Airtel pilots first payments bank, beats Paytm to it

Telecom services company Bharti Airtel has pipped online marketplace Paytm to launch India’s first payments bank — Airtel Payments Bank. The company has chosen Rajasthan as the launch pad for its banking services. The pilot is aimed at testing systems and processes ahead of a full-scale pan-India launch. Paytm had initially planned to launch its payments bank on Diwali day last month. Airtel Payments Bank rollout comes at a crucial point for payments bank as the country grapples with the aftermath of the government’s demonetisation drive. To begin with, customers across Rajasthan will now be able to open bank accounts at 10,000 Airtel retail outlets, which will double up as Airtel banking points and offer a range of basic, convenient banking services. The company said it will expand its merchant network in Rajasthan to 100,000 by the end of the year, giving a big boost to digital payments ecosystem. “Airtel Payments Bank will play an important role in taking banking services to the last mile in a quick and efficient manner and benefit millions of unbanked citizens of this country. With this pilot, we have taken a big step towards the launch of our banking services and will be testing our operational readiness for full-scale launch across India,” Shashi Arora, MD & CEO, Airtel Payments Bank, said in a statement. Airtel Payments Bank plans to leverage Bharti Airtel’s extensive network of over 1.5 million retail outlets, with deep penetration in rural areas. The Reserve Bank of India had granted payments bank licence to Airtel on April 11.

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