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India Going Cashless Could Be a Model for the World

Who will succeed in this crowded field? News reports give a lead to Google, though that could change as people-to-merchant payments start to dominate people-to-people transactions. In e-commerce payments, competition will be stiff between Amazon.com Inc. and Walmart. Online sales, though, are a sliver of overall Indian retail. With more than 300 million subscribers for his Jio mobile service, Ambani now wants to win over small stores, which are reluctant to go cashless because of high card fees. If his telecom, retail and payments operations can jump the hurdle of a new data privacy law and come together seamlessly, a Jio phone user visiting her neighborhood grocer could get discount vouchers via SMS from Unilever’s Indian unit and in-store credit offers from State Bank of India. And if Jio runs a so-called open-banking platform to help small stores order goods and manage cash, consumer spending will circulate between merchants’ and suppliers’ accounts held at Jio Payments Bank. The float will be Ambani’s moat.