The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is targeting one million users of the central bank-backed digital currency (CBDC) by June-end, deputy governor T Rabi Shankar said on Thursday in a press conference after the monetary policy announcement.
Sankar said the RBI does not have a date in mind on when to go live with CBDC beyond the present pilot project and pointed to the "gradual and calibrated" change which focuses on internalising learnings as the usage grows.
On November 1 last year, the RBI came out with a digital rupee for the wholesale segment. This was followed by the first pilot for retail digital rupee on December 1.
The pilot was launched in four cities — Mumbai, New Delhi, Bengaluru, and Bhubaneswar — with customers and merchants in a closed user group. It was later extended gradually to cities like Ahmedabad, Chandigarh, Gangtok, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Indore, Kochi, Lucknow, Patna, and Shimla. Though in the initial phase of the pilot, only the State Bank of India, ICICI Bank, YES Bank, and IDFC First Bank were part of the CBDC. Later, banks like Bank of Baroda, Union Bank of India, HDFC Bank, and Kotak Mahindra Bank joined the league.
Shankar also said that Mint Road plans to make the CBDC QR codes interoperable with Unified Payment Interface (UPI).
UPI facilitates banking transactions or digital transactions, where the beneficiary can make payments through debit or credit cards, internet banking or mobile wallets. UPI has gained immense popularity in India, with QR code scans at merchants or between peers being the most used feature.
On the other hand, in CBDC, a beneficiary can draw the digital currency and keep it in their wallet on mobile. When you pay at a shop or to another individual, it will move from one wallet to another. There is no routing or intermediation of the bank. Unlike in the case of UPI, money moves between two private entities, individuals or businesses, similar to physical cash in the case of CBDC.