note demonetisation

This co-operative bank in Kerala has launched digital currency that also works on non-smartphones

Thenhipalam Co-operative Rural Bank Limited becomes the first co-operative bank in India to launch an app for customers struggling with demonetisation.

While the co-operative banks across the country face an uncertain future following Reserve Bank of India’s restriction on cash transactions, a primary co-operative bank in rural Kerala has found a digital solution to tide over the financial crisis and challenge the hegemony of high-spending e-commerce websites.

Thenhipalam Co-operative Rural Bank Limited in Malappuram district became the first co-operative bank in India to launch digital currency, named COOPaisa, on Friday.

Since Friday, bank customers in Thenhipalam, Chelembra, Pallikkal, Peruvallur, Munniyur and Vallikkunnu panchayats have been using COOPaisa to buy groceries, fish and vegetable from more than 100 stores as well as to pay for autorickshaw rides

What makes COOPaisa different from other digital currencies is that it doesn’t differentiate between those who have smartphones and non-smartphones.

Smartphone users can complete transactions by scanning the bar code displayed at the shops, while non-smartphone users have to rely on the One Time Password received on their phones.

Pradeep Menon, president of the the bank, said COOPaisa was launched to ease difficulties of the bank customers in six panchayats. “We have been receiving positive feedback from the customers, vendors and autorickshaw drivers during the last three days. It shows that our efforts have paid dividends,” he said.

“Our customers felt the pinch of demonetisation. COOPaisa made them happy. Now they can make purchase for Re 1 and up to Rs 10,000 each day. Vendors have registered increase in sales, while autorickshaw drivers are getting more trips,” Menon added.

How it works

Sreejit Mullasseri, coordinator of the project, said customers have to install the COOPaisa app from the Google Play Store before heading to the shops. “They have to scan the unique QR Code displayed at the shops. Enter the amount to be paid and press OK to complete the transaction. Customers and vendors will soon get alert about the payment on their respective phones,” he said.

Mullasseri said the process is equally easy for the non-smart phone users. “They can complete the transaction after receiving the One Time Password on their mobiles.”

Two days after its launch, as many as 1,200 customers have downloaded the app. “We expect around 4,000 customers to use the app soon. Most of our clients are senior citizens and they will take time to adapt to the new system,” Mullasseri said.

Thenjipalam, Kerala, December 2, 2016.
Thenjipalam, Kerala, December 2, 2016.

The launch of COOPaisa has surprised many as it happened just three weeks after the Centre announced demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000.

“We had awarded the contract to develop the application six months ago,” Menon said. “The project was moving very slowly. But we speeded up the process after demonetisation hit us very hard. Everyone in the bank worked hard to create history.”

Menon said the COOPaisa could be used to take on the big e-commerce websites, which are trying to capitalise on the cashless economy.

“COOPaisa has many advantages over digital wallets like Paytm. E-wallets need to be refilled when they run out of cash,” Menon said. “It is a time-consuming process. COOPaisa deducts money directly from customer’s account as it is directly linked with the savings bank account. It is a hassle-free process.”

“Co-operative sector is the lifeline of Kerala’s rural economy,” Menon said. “It enjoys the trust of the people. Co-operative banks in Kerala should introduce similar digital currencies to challenge the invasion of big corporates,” he said.

Happy users

Rajesh, a carpenter, was excited to use COOPaisa on Friday itself at the SR Bakery in Kohinoor Village in Thenhipalam Panchayat. “I wanted to buy some snacks for a family function. I went to the bank to withdraw money. But they said their coffers were empty. Then the officials suggested I should instal COOPaisa on my android phone. I used it at the SR Bakery and a nearby fish stall. I don’t have to worry about currency crunch anymore,” he said.

Shameer, owner of SR Bakery, said the digital currency has provided merchants a lifeline. “Business was dull for the last three weeks. It is slowly picking up after the launch of COOPaisa. I have done more than 25 transactions in the last three days.”

Fish vendor Moosa said COOPaisa brought many of his customers back. “Many of my regular customers stopped buying fish after Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 went out of the market. Now they are coming back. It is a little difficult to operate the system. But I am happy to use it if it is good for my customers.”

Thenhipalam Co-operative Rural Bank paid Rs 3.5 lakh for the application developed by Sesame Technologies in Kozhikode.

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

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Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.


This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.