Digital payments beyond cities; Ola’s scooter sale a hit

India is one of the world’s biggest digital payments markets even though access to them remains restricted to urban areas. Now, the government will sift through the best ideas it has received from startups for taking digital payments to rural areas, where 65% of Indians live.

Also in this letter:

  • Ola sells scooters worth Rs 1,100 crore two days
  • Musk says Tesla will work with regulators on data security
  • Probe into El Salvador’s bitcoin purchases, ATM kiosks

Govt to fund best ideas for taking digital payments to rural India

digital payments

Aiming to expand digital payments beyond cities, the government recently invited proposals from startups, especially fintech firms, to find ways to bring online payments to India’s semi-urban and rural areas. The last date to submit proposals was September 15, and the government will now shortlist and fund the best ideas.

The government said some areas in which past efforts have been unsuccessful and that need a new, innovative approach are: voice-based digital payments solutions using mobile phones; local language apps for digital payments; and solutions for digital payments using feature phones.

It is also looking for ways to increase the use of digital payments by women and disabled people, and bridge the digital gap in areas such as J&K, Ladakh, tier 3 cities and beyond.

  • “Though there has been an unprecedented growth in digital payments, the potential is still huge. Cash continues to dominate Indian markets. There is a need to accelerate the adoption of digital payments across the country,” it said when calling for ideas.

Several companies are already working on solutions to some of these issues. We reported earlier this month that ToneTag is working to enable voice-based UPI payments using feature phones in around 50,000 villages and small towns.

According to a report published earlier this month, called Rural Covid Barometer by Kantar and Dialogue Factory, there has been a significant rise in digital payments in rural areas. The Reserve Bank of India’s Annual Report 2020-2021 also noted that the pandemic had accelerated the country’s shift to digital payments.

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Untapped potential: About 65% of India’s 1.39 billion people live in rural areas and about 35% in urban areas. Despite the low penetration of digital payments in rural India, the country leads the world’s real-time payments market, followed by China and South Korea, according to a recent report by The Economist Intelligence Unit. In terms of the overall mobile payments market, China leads instead, followed by India.

Ola Electric says it sold scooters worth Rs 1,100 crore two days

Ola Electric

Ola Electric said it clocked Rs 1,100 crore in scooter sales during the two days that the purchase window was open.

On Wednesday, Ola restarted bookings of its electric scooters — S1 and S1 Pro — on its app only, after the website ran into technical difficulties last week.

Sales reached a peak of four units per second on Thursday, CEO Bhavish Aggarwal tweeted, but the second day’s figures were even higher.

The purchase window is now closed, but the scooters can still be reserved on Ola Electric’s website. The sale will restart on November 1.

Ola’s electric scooters, manufactured at the Ola Futurefactory near Krishnagiri in Tamil Nadu, undercut rival offerings from Ather Energy, Bajaj Auto and TVS Motors on price while promising greater range and higher performance.

Launched at a starting price of Rs 99,999, which includes FAME II subsidies but excludes state-level tax breaks, the Ola electric scooters come in two variants:

  • The cheaper Ola S1, which gets a 2.98 kWh battery pack good enough for travelling 121 km on a single charge. The top speed is restricted at 90 kmph.
  • The costlier Ola S1 Pro, which gets a 3.97 kWh battery pack with a range of 181 km. It has a top speed of 115 kmph.
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Ola will also roll out an at-home service network in every city where it sells its EVs. It said buyers can expect a 40% lower total cost of ownership for its EVs than petrol-powered scooters.

EV-focussed fund: Meanwhile, Sachin Bansal-backed Navi Mutual Fund has filed draft documents for four funds, including one for electric vehicles, with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi). The object of the EV fund is “to provide long-term capital appreciation by investing in units of overseas ETFs (exchange-traded funds) and/or index funds that invest in electric vehicles and driving technology,” the documents showed.

Tweet of the day

ETtech Deals Digest


India’s startup ecosystem minted two new unicorns this week—one of them the youngest to enter the coveted billion-dollar valuation club.

Meanwhile Byju’s, the most valued member of the club, continued its buying spree, snapping up US-based Tynker in a cash-and-stock deal. Elsewhere, India’s largest online pharmacy PharmEasy acquired Aknamed, a cloud-based hospital supply-chain management firm, for about $180-190 million.

A look at the key startup deals and funding rounds that made news in the week to Sept. 17. (read more)

deals digest_Graphic_13- 17 September 2021_ETTECH

Tesla to work with global regulators to ensure data security

Elon Musk

Tesla CEO Elon Musk

Tesla will work with global regulators to ensure data security, chief executive Elon Musk told the World New Energy Vehicle Congress in China today.

“With the rapid growth of autonomous driving technologies, data security of vehicles is drawing more public concern than ever before,” Musk said in a video speech, adding that data security was not only the responsibility of a single company.

A bumpy ride: Tesla, which is making vehicles in Shanghai, is under scrutiny in China over its storage and handling of customer data. Automakers in China are required to store data generated by vehicles locally and need to get regulatory approval when they need to export critical data abroad.

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China’s industry ministry published a notice on Thursday telling companies to step up cyber and data security oversight over connected vehicles, saying that security risks in the industry had become increasingly prominent.

In May, staff at some Chinese government offices were told not to park their Tesla cars inside government compounds due to security concerns over vehicle cameras.

El Salvador body to probe complaints about bitcoin purchases, ATM kiosks

El Salvador Bitcoin

A skater passes near a Chivo Wallet ATM at the El Salvador del Mundo Square in San Salvador.

El Salvador’s Court of Accounts, which oversees its public resources, will investigate a complaint about the government’s bitcoin purchases and the construction of kiosks for cryptocurrency ATMs.

El Salvador this month became the first country in the world to adopt bitcoin as legal tender.

The Court of Accounts said it received a complaint on September 10 from a regional human rights and transparency organisation, Cristosal, about the country’s adoption of bitcoin.

Cristosal requested an audit of the authorisation processes for the purchase of bitcoins and to review the construction of the booths used for ATMs linked to the country’s digital wallet, Chivo.

The complaint was against six members of the board of directors of the Bitcoin Trust, comprising members of the finance and economy ministries, and the secretariat of commerce and investments.

Anti-government protests: Thousands of people marched to the central plaza in San Salvador on Wednesday holding placards that read “we were defrauded by bitcoin.” The protests were mostly peaceful, though one group set fire to a bitcoin ATM kiosk that was installed last month.

Today’s ETtech Top 5 newsletter was curated by Arun Padmanabhan in New Delhi and Zaheer Merchant in Mumbai. Graphics and illustrations by Rahul Awasthi.


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