The Government of India, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), and UN-backed Better Than Cash Alliance Tuesday hosted Merchant Digitization Summit 2021: Towards Aatmanirbhar (Self Reliance) Bharat with special focus on Himalayan regions, north east region and aspirational districts of India. The Summit brought together leaders from the public and private sectors for the Responsible Merchant Digitization Summit to accelerate responsible digitisation of merchants in India’s north-eastern and Himalayan regions and aspirational districts. Empowering women merchants who play critical roles in their communities is one of the priorities to help achieve the mission of Digital India. This summit is part of the series of learning exchange amongst all states and union territories under which DEA had also co-organised the webinar titled “Unlocking the value of fintech in promoting digital payments’ on December 9, 2020.
“The Government of India is taking bold steps towards an inclusive Digital India,” said K. Rajaraman, Additional Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance. “Along with the increased focus on ‘Make in India’ through Aatmanirbhar Bharat scheme, responsible digitisation must more strongly include rural networks such as self-help-groups (SHGs) and community enablers to create the local digital ecosystems to help millions of merchants join the formal economy, access credit, and grow their business,” Rajaraman added.
From an average of 2-3 billion digital transactions monthly, India has set ambitious target for one billion digital transactions per day. Person to merchant (P2M) digital payment transactions will scale to 10-12 billion transactions every month to contribute to India’s digital economy. This is an enormous opportunity for digitised merchants. However, most digital payment solutions designed for smart phone whose penetration amongst merchants in these focus regions is very low. There was consensus during merchant digitisation event that an industry-level approach was required to address the unique and fundamental challenges including gender targeting in national, regional and state-level merchant initiatives.
Reema Nanavaty, Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), a Padma Shri recipient, applauded this focus on women merchants in the priority regions from the Government and the private sector, saying “our experience at SEWA shows that technology when put in to the hands of women they put it to their best use for economic security, asset creation, food security, and bringing support services such as healthcare, and nutrition at the doorstep of citizens.”
“Merchants, including kirana shops, emerged as local saviours during COVID-19, proving themselves to be both agile and resilient. It also increased the pace of digitisation among kiranas.” said Dilip Chenoy, Secretary General, FICCI. “As industry leaders, we are thrilled to support the Government in its focus on women merchants as an economic priority and build greater trust in the Himalayan region, the north east, and in the aspirational districts with our members.”
The participants agreed that the National Language Translation Mission can be used to disseminate digital payments information, privacy clauses and consent in local languages for trust and empowerment. They also identified opportunities to address the challenges of connectivity, access to smart phones, and digital literacy for merchants at the last mile.
“Taking active measures to ensure merchants are protected from risks such as loss of privacy, exposure to fraud, and unauthorised fees are the tenets of the responsible digital payments guidelines,” said Keyzom Ngodup Massally, Head of Asia-Pacific, Better Than Cash Alliance. “Our member Hindustan Unilever with FICCI and other FMCG leaders have joined the Indian government to ensure that fairness is systematically embedded in merchant digitisation,” Massally added.
The summit, organised with technical assistance of Intellecap, saw representatives from Telangana, Jammu & Kashmir, Maharashtra, Bihar, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Manipur, Nagaland, Mizoram, Sikkim, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Meghalaya, Dadar and Nagar Haveli, Delhi, and Daman and Diu, among others to discuss solutions that can be scaled across all aspirational districts and the focus regions.
The Government, FICCI, and the Better Than Cash Alliance will continue their partnership this year with catalytic actions to achieve the industry level commitment of responsible digitisation of merchants agreed during the event.