Xiaomi joins mobile payment race in India

March 22, 2019 14:14
Xiaomi, led by founder and CEO Lei Jun, has launched a mobile payment service in its biggest overseas market, India. Photos: Reuters, Xiaomi

After grabbing the No. 1 spot in the Indian smartphone market, China's Xiaomi Corp (01810.HK) has rolled out its mobile payment service, Mi Pay, in the world's second most populous nation.

Following a December launch in beta mode, Mi Pay enables users to do instant fund transfers from native Xiaomi apps like SMS, and make in-store and online purchases via multiple payment options such as Unified Payments Interface (UPI), credit cards, debit cards, and internet banking.

They can also pay for utility bills, phone bills, mobile plan top-ups and satellite TV service with the app, according to the company.

"Payments for us is a core functionality within our operating system (OS) business," Xiaomi India Managing Director Manu Jain said at a launch event. The Mi Pay app would be available for all Xiaomi devices running its proprietary MIUI OS based on Android.

The Indian version of the Mi Pay app is different from the near-field communication (NFC)-powered Xiaomi payment app in China. With its capability to support debit and credit cards, it is expected to feature with the magnetic secure transmission (MST) technology, enabling users to use their smartphones, instead of debit or credit cards, to swipe for payment on regular card point of sales (POS) machines in stores.

Built on the UPI platform developed by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), Mi Pay supports over 120 banks.

With the mega initial public offering (IPO) in Hong Kong last year, Xioami, known for affordable handsets, is ramping up efforts to expand the share of internet services in its overall revenue. Repeatedly billing itself as an “internet” firm, Xiaomi expects the internet services business to become a major revenue driver, as the firm secures a presence in new fields including payment and financial services.

The company is reportedly enlisted to be one of the firms receiving digital banking licenses from the Hong Kong government, along with Ant Financial, Tencent (00700.HK) and others, the Financial Times had reported previously.

Venturing overseas, Xiaomi has been well-received in India, where it holds a leading position in smartphone shipments, according to market researcher Canalys. With the growing popularity of Xiaomi devices, Mi Pay is going to take on the dominant Indian mobile payment service Paytm, which is backed by Alibaba’s payment technology arm Ant Financial.

The Indian payments field has become crowded with homegrown and global tech giants, including Google and Samsung, seeking to tap into the rapid growth in mobile payment adoption in the country.

Last August, Google rebranded its Indian payments app Tez as Google Pay and established a partnership with four domestic banks to provide instant loans to Indian users.

WhatsApp also began testing its payments feature last year in India, its biggest market with 210 million monthly users, allowing users to transfer funds directly between users’ bank accounts, in real time.

Moreover, WhatsApp’s owner Facebook is reportedly working on making a cryptocurrency that will let users transfer money on its WhatsApp messaging app, focusing first on the remittances market in India.

India leads the world in remittances, with its people living overseas sending US$69 billion back home in 2017, according to a study by the World Bank.

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