Everything You Need to Know About the Digital Rupee - What Is It and How Will It Be Different Than UPI?

Harshit Verma Harshit Verma
Feb 28, 2022 15 min read
Everything You Need to Know About the Digital Rupee - What Is It and How Will It Be Different Than UPI?

The rate of growth in the world right now is at probably the topmost pace. The fuel for this growth is simply the technology sector behind every organisation. Lines and walls between companies are getting more and more transparent. Every company and entity is becoming a technological entity. All these utilities of technology have induced certain dependence in the world. That utility is worthwhile too, too much of an extent.

Technology, in a nutshell, has made our surroundings more convenient than ever before. We see transactions are getting easier and easier. We see that the entertainment sector is at an all-time high, in terms of revenue generation and visibility. We see that technology has invaded our homes and hands, the utilities it provides are endless.

All the utilities that the technology provides, make it a lucrative port for every other activity. Paying someone has become easier, and in fact, the transactions have become easier. Digital cryptocurrency is the new buzzword around the world corridors.

Most people support this trend of bitcoin and other crypto asset classes. India recently announced the commencement of a digital currency. The digital rupee is a new term for every Indian and this is a move that no one has ever imagined. There is a lot of hype among people about this but most people don’t know what it will be like. In this article, we will discuss what is a digital currency and how will it be different from the UPI method or unified payments method.

What Are Digital Payments?
A Small Brief About Digital Currency
What is Digital Rupee?
What is UPI?
How Digital Rupee Will Be Different From UPI Transactions?

What Are Digital Payments?

A digital payment mechanism is a tunnel through which payments can travel digitally. For instance, UPI is a digital payments mechanism. A Unified Payment Interface is a method by which people can transfer funds digitally and directly from the bank to another bank account.

The sole purpose of the digital setup of payments is the ease and convenience which it provides. The craze of digital payments grew so much in a very small time that it shifted to more serious business.

A Small Brief About Digital Currency

When digital payments are so easy and convenient, then why not all shift to digital payment methods? Moreover, why not make a digital currency? Nowadays, crypto is a popular buzzword. Let us see what digital currency means and what crypto is.

The world of cryptocurrency and digital assets. A cryptocurrency or just crypto is a digital currency that is designed and formulated to act as a medium of exchange. The whole system is decentralised, in fact, decentralisation is the core concept on which the world of crypto is being built.

Transactions happen through computers and computer networks. All the computer networks are not controlled by anyone's authority, this by definition is known as decentralisation. There is no bank intermediary, a government or anyone else to maintain or uphold it.

A digital currency, as the name suggests, is a sort of digital money or electronic money is a sort of currency. It is money like an asset class that is primarily stored in a digital source or a computer. It is also stored and transmitted over the internet. It involves a lot of other asset classes. Types of digital currency include a lot more than just some of the asset classes.

Digital currency includes all sorts of cryptocurrency, virtual currency and all the currency which is accepted by digital currency. Except for the cryptocurrency, other asset classes may be recorded in a database that is centralised. A centralised database here means the database which is upheld by some central authority or a government figure.

This currency can be used to buy goods and services that exist in the real world. It can also however be used to buy things online, like something in an online game. Apart from being digital, digital currencies exhibit all the traits of a traditional currency. It doesn’t just have a physical form.

The fact that they are not physical in nature implies that they can be held by anyone with a computer device. This feature of digital money removes the cost of circulating physical money in the market. Transactions can happen seamlessly over the internet without any issues of lower denomination of notes.

A digital currency is usually not issued by a government body and thus, these are not considered as legal tender in many countries except El Salvador. Digital currency can be owned by anyone, even outside the borders of a country. These features also make the government not accept it as a legal tender.

Depending on the situation and characteristics of the digital currency, it can be centralised and decentralised. Centralised means some organisation that is operated under the rules of a central body. Decentralised is an organisation that has no central body and no one person or entity can control it wholly. Centralised institutes include banks and the stock market. Cryptocurrency like Bitcoin is decentralised.


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What is Digital Rupee?

This is the new word that, after its inception, became a buzzword of the month. Nirmala Sitaraman made the announcement mentioning the word digital rupee in her speech. She introduced that the government will soon unveil a digital rupee that will have all the support from the RBI or Reserve Bank of India.

Among all the crypto hype, this digital rupee will be a welcoming move by the Government of India to the world. It is said to be launched in the next financial year. It will be a central bank currency in the digital format.

Another word for it can be, CBDC, which is a central bank digital currency. This currency will be valid in India and will be accepted and transacted in the whole of the country. Let us see what more we heard about this new head of currency.

Indians were surprised at the time when our finance minister made an uncommon statement. This proposal of a digital rupee had many people in surprise.

Vipin Kumar, CEO TechnoloaderPvt. Ltd said launching a digital rupee using blockchain will not be an arduous task for the government.
β€œPeople in India are already amicable with the concept of digital transactions or payments in the form of UPI ID and barcode. Presently a great many people are doing digital transactions in their way of living. If the government is planning to launch a digital rupee using blockchain; accepting it also will not be an arduous task. Government has to refurbish technical aspects. Only mobile applications desire to update and UPI id entail replacement with Wallet address as blockchain works on wallets addresses," said Vipin Kumar.

There were immediate questions about how the digital rupee would operate. What will be its use cases and how we will be able to transact in digital rupee. How different it will be from the UPI payments that we make on a daily basis.

Digital money, built from blockchain technology will be transferred from one digital wallet to another like other cryptos assets. β€œOne will have to punch in the wallet address of the recipient to transfer the money. It would be as good as today's UPI transactions where the value of money is transferred from one's wallet or bank account to another," Kunal Jagdale, Founder, BitsAir Exchange
β€œAs the usage of the Digital Rupee increases, it could also benefit things like cross-border remittances, an environment could be created for interoperability whereby faster real-time remittance occurs," said Kunal Jagdale.

The Digital rupee which the government will unveil in the next financial year will be seamless and real-time. The transactions will be made through a digital currency tunnel.

Transactions will be real-time and every Indian can send their money to another person, even overseas and across borders. There will be no need for any central authority. This means that the transactions will happen at an instant and will be needing no intermediary in between transacting bodies.

Even though digital currency will not be available in the physical form, it will be acceptable. Digital currency will be as acceptable as cash and will be a legal tender in any sort of transaction. Payments made through CBDCs (Central Bank Digital Currency) will also reduce settlement risks and the demand for interbank settlements.

Finance minister Nirmala Sitaraman has also mentioned that the country will launch a digital version of the rupee as early as this year. It will be usable from the next financial year itself.

Apart from the announcement of a digital currency, the finance minister in her budget speech also mentioned that any trading gains or transfer gains of cryptos will be taxed. This means every gain from any crypto transaction or NFT (Non-fungible tokens) sales proceeds will be taxed 30 percent. All these gains will fall into the top class tax bracket in India.

The primary two motives behind launching a digital currency are simple. First, the digital currency will give a jump to the digital economy. Secondly, the digital currency will be cheaper for the government than producing physical currency notes. This way the government is trying to kill two birds with one stone.

Ms Sitharaman also said the magnitude and frequency of digital asset transactions "have made it imperative to provide for a specific tax regime", where profits from transactions are taxed. Taxes of this sort will also be levied on any transaction of digital assets, which means that they will also be levied when someone gifts this asset to another. In this case, the receiver will be the liable person.

In 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi withdrew the currency notes of 500 and 1000 rupee from the financial system. Within very short notice, notes of this denomination got terminated as a legal tender and the economy was pushed to a digital world.

The Indian payments landscape changed forever, after demonetisation. Companies like Paytm, which works in the digital payments sector got an immense boost from this government direction. On the other hand, India’s neighbour China was also involved in some digital currency work. The United Kingdom also saw some potential at the time in digital currency.

Sumit Gupta, co-founder and chief executive of India-based cryptocurrency exchange CoinDCX, told the BBC that the initiative "has given legitimacy to virtual digital assets”. Sumit thinks that taxing digital assets would be good for the market but believes the rate is too high.
"A tax rate of 30% is on par with that imposed on gains from speculative activities like the lottery, gambling and other gaming activities. That proposed 30% might act as a dampener for greater adoption," he said.

Among all the hype of a new digital currency, the ongoing digital crypto is seen as a new digital asset. The new digital currency will be a new thing by the RBI. However, with all the technological shields that we stand with today, the digital rupee has high hopes from citizens.

According to the Reserve Bank of India and the finance minister, the currency will be seamlessly transferred and will be easy for the government to take charge and control. This is a win-win for everyone. More details about the platform and transactions will be officially out soon from the RBI. However, with the announcement of a digital currency, cryptocurrency is seen as an accepted currency.

With all the speculations from the public and the unclearness of the new digital currency, many people are connecting the digital currency with that of UPI. Unified payments interface is a very famous transacting mechanism in India. It is, however, said to differ from the digital currency or the digital rupee which the government is planning to push into Indian markets. Before we get to the differences it is good to know some basic information about the UPI and how the unified payment interface works.


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What is UPI (Unified Payments Interface)?

There is little possibility that you haven’t heard of UPI in today's world. It is almost everywhere in every marketplace. It is easy, convenient, seamless and real-time. As the name suggests, a unified payment interface is a payment pathway in which a person can transact money via digital means. People can add multiple bank accounts to their UPI apps which are available in the market today and can start transacting. It is a real-time payment system for money transfers and the settlement is done in both the receiver's and the sender’s bank account.

The UPI is developed by the National Payments Corporation of India or NPCI. This digital payment mechanism is regulated by the Reserve Bank of India. UPI can be used every day of the week and every month of the year, it is universal in nature.

All it needs is a bank account and an internet connection. However it is noted that there is no digital currency involved, it is simple to transfer bank funds from one person to the other. A UPI transaction can be initiated and accepted both by a person, any individual and also any business out there in the country.

The Unified Payments system is secure by all means and uses some of the same pathways as digital currency transactions. The unified payments system has a data log of VPA ids, which is a unique ID that is given to every individual who is getting into the UPI transactions.

This VPA ID or the Virtual Payment Address is the address where the payment has to be made. It is simply the bank account that is linked with the Virtual Payment ID to which or from which the payment is initiated. It can be made by a bank name or the person can choose one himself or herself as opposed to in digital currency transactions.

Most of the time, the email address or the mobile number of the person is made their VPA address. VPA is something that directs the payment/transaction path. Transfers can be inter-bank and they can also be intra-bank. A mobile number also works seamlessly in the UPI payment system, if it is attached/linked with the bank account of the sender or receiver.

Most UPI apps have no holding capacity. They are not wallets, except a few like Paytm. Most UPI apps like Google Pay does not offer wallet services. Companies like Paytm do that. It is however to be noted that UPI does not hold any money in between. Wallet services are the sole services of the payment pathways companies like Paytm.

UPI works simply by settling payments from one bank and the other. It works on request by the transferee and then works towards settling the money settlement among participating banks of persons involved. A sender can initiate a transfer using a two-step secure process: you have to login to a UPI app - then you have to type the VPA id or scan a QR code - then you can send money by entering your UPI Pin that is personal to you.

The payment hits instantly and in real-time. This means, by the time you get the notification of money sent, another person will get the notification of money received.

After a brief discussion, it is time to see how both the payments are different. The digital currency which the government will release next year and the Unified payments interface that we use even today. What are the most noticeable differences and what are the most significant upgrades over the UPI payments mechanism? Let us see the key differences between the digital rupee and the UPI payments.

How Digital Rupee Will Be Different From UPI Transactions?

UPI is our day to day useful item. We use it even multiple times a day. It is handy, easy and convenient. It works seamlessly everywhere and has almost negligible issues. But how it is different from the digital rupee that the finance minister just announced in India. This is a valid question. Let us see what will be the key differences between a digital rupee and the UPI apps and payment mechanisms

The first difference is that the Digital rupee will be a standalone payment mode. As opposed to the UPI which is a payment processing tunnel. If we use UPI methods, they all don’t act like the underlying asset in transactions, instead, they are the ones who will be processing the money in your bank account. In this case, your money in the bank is the underlying asset that will enter the transaction. In the case of a digital rupee, it will itself be the underlying asset that will enter the transaction.

β€œThe payment rails like UPI, IMPS etc use the underlying currency/cash to transfer the funds. In other cases, it is expected that payment rails will work together with the digital rupee to ensure a seamless payment transaction," said Mihir Gandhi, Partner & Payments Transformation Leader, PwC India.

Any payment that is made through the Unified payment interface, will be equivalent to the transfer of currency notes. As there are banks, the government and all the proper authorities at work, who allows the transaction. This means that every amount which is transacted by the UPI method is backed and supported by a physical currency transaction. Which makes the process of transaction impossible to jump through. In the case of the digital rupee, this will be even more efficient and effective.

β€œThe digital rupee will be legal tender in and of itself and need not necessarily be backed up by physical currency," said Sumit Gwalani, Co-Founder, Neobank Fi.

Another difference is the fact that UPI transactions are involved between participating banks and they have their own UPI handlers. In the case of the digital rupee, the digital currency will be equal to the physical currency. It will be operated by the Reserve Bank Of India and no commercial bank will enter the process.

They will be informed but the central figure of RBI will always recognise the transactions happening in the digital rupee. This will add more accountability to any sort of transaction.

The digital rupee is no different from your normal rupee; it can be used to do normal transactions like NEFT, UPI. The digital rupee will be operated by RBI and not by bank intermediaries in the case of UPI where each bank has a different UPI handler, said Manoj Dalmia, Founder and Director, Proassets Exchange

The digital rupee will eliminate settlements in commercial banks. It will be directed directly by the Reserve Bank India and thus, will be instant and seamless. Record keeping will also become easier.

UPI payments currently rely on the settlement of the transacting banks with the RBI, Digital Ruppe will be transacting directly from RBI, hence it will be settled instantly, said Vinshu Gupta, Founder and Director, Nonceblox Blockchain Studio.

It is evident from the above discussion that the digital rupee is definitely an upgrade over the Unified payments interface. It will add more accountability to the system of transactions. It will be more seamless and as real-time as possible.

These transactions will also be introduced in the market without incurring a lot of costs, as the digital rupee will be made at less cost than physical notes. These are the most noticeable benefits and there will be more benefits when it comes to the market. The government is welcoming the digital change of currency as it is more efficient.


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Conclusion

UPI payments have been the most convenient money transacting mechanism that we have seen today. As the world becomes more and more tech-savvy, people are rethinking ideas of money and transactions. Which has led to the development of digital transactions and even currency that has no physical nature of existence. We now live in a world of numbers.

In the seven budget, the Indian Finance minister announced that the government will be launching a digital rupee. Many people are considering this as a welcoming move toward the cryptocurrency hype in the rest of the world. Others are just wondering if it will be a good decision.

It can be seen from the above discussions that the digital rupee is definitely an upgrade over the Unified payments interface payment tunnel. As transactions will be recorded and regulated by the Reserve Bank of India, It will add more accountability to transacting parties. The digital rupee will be more seamless and as real-time as UPI.

These transactions will also be introduced in the market without incurring a lot of new costs. The digital rupee will be circulated in public at a lesser cost than is needed to circulate physical notes. It is a move that simply implies that the government wants better governance over the money transactions happening in the country. It is imperative, as we are a really populous country and the digital rupee can be the perfect money.

FAQ

Which is the first digital currency?

Bitcoin is one of the first and most popular digital currencies.

What is digital or virtual currency?

A digital currency is a digital representation of currency that is stored in an electronic form that can be mobile or computer. It can be centralized or decentralized.

There are no regulations on crypto nor the Bitcoin is banned in India.

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