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The spirit of India’s licence raj continues to haunt businesses, most lamentably where rules are devised to achieve goals that are virtually impossible. Predictably, such targets never get achieved, but officialdom gets to flex muscle and rap knuckles. Take third-party apps that enable transfers of money via the unified payments interface (UPI). It was no surprise that the National Payments Corp. of India (NPCI), which runs it, has had to defer its 30% volume cap on market share among private players in this space. In October, PhonePe accounted for nearly half the transactions, while Google Pay had conducted over a third and Paytm was No. 3 with about 14% of them. Newer entrants like WhatsApp and Amazon Pay notched up slivers. In a baffling display of anti-monopoly zeal, NPCI wanted the top two to resist user demand and reduce their slice of a rapidly growing pie by the end of 2022. Since it didn’t happen, the deadline for them to comply has been pushed forth by two years. The cap needed lifting, not a kick down the road. Meanwhile, to inject the payments space with rivalry, our central bank could promote the use of its retail e-rupee currently being tested.

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