Let the app wars begin.
This article is written based on the analysis of app metadata made available by Srikanth Lakshmanan as part of his CashlessConsumer initiative. Lakshmanan is a software professional with interests in opensource, opendata, localisation, Internet and volunteers on various online movements.
With 4.2 million transactions in January, UPI-based payments are no doubt growing. From private players to banks, everyone wants in on the action, leaving a litter of UPI apps in the market. By last count there were at least 42 apps that supported UPI-based transactions.
The government is actively recommending the BHIM app with plans to incentivise its use through merchants cash backs and customer referral bonuses. It is no doubt growing in heft (Jaitley claimed 125-lakh downloads during the budget presentation).
But how does it stack up against the other UPI apps?
While private players can support UPI transactions through their apps, it has to be in partnership with a payment service provider (currently banks). For instance, PhonePe has partnered with YES Bank as the payment service provider. In fact, YES Bank has been the most aggressive in partnering with private players to be the PSP bank that enables UPI services — it powers 8 different UPI apps. BHIM app is the only one enabled by an umbrella organisation (National Payments Corporation of India).
While installs aren’t a measure of either success (they can be heavily influenced by marketing spend) or quality (they do not reveal uninstalls or inactives), they do provide us a very broad direction in terms of who is winning in the market.
Google Play Store ratings (with a significant number of reviewers) provides a better indicator of the quality of the app and how well it fulfils its promised use-case.
App size is indicative of inclusiveness of the UPI app — especially in a country where a large number of people have budget phones with low memory and download speeds and cost prohibit large app downloads.
The size of SBI Pay and BHIM app is likely to encourage their adoption more easily than other UPI apps but the flip-side would be to ask this question: Did these apps compromise on any security / safety feature to shrink the app size?
Considering the aggressive drive towards digital-India and adoption of cashless transactions, one would have thought that localisation would be a high-priority feature but very few UPI apps offer support for Indian languages.
The basic features that are a must-have are the “send” (pay) and “receive”(collect) options for money transfers. On top, there are additional features like ability to split payments, use of multiple-VPAs, dual-sim support, QR code handling, in-app QR code scanner, UPI link handling, bill payments using UPI and support for Aadhar payments.
These parameters are in no way the exhaustive list to measure the quality of the UPI apps. Besides these variables one would have to look at the app performance, customer support, product UX, robustness of security and also how frequently the app developers keep the app updated with fixes, features and security patches. Having said that, these provide a good high level indication of what apps are rising to the top. Purely on the merit of this limited meta-data, PhonePe is ahead of its competitors (all 41 of them). It has better features, is rated well by users, offers some localisation and is also the most installed UPI app. However, among the other pure-play UPI apps (ignoring the net-banking apps of ICICI and HDFC), the BHIM app is close behind. It has the backing of the government and offers many of the UPI features. More importantly, with a smaller app size, it seems to be custom-built for larger adoption as the digital initiative moves into the hinterlands.