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.

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.