A sound innovation from Paytm!

I buy fresh potato chips in one of the many ‘Hot Chips’ branded shops in Bengaluru. This one is the best on the Sarjapur Road stretch, in a tiny lane adjacent to the HDFC Bank opposite Springfields Apartments.

I have been buying from them since early 2010s, if I recall right. Only last year did I start paying them for my purchase using my phone. Till then I have always used cash.

They first had a Paytm QR code sticker. Then added all other options, including Google Pay (which I use, via UPI). Every time I pay, the shopkeeper says he may have received it (trusting me, his old customer) and I show him my Google Pay screen as the familiar payment made sound happens in the app.

That sound really helps in closure, more than the text message that follows. He also says that his hands are coated with masala/salt etc. and he’s not able to check his phone for the closure, at his end.

I see that Paytm has solved this problem with an elegant and very-desi innovation. Paytm now has a voice-activated point-of-sale speaker! The speaker announces the incoming payment that closes the deal for both the buyer and the seller, using voice! Besides helping with the closure, the speaker also may help in the persistent worry if we made payment to the right number! There are enough news and WhatsApp forwards about spurious Paytm QR codes where people have lost a lot of money.

Photo credit: Tweets from Varun Sharma, Mannu Amrit and Gautham Polisetty.

I did wonder if a separate speaker is needed to solve this problem of payment confirmation. Couldn’t the buyer’s phone (everyone has a phone!) perform the role, much like how Google Pay uses the sound as a confirmation to great effect? I assume there may be operational issues with the phone – it has to be charged, it may be in use (a call), it may be playing something else etc.

A dedicated speaker has just one purpose – be the voice of incoming payments, literally. It is in Paytm’s interest that more shop owners get and use this (I do not know about who is paying for this speaker – is it Paytm giving it free, or do shopkeepers need to buy it? If they have to buy it from Paytm’s online shopping site, I pity them.)

My chips shop guy still doesn’t have it, but I will tell him about this next time I visit them.

PS: I started with a Paytm Wallet when they launched, mainly to be able to use it for Uber. But then the need to keep on loading money in it was annoying, besides the bigger annoyance of Paytm expecting me to go offline to a store to do KYC! And UPI happened anyway in between, so I moved to Google Pay. I was also told that it is impossible to close a Paytm Wallet, but I managed to do so and exit all relationships with the brand.

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