Imagine sitting down at a charming Sikkim restaurant in Nepal, ready to enjoy a delightful meal with colleagues, only to realize that none of you have brought your wallets — no cash, no cards, nothing. Well, that happened to us on our recent trip to Nepal. We had only our smartphones, the ubiquitous companions of modern life. Now, how did we find ourselves in such a mess? Well, it’s a testament to the transformation that UPI (Unified Payments Interface) has brought to the way we handle money and payments.

In India, we’ve grown so accustomed to the convenience of digital payments that carrying a physical wallet seems almost archaic. Our smartphones are our gateways to access financial services, making it easy to pay for everything from groceries to restaurant bills. And now, as we return to the bustling streets of India, we are witnessing the next chapter in the digital payment revolution: The National Payments Corporation of India’s (NPCI’s) Hello! UPI.

Let’s dive in!

What Is The Hello! UPI?

The solution integrates the power of AI with UPI to allow users to transact through voice. The AI-powered solution will be along the lines of UPI123Pay solution but without the need for text-based inputs and instead based solely on voice-based inputs.

But why power UPI with voice commands? As per this whitepaper released by the NPCI, voice search queries have been on the rise, with a staggering 270% annual increase. This surge in voice searches has laid the foundation for the NPCI’s innovative Hello! UPI.

How Can You Use It?

It offers voice-powered payments in two modes:

  1. On-call using IVR. You dial a specified number, and you’re guided through an interactive voice response (IVR) system to finalize your payment. No typing, no fuss — just your voice!
  2. In-app voice commands. This mode lets you use voice commands within any UPI app to conduct transactions. It seamlessly integrates with existing UPI apps, recognizing your verbal requests and responding accordingly.

It will be interesting to see which mode users find more appealing — the convenience of making payments through a call or having the integration of in-app voice commands.

How Will Voice-Based Payments Enhance Daily Transactions?

On the surface, voice-powered payments do seem to have some advantages:

  • Convenience. Voice is much more of a natural input. Using it to complete your transaction can be highly convenient.
  • Speed. Voice commands can be faster than typing on a keyboard or touchscreen, assuming the implementation works as intended.
  • Accessibility. It bridges the digital divide, making payments accessible to everyone, not just people with accessibility needs but also for the segment of the population that is not very conversant with smartphone interfaces.

But more than that, it is about inclusivity. It is currently available in two languages, Hindi and English, but will soon be available in more languages, and the NPCI is working with AI4BHARAT to do that. This technology is designed to serve all Indians, especially those who prefer native languages or may not be tech-savvy. Senior citizens and digital newcomers stand to benefit significantly from this innovation.

The Hello! UPI by the NPCI is set to revolutionize digital payments in India. It’s a step toward a future when making transactions is as simple as having a conversation.

It sounds incredible, but there are some hurdles and risks that we need to be aware of before we fully embrace this new era of digital payments.

  1. Privacy matters. First and foremost, privacy — in this age of data breaches and information leaks, it’s crucial that people have the assurance of privacy when they carry out voice-based transactions. Privacy must be a priority to make this revolution accessible to millions without compromising on security.
  2. Accuracy versus convenience. Another thing to consider is the accuracy of voice recognition technology. We’re not quite at the stage where voice recognition is 100% foolproof. Imagine trying to pay your bills through voice commands and the system keeps misinterpreting your words; this can lead to frustration and then abandonment. The technology needs to work to ensure seamless transactions or else it will fail.
  3. Fraud vulnerability. Anytime we embrace a new technology, there are always those who will try to exploit it for their gain. Voice-based UPI payments can be vulnerable to fraud. Imagine someone imitating your voice or using a voice recording to make transactions on your behalf without your consent. That’s a real concern that needs to be addressed with robust security measures.

So while the prospect of voice-based UPI payments is exciting and promising, we must also tread cautiously and address these risks. It’s all about finding the right balance between convenience and security to truly revolutionize digital payments in India.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you see yourself using voice-based UPI payments soon, or do these concerns make you hesitant? If you have exciting new ideas on how to enhance the payment experience even further, I’d love to hear your thoughts. You can schedule a briefing session with me. Let’s connect and explore these concepts in depth and brainstorm ways to shape the future of payments. Alternatively, if you’re interested in gaining a deeper understanding of UPI and its capabilities, please connect with me.