Yesterday three companies unveiled a project to enable offline digital rupee payments using feature phones. The firms involved in the central bank digital currency (CBDC) project are identity firm IDEMIA, Airtel Payments Bank and HMD Global, which owns Nokia.
According to a BBC report, there are 650 million smartphone users in India and another 350 million that use feature phones. So if the digital rupee is to enable financial inclusion, it will need to reach feature phone users, who won’t have internet access in most cases.
“We are confident that once we move from the design phase and launch the solution commercially with all required approvals, it will play a pivotal role in advancing the accessibility of financial services,” said Prasad Routray, Corporate Business and Alliances Head, Airtel Payments Bank.
The only drawback is if it only targets Nokia phones. According to a Times of India report, Nokia only accounts for an 11% market share, which is likely new phone sales.
While IDEMIA may not be a household name, the identity company is substantial, with more than 15,000 employees and €2.6 billion ($2.8bn) in revenues. It has also been active in CBDC for a little while. Together with CBDC specialist Bitt, it won the 2022 G20 CBDC Techsprint for an offline wallet. It has also been involved in CBDC work in the UK, Singapore and Japan.