I was up till late last night trying to make a digital payment for MediaNama, for a critical piece of software for our functioning. The payment was declined twice, despite entering all details, and receiving an SMS for an OTP which I provided.
I called up HDFC Bank customer-care, and after jumping through several hoops — they’ve added an absolutely useless voice to text layer that doesn’t work — when it finally directed the call to a customer care executive, it kept me on hold for an extended period of time before disconnecting the call.
In the meantime, there was nothing from the bank about why the transaction was decline: no email, no message.
Switch to today morning: the transaction gets automatically declined without even soliciting an OTP, and I get a message on email indicating that the merchant doesn’t comply with RBI guidelines for card payments. This is, of course, not new. We’re unable to also use Gravity Forms at MediaNama because they’ve declined to accept Indian cards because of the RBI guidelines on tokenisation.
Surprisingly, the same transaction that was declined by HDFC Bank went through with another bank. Why? Whose responsibility is it to ensure uniformity in application of guidelines? Did the RBI take into consideration issues that Indian companies might face when trying to sign up for global software? Where was their public consultation process?
This is what happens with top-down policymaking, with myopic regulators with limited understanding of how global markets and operations function, ending up stifling and inconveniencing those for whom the impact is the greatest. For all the talk about Digital India and Startup India, we’re still only regulating keeping global Big Tech in mind.
If you think this RBI issue is bad, think of the impact that data localisation will have, where even free-to-use software will stop functioning. What doesn’t help, of course, is a government with China envy, and pliant billionare founders trying to suck up to the powers that be. One spoke at India Internet Day a few years ago, making an emotional case — because a logical case is hard to make — for data localisation. Another wrote a blog post.
Meanwhile, others suffer. We’re just collateral damage.