant platform which is going to be a game changer. We have an application that has an online-offline mode like Alipay," said Rao, adding that these initiatives would take the bank’s current merchant base from 2 million to 20 million in three years.

Part of the Alibaba Group, Alipay is a payment platform that lets users pay through their mobile devices or on the web, while allowing merchants to accept such digital payments. In India, the launch of unified payments interface (UPI) in 2016 opened new vistas for the payments industry, with the homegrown network now acting as the backbone of over billions of monthly transactions.

After an embargo that lasted about 15 months, HDFC Bank received regulatory approval in March to resume launches under its digital banking initiative. The bank is now gearing up to unveil a series of digital banking products and services starting June. The regulatory action, which followed multiple outages in HDFC Bank’s e-banking channels, was partially lifted in August 2021, which allowed it to resume issuing credit cards. “There is a new payments app on the anvil. There’s also a customer experience app because we want a service-first culture as one of our biggest themes," said Rao.

Rao said that while the bank’s mobile payments app PayZapp was ahead of its time six years ago, it is now clunky and the bank has worked to make the interface much better and more intuitive.

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