Nothing frustrates customers more than queuing at a shopping mall awaiting their turn to pay. The wait can be especially frustrating if the time taken by the billing clerk to swipe credit cards is high. The same happens at gas stations. The customer's car tank is topped up, they are ready to roll but the gas station attendant can’t generate the charge slip. Reason: Their card is in a queue.
Indians need not suffer these niggling, but highly annoying, delays any more. Citibank India has sweetened the New Year by launching a mobile card reader that allows businesses to accept payments through smartphones and tablets.
Citibank India is not the first banking entity in India to offer such a product, but if the company is to be believed, the mobile payment solution device will change the way 320 million debit and credit card customers in India transact business. Anand Selvakesari, country business manager of Global Consumer Group at Citibank, considers the device developed by its partners Ezetap Mobile Solutions, a Bangalore company, to be as big a game changer "...as the first ATM pioneered by Citi in 1977 that revolutionized the concept of cash withdrawal worldwide."
This is no mean claim, and it has made many Indians sit up and take notice. Interestingly, Americans have been using a similar card reader for more than a year, brought to them by Square Inc. The mobile payment device, which is shaped like a square, works with iOS and Android devices, and is being used not only by businesses but also by individuals in the US.
Like Square, Ezetap can be plugged into any Apple iOS or Android device. It can also be used on Windows Mobile devices, and has been priced at an affordable INR 1,500 ($30 approximately), evidently to motivate businesses to switch from the existing swipe machines to Ezetaps.
According to the press release issued by CitiBank India, Ezetap can be integrated into the back-end system of businesses so that merchant partners get real time information during the payment and collection process. Similarly, the customers get real-time alerts as SMS and email messages, very much like what they get when their cards are swiped at swipe machines today.
A big advantage for businesses and individuals –- if Ezetaps become the rage as hoped by Citibank -- will be the disappearance of charge slips. The transactions will become truly paperless with Ezetap, and there will be no need to maintain charge slips, most of which fade quickly and must be laboriously tallied at the time of filing tax returns.
Another change that is likely to happen is a spurt in the number of credit card terminals. Currently, India has 700,000 point of sales card terminals. This number will jump as the card terminals will turn "mobile" with salesmen carrying Ezetaps plugged into smartphones in their pockets.
What about security? Citibank goes to great lengths to stress the security of transactions. According to the company, Ezetap is compliant with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCIDSS) and the Payment Application Data Security Standard (PADSS. It has also been approved by The Reserve Bank of India, India’s central bank.
Indian credit card holders should be relieved to hear this. Already, Flipkart, Shoppers Stop, Bajaj Allianz, Vodafone, and BookMyShow are some of the brands that have partnered with CitiBank to roll out the new mobile solution.
The mobile payment device may get further momentum if sectors like travel, airlines, hospitals, logistics, banking, insurance, telecom, transport, etc., switch to it. Indians will be really delighted if the cab drivers start carrying Ezetap. They will be saved the torture of finding exact sums to pay cab or auto bills. Today, the auto driver brazenly pockets a 100-rupee note on a Rs 80 fare since he does not have "change."
However, one has to wait and see how the new mobile payment system makes life easy. Last year, Axis Bank had partnered with Prizm Payments and Mswipe Technologies, to launch Swipeon –- a mobile phone-based card acceptance service. Another such initiative was that of MTS, a telecom operator. It had launched mPOS or mobile as point of sale device to enable MTS smartphone users to convert their mobile phones into payment acceptance devices. These two solutions are yet to catch the fancy of Indians. It is now for Citibank to test the waters.