War on cash needed a very different approach

As India continues its scorched-earth campaign against cash, the question baffling many analysts is why a country so unfamiliar with digital payments would outlaw 86 percent of its currency, the most-favored method of settling transactions.  Sample the following three factoids from a study led by Tufts University researchers: Fewer than 10 percent of Indians have ever used any kind of non-cash payment instrument. Less than 3 percent of the value transacted in the year ending March 2014 used cards. Fewer than 2 percent of Indians had used a mobile phone to receive a payment, compared with over 60 percent of Kenyans.  Beyond showing the enormity of the challenge facing Prime Minister Narendra Modi, these statistics are of little relevance now. What’s done is done. With PM Modi asking people to embrace electronic payments as a way of life, investors want to know what shape these digital networks will take, and who’ll own them: banks, or non-banks such as telcos and e-wallet apps? Either party’s dominance will be wholly artificial.

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