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Reliance, a major retailer in India, accepts CBDC at its stores with plans for further expansion – Industry roundup: 8 February

US companies in Taiwan prepare contingency plans in the midst of China tensions

The American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) revealed that nearly half of the businesses surveyed in Taiwan have revised or intend to alter their business continuity plans as a result of the conflicts with China, with 33% of respondents citing that the rise in frictions had significantly disrupted their operations, up from 17% in a survey conducted in August 2022.

In the face of the tensions, 47% of businesses reported that they have updated their business continuity plans to address the emerging geopolitical landscape. Additionally, an increase in shipping, insurance or finance costs were the top three reported disruptions, according to AmCham Taiwan, was cited by 214 of its 437 members that participated in the December poll.

The organization has reportedly called for an aggressive strategy to hasten economic trade relations with Taiwan via a new framework for Taiwan-US collaboration, aiming to achieve a bilateral trade agreement. Reports indicate that the US and Taiwan are now engaged in negotiations, with expectations to advance rapidly.

BIS Project "Pyxtrial" creating application to track stablecoin reserves

The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) intends to concentrate more on stablecoins and central bank digital currencies in 2023, with the aim of enhancing payment systems and safeguarding the financial industry, said recent reports.

Project Pyxtrial, an experiment started by the Innovation Hub's London Centre, which aims to assist central banks with systemically monitoring stablecoins and their balance sheets, is reportedly one of the main objectives of the organization. The BIS claimed that most central banks lack the necessary capabilities to maintain a close watch on stablecoins as well as prevent asset-liability mismatches. The project aims to assess several technology resources that could assist regulators and supervisors in creating frameworks for policy based on integrated data.

Reports clarify that stablecoins are defined as cryptocurrencies that have their worth tied to assets with steady prices, such as fiat money. Furthermore, the stablecoin issuer must reportedly keep reserves that are as least as valuable as the tokens they have distributed in order to maintain the peg, as well as continuously provide dollar convertibility using those reserves.

In addition to stablecoins, the BIS stated that it is still experimenting with retail CBDCs to facilitate less expensive cross-border payments as well as investigating automated foreign exchange market makers using CBDCs. More study is reportedly underway on real-time financial market monitoring techniques, such as cryptocurrency and decentralized finance.

The Reserve Bank of India’s MPC raises the repo rate by 25 basis points

The Reserve Bank of India's (RBI) Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) has raised the repo rate, which is the rate RBI lends to banks, by 25 basis points to 6.50%, the first rate hike in 2023. The verdict of the MPC was divided 4-2. Prior to that, the repo rate was increased by 35 basis points on 7 December.

Shaktikanta Das, Governor, RBI, stated that the Indian economy remains strong in the midst of volatile global trends. However, the central bank plans to continue to monitor the economic situation closely. The National Statistical Office's (NSO) preliminary estimates of real GDP growth in FY23 were reported at 7%, projecting the growth rate for FY24 to be 6.4%. The latest Economic Survey from the Finance Ministry projected growth of 6-6.8% for 2023-24. Das stated that, while inflation is expected to lower in the upcoming fiscal year, it is still likely to remain above 4%.

The RBI's monetary policy reportedly directs the bank and lending rates in the economy, such as when the repo rate rises, deposit and loan interest rates usually follow, and when the repo rate is reduced, the same pattern is observed.

Reliance, a major retailer in India, accepts CBDC at its stores with plans for further expansion

Reliance Retail, a retail behemoth in India led by multi-billionaire Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh Ambani, has reportedly begun accepting payments in digital rupee for retail purchases, significantly increasing the acceptance of the CBDC that was introduced in the nation recently.

The retail company has reportedly collaborated with ICICI Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank and fintech Innoviti Technologies to debut the in-store support for the digital rupee. Customers can expect to scan purchases at the store using a unique digital rupee acceptance QR code if they choose to pay using the nation’s CBDC, also known as e₹-R.

Additionally, Reliance Retail, which is a division of the Indian consortium Reliance and reportedly the largest company in India to use the digital rupee, announced that it has begun implementing CBDC at its Freshpik gourmet outlet line, aiming to gradually roll out the functionality to all of its sites.

The central bank of India reportedly began testing the e₹-R CBDC in the retail market in a few Indian cities in December 2022. The Reserve Bank of India intends to use the e₹-R to reduce the nation's dependency on cash and make global payments more cost-effective and seamless, while also providing security against the volatility of private crypto. Furthermore, the central bank plans to explore additional applications and functions of the digital rupee based on the test findings of the continuous assessments underway.

Deepak Sharma, President and Chief Digital Officer, Kotak Mahindra Bank, commented that “e₹-R is a game-changer in the country's digital revolution.” Customers with e₹-R wallets will reportedly be able to initiate electronic payments at Reliance Retail stores in an easy and secure manner.

Indian-based fintech, PhonePe, launches cross-border solution using UPI

PhonePe, an Indian-based digital payments and financial technology company, has introduced a service dubbed UPI International, enabling its Indian users traveling overseas to pay foreign businesses using the unified payments interface (UPI). PhonePe is reportedly the first fintech to offer this service in India. The fintech has reportedly grown to become India's top payments app, with 435 million registered users.

Currently, the service is reportedly available to merchants with a local QR code in the UAE, Singapore, Mauritius, Nepal and Bhutan. Users can expect to make direct payments in a foreign currency from their Indian bank, similar to global debit cards.

With a recent US $350 million investment from General Atlantic and a $12 billion valuation, PhonePe has reportedly become the most valuable fintech company in India. Reports from Bain and Company cite that the funds raised will enable PhonePe to expand its business and compete with Google Pay, Paytm and Amazon Pay in the forecasted $350 billion Indian fintech market by 2026.

Users of PhonePe can expect to utilize the PhonePe App to authorize their UPI-linked bank account for the service at the merchant location or in advance of their foreign travel. In order to make purchases at overseas merchant outlets, users typically use foreign currency, their credit cards or their FX cards. However, users can now reportedly utilize their Indian bank account to make payments using UPI.

The National Payments Corporation of India and International Payments Limited aim to expand the use of UPI International throughout more nations later this year.

Fiserv reveals acquisitions led to double digit growth for 2022, with 7-9% revenue growth projected for 2023

US-based payment firm, Fiserv Inc., has disclosed that its growth for the fourth quarter and for the fiscal year 2022 was primarily driven by merchant acceptance, payments, network and financial technologies. In comparison to 2021, Fiserv’s three major business sectors reported increases in organic revenue growth (excluding recent acquisitions) of 17%, 9% and 5%. The firm also reported 12% growth in organic revenue for the quarter and an 11% increase year over year.

Some of the highlights recently noted were the company’s launch of a new Clover gateway in 2022, which reportedly enables merchants to easily access services and which positions Fiserv to serve the card-not-present market. Additionally, Fiserv's acquisition of BentoBox, a marketing and commerce platform serving more than 7,500 restaurants globally, has reportedly enabled the firm to further enhance its position in the restaurant and hotel industries.

Other acquisitions included US-based Merchant One, Inc. in December 2022, which works with merchants in the restaurant, retail and e-commerce sectors, and Yacare, an Argentinian payment service provider, which is reportedly increasing Fiserv's capabilities in that country by enabling them to offer their merchants the ability to take QR codes for payments. Bob Hau, CFO, Fiserv, noted that Latin America is Fiserv's fastest expanding region, with significant growth in the merchant sector in Brazil and Argentina.

The company’s global business is reportedly expanding at a rate that is approximately twice as fast as their US-based business. On the financial technology services division, the company declared that it spent US $1 billion on acquisitions in 2022, although prices for the acquisitions were undisclosed. Overall, officials state that Fiserv continues to draw in more merchants while offering more value-added services. As a result, adjusted merchant revenue in the fourth quarter climbed by 9% from a year ago to US $1.86 billion. Fiserv's 2023 outlook forecasts its organic revenue growth to range between 7% and 9%, accounting for moderate recession.

United Arab Bank enters the blockchain-based platform UAE Trade Connect

United Arab Bank (UAB) has reportedly become an official member of the United Arab Emirates Trade Connect (UTC), UAE's first commercialized solution to combat fraud in the trade finance sector, which is developed with cutting-edge technology, including blockchain and artificial intelligence.

UTC was reportedly developed in partnership with fintech e& enterprise and the financial sector. The solution offers customers a cloud-native system that enables a variety of trade-related documents that are reportedly validated and examined in real time, as well as detecting suspicious transactions and preventing fraud, and duplication.

Additionally, UTC aims to promote digital transformation and lower fraud risks. Shirish Bhide, CEO, UAB, commented that the alliance helps support UAB's goals of fostering secure and open trade finance schemes, while stimulating the economy through automation. Bhide further added that the UTC also intends to help promote international trade by enabling easier access, affordability and fair trade financing.

The service is reportedly available to UAB's business clients, which range from small local businesses to large corporations. UAB expects to collaborate with other member banks through the working group to exchange information, foster digital innovation and create new applications.

The UTC blockchain platform aims to play a crucial role in enabling banks to enhance lending to SMEs and permitting corporates to borrow against their trade receivables in light of the recent publication by the Federal Government of the UAE pertaining to the Invoice Factoring regulation.

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