Flipkart’s payments arm PhonePe has launched a Bluetooth-powered calculator for small merchants in a bid to ramp up its point-of-sale (PoS) presence as competition from rival Paytm intensifies. PhonePe will soon be piloting the device with 5,000 merchants in Bengaluru, where the firm is headquartered, before releasing it across the country. The device, costing Rs 699, would be distributed for free, but PhonePe would be charging a refundable deposit.
The PoS device resembles an electronic calculator which will display the bill amount to customers, who can then bring their smartphones close to it. Because the device is Bluetooth-enabled, it doesn’t need an internet connection to function, and customers can get the bill amount displayed on their smartphones almost instantly provided they keep their Bluetooth on. This does two things – it eliminates the dependence on an internet network which is often patchy. And, it also speeds up the pace of a digital transaction making it more smooth.
On the face of it, a PoS device is smart innovation by PhonePe given the high entry barriers among offline merchants. While online transactions have soared for PhonePe since demonetization, making it the most-used UPI-based app, physical reach is critical for attaining scale. On the other hand, its chief competitor Paytm boasts 5 million merchants on its network — several of them include local grocers, small eateries, fuel stations and more. Paytm has in the past underlined the importance of a O2O (online-to-offline) strategy.
PhonePe too seems to be following that path, now that it is flush with $500 million in funds infused by parent Flipkart earlier this month.