Feature phone users will now be able to make digital payments on Unified Payments Interface (UPI) through voice in multiple languages. These include Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, and Bengali. The service will soon be made available in other languages, namely, Gujarati, Marathi, and Punjabi.
Earlier this year, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had in collaboration with the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) launched the UPI system for feature phones. It was named UPI123 Pay and allowed feature phone users to make UPI payments without having the need for an Internet connection.
Now, this new feature named VoiceSe, developed by ToneTag in partnership with NSDL Payments Bank and NPCI, will allow India’s 400 million feature phone users to access the payment services through voice, thus making UPI and digital payment accessible to an even larger part of the rural audience. VoiceSe has been approved by the RBI.
To initiate a transaction, one has to simply call the IVR number “6366 200 200” and proceed with his/her choice of financial transaction in his/her preferred language.
VoiceSe will not only allow customers to make fund transfers, but also assists them with paying utility bills, making balance enquiries, as well as FASTag activation or recharge using just their voice – thus making it as easy as speaking to one’s mobile phone.
VoiceSe will also partner with large public-sector banks to provide UPI 123Pay services to their customer base. It will also collaborate with microfinance institutions (MFIs ) to solve their collection problems on call.
Vivek Singh, co-founder and director of labs, ToneTag, says: “We are looking at voice technology that goes beyond Siri and Alexa to enable digital payment solutions that aren’t necessarily dependent on 100 per cent digital literacy or smartphone penetration. Ever since its pilot project in several rural areas of India, such as across states like Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, and Jharkhand, VoiceSe has witnessed instant success with the Indian population due to its simplicity of use and the fact that the user has to neither own a fancy, expensive smartphone, nor be digitally literate to use the service. In less than two months of the launch, we have on- boarded over 100,000 users on the platform and witnessed more than 200,000 transactions.”
Initially, the UPI system was available only for smartphones, which excluded people from the rural areas or those from the poorer sections of society, without access to a smartphone, from accessing the digital payment gateway system.