Reliance Retail has become the first Indian retailer to introduce Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), also known as digital rupee. The company has piloted the use of Digital Rupee in one store in Mumbai, and plans to make this facility available in all its stores in Mumbai within the next three to four months, in accordance with Reserve Bank of India (RBI) norms.

The launch of this facility was in collaboration with Innoviti Technologies, ICICI Bank, and Kotak Mahindra Bank. At the launch event, V Subramaniam, Director of Reliance Retail Ltd , stated that just like the use of Unified Payments Interface (UPI), digital currency will also become a part of India’s payment ecosystem.

“This historic initiative of pioneering digital currency acceptance in our stores aligns with our strategic vision of offering choice to Indian consumers. As more Indians shift towards digital transactions, this initiative will provide a secure and efficient alternative payment method for customers,” said Subramaniam.

‘Protective layer’

Reliance Retail has 17,000 stores spread across 7,000 cities in India. Subramaniam noted that around 70 per cent of transactions at the company’s stores are digital, with over 30 per cent of these being through UPI and 30 per cent through credit cards.

“The technology behind this is more advanced than UPI, providing customers with a better protective layer for their transactions. Additionally, these transactions will be anonymous, making the adoption rate faster in my view,” said Subramaniam.

The company eventually plans to introduce digital currency on Jiomart and other digital portals of Reliance Retail, he told businessline on the sidelines of the event.

Financial inclusion

On December 1, 2022, e₹ was first introduced by the RBI in a pilot mode, with access limited to consumers of certain identified banks in select Indian cities. Initially limited to Mumbai, New Delhi, Bengaluru, and Bhubaneswar, it was later expanded to nine other cities. ICICI Bank and Kotak Mahindra Bank are among the eight banks identified for phase-wise participation in the pilot.

Customers of these banks can transact with e₹ through a digital wallet offered by their bank. The pilot will gradually be expanded to include more banks, users, and locations as needed. As Digital Rupee Retail adoption increases, society as a whole will benefit from its key features, including convenience and security, while person-to-person and person-to-merchant transactions will yield improved financial inclusion in a digital economy.