UPI Global: Does UPI Work Outside India?

This blog details the meaning of UPI Global. We explain why and how the UPI payment infrastructure is being expanded worldwide. 


The Indian economy is taking many steps to embrace digitization.

Unified Payments Interface, aka UPI, is one such step in the process. The new-age payment model enables users to instantly send and receive payments via their smartphones. 

In fact, a great percentage of merchants are integrating with payment aggregators to integrate UPI payment gateways. 

As of December 2021, UPI registered a monthly volume of 4.56 billion transactions. India is now gearing up to take UPI global and make it a universally used and accepted mode of payment. In fact, Nepal just became the first country to adopt India’s UPI payments system. 

In this blog, we’ll talk about UPI global in-depth – its meaning, uniqueness, statistics, challenges, and more. Let’s get started.

What is Unified Payments Interface (UPI)?

UPI is a unified platform that enables users to merge and manage multiple bank accounts on one single platform and conduct various banking activities.

 For instance, with UPI you can:

  • Send money to anyone by entering their unique VPA in UPI, Aadhar number, or by scanning a QR code (P2P and vendor payments alike)
  • Recurring billing with UPI Autopay
  • Request money from another UPI user by initiating payment collection 
  • Quickly make payment to a merchant by scanning their QR code   
  • View, filter, and download transaction history directly from the app 
  • Raise disputes in case of failed/pending transactions
  • Set preferred UPI IDs and switch between profiles to complete transactions  
  • Share bills via different messaging platforms 
Use Cashfree Payments to accept UPI payments: UPI Global

The best part, the platform enables users to make instant money transfers via a mobile application 24×7 and 365 days. The current UPI transaction limit is INR 1 lakh per day. 

As per a report published by the Economic Intelligence Unit, UPI has also made India one of the leading nations in the global real-time payments market. It demonstrates how enabling policy framework and supportive regulations can create an infrastructure much needed to cater to today’s easy and swift payment needs. 

Take a look at this diagram to understand how UPI payment processing works.

P2P UPI payment process system : UPI Global

Related Read: How Payment Gateway Works 

Moreover, the government and central bank of India themselves are encouraging the country’s citizens to use tools like QR codes, and payment links to make quick payments and do away with cash transactions. 
India is now planning to take UPI global and is in talks with many countries including Singapore, UAE, Bhutan, Nepal, etc., to adopt and implement the concept in their respective payment markets.

UPI Goes Global

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), are working together to expand the reach of Unified Payments Interface (UPI) globally.

In fact, the RBI has approached other central banks of many nations and has highlighted the advantages of using UPI as an efficient and secure payment system. The second below details upon some of these advantages.

Reason Behind Taking UPI Global

Looking at the growth rate of UPI, NPCI announced that it was time for them to draft the scope to release UPI in the global market. Here are some reasons why.

Secure Payment Infrastructure for Cross-border Shoppers

On November 17, 2021, NPCI International Payments Limited (NIPL) signed an agreement with PPRO Financial. 

One of the leading global providers of local payments infrastructure, PPRO will help India expand the growth of UPI and RuPay cards in the international market. Especially, China and the United States. 

The two countries together account for almost half of the international purchases made by Indians during a financial year. The UK-based firm assures to bring aboard its vast network of clients including payment service providers (PSPs) and global merchant acquirers to accept payments via UPI and RuPay cards. 

User-friendly Payment for Cross-Border Travel  

With UPI, Indians will no longer need to carry a Forex card or the nation’s currency to make transactions. Just like their debit or credit cards, they’ll be able to make payments via UPI. 

Exploring International Business Propositions

Besides making the technology excel in the domestic market, the Reserve Bank of India is also exploring international business propositions. By exporting the technology to other economies of the world, India will be able to

  • Leverage technology to strengthen partnerships
  • Help economies introduce a unified payment system in their respective economies reap benefit 

Streamline Use of UPI in International Market

The National Payments Corporation of India has launched a dedicated international subsidiary called the NPCI International to look after all the foreign operations, adoptions. and expansions in various countries.  

Countries Adopting UPI Global 

Listed below are some countries that have/ are in plans to adopt UPI. 

Nepal

Nepal has become the first country to adopt UPI payment system in their country.

NIPL has recently collaborated with Nepal’s leading payment system operator Gateway Payments Service and Manam Infotech to deploy UPI as one of the payment methods in the country. 

The partnership will: 

  • Boost open interoperable system and enable immediate P2P and P2M UPI payment transactions in Nepal 
  • Drive digitization of cash transactions and offer the convenience of digital payments to the citizens of Nepal
  • Enable real-time, cross-border person-to-person transactions between Nepal and India 

UPI will play a critical role in transforming the digital economy of the country and help it become a cash-light society in the coming years. 

Apart from Nepal, there are a lot of countries looking to adopt UPI.

Singapore 

The Singapore government has joined the league of countries interested in adopting UPI as one of the payment methods in their country. In November 2020, the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) and Network for Electronic Transfers (NETS) of Singapore, jointly developed the project enabling Indians to make payments in Singapore via the BHIM-UPI app.  

A memorandum of understanding was signed between the two parties to ensure the commencement of the initiative and allow people to make person-to-person (P2P) and person-to-merchant (P2M) transactions in Singapore. 

Looking at the success of the project, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Monetary Authority of Singapore are now joining hands to link their immediate payment networks, UPI and PayNow. This will not only enable individuals and businesses to make instant, low-cost fund transfers between the two countries but also boost their respective financial sectors. 

Related Read: UPI Payments For Businesses

The project is expected to go live by July 2022. Once it’s operational, the new app will further serve as an anchor for smoother trade transactions, travel as well as the flow of remittances between India and Singapore.

UAE

After Singapore, the Government of India launched UPI in the United Arab Emirates. It is said that nearly 2 million Indians travel to the UAE every year on business or leisure trips. 

The introduction of UPI as a mode of payment will help Indians transact easily across shops and merchant stores in the UAE. 

The rollout of UPI through the proposed partnership between NPCI International Payments Ltd (NIPL) and Mashreq Bank is expected to commence in the first quarter of 2022.    

The strategic partnership between the two nations ensure will provide the following benefits to the respective entities

  • Boost digital payment ecosystem in the UAE
  • Position the UAE as an international commerce and tourism hub  
  • Seamless transactions ensure an excellent user experience
  • Widen the reach of UPI in the international market
  • Smoothen trade transactions between India and the UAE

Bhutan 

Bhutan is one of the latest additions to the list of countries that will enable Indians to make payment(s) using the BHIM-UPI app in the country. 

This comes from the fact that nearly 200,000 Indians travel to Bhutan every year.

The expansion of the use of UPI in Bhutan will

  • Open many new avenues for Indian Fintechs to explore
  • Boost the use of digital payment methods
  • Seamlessly connect the payment infrastructure of the two countries       

The UPI payment system was launched by NPCI International Payments Ltd. (NIPL), in association with the Royal Monetary Authority (RMA) of Bhutan.

How Does UPI Global Work?

NPCI International Payments Ltd (NIPL) has signed agreements with various leading global providers of local payments infrastructure. (For instance, PPRO) The aim is to expand and empower the growth of India’s digital payments ecosystem in the international market.

The agreement between the two parties aims to increase the adoption of UPI across all of PPRO’s global clients.    

These would ideally include payment service providers (PSPs), and global merchant acquirers among others. 

This will help Indians travelling to distant locations transact easily on foreign land, not worry about carrying a Forex card or the tourist designation’s local currency and enjoy their travel. 

Now, businesses may also choose to accept UPI payments through payment links, QR codes, or webb/app payment gateway integrations

use Payment links to Accept UPI payments: UPI Global

The partnership will also open the Indian market for foreign PSPs and global merchants to tap into and gain monetary benefits. 

While these are just some of the benefits that UPI going global brings to the plate, the actual monetary potential is yet to be understood. UPI has vast potential to help India build strong bilateral economic and business partnerships with other countries, and make India stand as soft power.

Challenges With Taking UPI Global 

Onboarding International Merchants 

While many nations have agreed to introduce UPI as one of the payment modes for Indians to use in their countries, numerous others are still skeptical. They believe that onboarding traditional banks to introduce UPI will be a major blocker. For it’s hard for legacy systems to adopt new technologies and the adoption period itself can be highly time and resource consuming

Payment Security

Although a robust system has been developed by NPCI to ensure seamless and secure international payments via UPI, the chances of cyber breaches persist. 

The agencies working behind the UPI technology are continuously working to add new and enhanced security features to ensure no or negligible cyber attacks. 

Competitive Payment System 

Every project comes with its own set of challenges. So does UPI global. 

While India may have succeeded in partnering with some countries and expanded the use of UPI, many others are still sceptical to tap into this strategic partnership. 

For instance, Europe has its own account-to-account fund transfer system led by BNP Paribas. Partnering with India to launch UPI or use India’s technology to build a similar platform will clash with their already existing payment systems. The same problem prevails in the case of the United States and China.  

Embracing Zero Transactional Charges

NPCI has imposed zero transactional charges in India. 

Now, Merchant Discount Rate are some of the ways through which banks or PSPs earn revenue. 

Doing away with these revenue streams might be  unacceptable to them. So, a new transaction charge system might need to be worked out. 

Enjoy lowest payment gateway charges in India with Cashfree Payments : UPI Global

Opening Customer Data To Rival Banks

Another feature that UPI promotes is transparency. While the Indian banking system is open to such transparency, banks operating in other geographic locations are highly uncomfortable sharing their details with rival banks. 

Essentially, UPI uses open-banking APIs to enable one bank to access the account information of a patron from another bank to process a payment. This means a rival bank can access the information of existing customers and offer them better services. 

Indian payment players have embraced this infrastructure with competitive spirit. 

However, the same cannot be said about all the economies looking to adopt UPI.

However, the benefits  of UPI far outweighs its challenges.

Lets have a look at some of the reasons why UPI payment system is being applauded worldwide. 

Reasons Behind Growth Of UPI In India

The UPI payment mode has proved its worth in the Indian market and exceeded the success of every other payment mode introduced to date. 

But, do we really know the reasons why UPI is such a big hit amid Indians? 

Here are some noteworthy points that highlight the uniqueness of UPI in the Indian market.  

Major Contributor To India’s GDP

It’s interesting to note that the total digital transactions have exponentially increased in the last half a decade.   

In fact, UPI recorded a whopping 40% of the total 55 billion digital transactions that took place in FY 2020-21. 

Putting these numbers into perspective, the value of transactions recorded on BHIM UPI accounted for almost 19% of the Indian GDP in FY 2020-21.

Widespread Customer Adoption

Since the interface is regulated by the Reserve Bank of India, UPI offers a sense of security to the users. 

Moreover, nearly 274 banks offer UPI facilities, which is another reason behind the widespread adoption of UPI in India. As per NPCI’s official website, UPI recorded a monthly volume of 4.18 billion transactions in the month of November 2021.   

UPI enables users to safely, securely, and instantly transfer funds between two bank accounts using a mobile application.

User-Friendly

The ease of use allows any application to be widely accepted by the masses. 

The RBI understands the fact and hence, has made UPI the most user-friendly payment platform available in India.   

Some of its unparalleled benefits that ensure superior customer experience are as follows.

  • Simple functionality – It requires only a Virtual Payment Address (VPA) i.e. a UPI ID. Other details such as an account number, IFSC code, etc. are not a necessity. 
  • Interoperability – You can transfer funds in real-time to multiple bank accounts. Facility available 24x7x365 days. 
  • Affordable merchant acceptance – The infrastructure enables users to make payment via both static UPI QR and dynamic UPI QR codes available through ePOS.
  • Payment and collection – You can pay as well as collect payment via your unique UPI ID. 
  • No need for beneficiary approval – Unlike net banking, UPI gives you the leverage to send payment to anyone without pre-adding or approving the beneficiary. 

As of August 2021, UPI has nearly 220 million users who did approximately 3.5 billion financial transactions in August.

Low Or No Transaction Cost

UPI is one of the best low-cost alternatives to cash. 

In fact, as of late, it’s a free-of-cost payment platform. In February 2020, the NPCI has enabled zero Merchant Discount Rate on UPI transactions.

Seamless Fund Collection From Customers

Besides enabling users to make payments, it also allows you to collect payments with utmost ease and comfort. Simply click on the ‘collect fund’ option available in your UPI payment app and request to receive funds. 

Each and every transaction processed via UPI app is backed by many layers of security. This reduces the chances of fraud to negligible. For instance, all UPI transactions done via Cashfree Payments dashboard comply with all the necessary security measures

  • Transaction Security Measures:
    • PCI-DSS Certification (for card storage and processing)
    • All communications are done via TLS and HTTPS protocols
    • 128-bit end-to-end encryption (Data at rest & in transit) using algorithms – RSA, AES, and SHA
  • Data Security Measures:
  • Penetration tests are done every six months to ensure secure storage of data
  • Strictly following data retention policy as detailed under the Reserve Bank of India norms
  • All the necessary logs are stored at least for a period of one year with data backup and archiving feature
  • Approved antivirus solutions are deployed on all the production instances
  • Access to critical systems is limited to selected, few employees with 2FA login requirements

Financial Inclusion 

Financial inclusion refers to the availability of equal opportunities for everyone to access financial services. This is exactly what UPI stands for. 

  • Extremely easy to use – this means high adoption rate even among the disadvantaged sections of the Indian population
  • Zero Merchant Discount Rate – a low cost infrastructure with no transaction and hidden charges 
  • One, single umbrella – multiple bank accounts on one platform making it easy to manage accounts and financials
  • Least chances of overuse – since money is instantly debited from your bank account, it avoids the situation of overspending
  • Socio-economic barriers – anyone and everyone can use UPI unlike many similar modes of payments. 

As of date, UPI is one of India’s most used payment methods since its launch in 2016.  

The Future of UPI Global 

From registering 93,000 transactions in August 2016 valued at USD 30 million, UPI recorded almost 38 billion transactions in December 2021 totaling the value to USD 71.59 trillion. UPI also recorded approximately 7.7 million IPO mandates created via UPI in July 2021. As per the statistics released by the Government of India, UPI is also predicted to surpass Visa and Mastercard by 2023

At such a pace, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see UPI flourish as one of the leading payments platforms in the international market. Nations such as Singapore, UAE, and Bhutan have already agreed to offer UPI payment services to Indians. It’s only a matter of time to see its adoption on a global scale in some or the other form. 

Frequently Asked Questions About UPI Global 

How can a merchant start accepting payments on UPI?

Any merchant operating in India can use UPI to accept payments. All they need to do is register with one of the technology applications that offer UPI services such as Google Pay, Paytm, PhonePe, BHIM, etc. They can also register with a payment aggregator like Cashfree Payments and accept UPI payments. 

Cashfree Payments offer three types of integrations to choose from. 

  • Web integration/API for accepting payments on-site
  • Mobile integration for accepting payment on app
  • eCommerce plugins for Shopify, WooCommerce, etc.

Once you’ve made a choice, here’s how you can sign up with Cashfree Payments and use UPI to accept payments.

  • Go to Cashfree’s official website and create an account
  • Enter your work email address and create a password and accept the terms and conditions. 
  • Once done, add your business details and other relevant information such as monthly transaction volume, etc. and click on Next. 
  • Select one or more solutions that suit your business needs. 
  • Click on Complete Signup.
  • You’ll then receive a verification link on your work email address. Click on the link and verify your account.

You can now start using Cashfree Payments to accept payments via its intuitive dashboard and even explore many other features that the PSP offers to its clients. 

Are UPI and Google Pay the same?

No. individuals and businesses use UPI technology to send and receive payments instantaneously. RBI (Reserve Bank of India) owns this tech and NPCI (National Payment Corporation of India) operates it. 

Google Pay (GPay), on the other hand, is just a technology application that enables users to easily and securely use UPI to make transactions. GPay has partnered with almost all the leading national and international banks operating in India to offer UPI services.