Blockchain for Banking News

India to link digital rupee to UPI payments for merchant adoption

digital rupee currency cbdc india

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) wants to boost its daily central bank digital currency (CBDC) transactions using the country’s existing Universal Payment Interface (UPI) infrastructure, according to Deputy Governor T Rabi Sankar. UPI is India’s fast payment system, which combines instant settlements with retail point-of-sale QR codes for vendors. The link will enable the digital rupee to be used more easily at merchant outlets according to the Times of India.


Since launching its e-rupee retail pilot in December 2022, India’s central bank has been looking for ways to increase adoption among its citizens. So far, 1.3 million users have downloaded the CBDC digital wallet, but daily transactions have only recently reached 10,000, partly due to the limited number of merchants accepting digital rupee payments. It was reported that there are 300,000 merchant outlets that accept the digital rupee, but in January there were just 5,000.

RBI deputy governor, T Rabi Sankar, now wants to increase the daily transaction number to around 1 million by the end of the year by integrating with India’s domestic UPI infrastructure. The target seems achievable, considering daily UPI transactions currently stand at over 300 million. However, the fast payment system could also stand in the way of increased user adoption in the same way that WeChat Pay and AliPay have in China. Many people see retail CBDCs as competing with, rather than complementing, existing payment systems. 

Nonetheless, the central bank is looking to leverage the platform’s QR codes to allow vendors accepting UPI payments to accept digital rupee as well, thereby reducing concerns about the number of onboarded merchants. Banks will make QR codes interoperable and link payments to CBDC wallets when available. 

“Work is in progress to ensure full interoperability by the end of the month, allowing QR codes without linked CBDC accounts to redirect payments to bank accounts,” Mr. Sankar said. “The RBI also aims to encourage other banks to adopt interoperability.”

India’s CBDC motivations

Aside from its domestic applications, India’s central bank has also been looking at cross-border uses to reduce frictions in international payments and foreign exchange markets. The BIS’ Project Icebreaker has demonstrated the potential of retail CBDCs to address cost and time inefficiencies in cross-border transactions, and India has recently announced a collaboration with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to explore the use of CBDCs for cross-border trade and remittances. 

Another motivation for the digital rupee is the central bank’s wish to protect monetary sovereignty. The deputy governor has previously taken aim at cryptocurrencies, saying that digital currency usage worldwide should be restricted to fiat money. CBDCs may also help countries diversify away from the major reserve currencies, in particular the US dollar.

Image Copyright: hammadalikhn / 123rf