The National Payments Corporation of India has launched RuPay, a bank-backed debit card scheme to rival Visa, MasterCard and America Express.
The idea for RuPay was first mooted by the Reserve bank of India in 2005 as a cheaper alternative to the plastic on offer from the big card schemes.
The new card, which is initially being offered to customers by Union Bank of India and Bank of India, will be accepted at all 91,000+ ATMs and over 600,000 Point of Sale terminals in the country. NCPI has also cut a deal with Discover for international acceptance.
In the initial phase, banks accepting RuPay Debit cards on their POS terminals are Axis Bank, Bank of Baroda, Corporation Bank and State Bank of India.
Rupay has pledged to massively undercut the fees charged by the foreign card schemes and is offering an interchange rate that is 40% cheaper than its competitors.
A P Hota, NCPI managing director and chief executive officer, says several banks are in the process of testing and certification.
"All major banks are expected to be a part of RuPay network in six months' time," he says. "Regional rural banks, co-operative Banks and smaller commercial banks which were not in a position to join the card payment system due to high cost of initial participation fee and quarterly minimum processing fees would hence forth be able to participate in RuPay because there are no such fees under RuPay."
Not-for-profit RuPay has set out a clear roadmap for the creation of a low-cost electronic payment scheme capable of weaning the nation away from its reliance on cash. The group has already partnered with the Unique Identification Authority of India to provide pre-paid cards for welfare and benefit recipients.
RuPay chief Hota says the coalition is aiming for a 50% market share by 2015, at which point it will roll out its first credit cards.