Can India really overthrow Visa and Mastercard?
Long before the war in Ukraine, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided that international card networks could be used as instruments of statecraft — and that he should channel the rising economic power of his country’s 1.4 billion people to resist the dominance of Visa Inc., Mastercard Inc. and American Express Co. “Everyone cannot go to the border for the security of the nation,” Modi said in a 2018 speech. “If you develop a habit of using RuPay card … that will also become a medium to serve the nation.”
Like Russia’s Mir and China UnionPay Co., RuPay is a homegrown card network, promoted by the National Payments Corporation of India since 2012. New Delhi has pushed it so aggressively over the last few years that a worried Visa Inc. has complained to the U.S. government about the lack of an even playing field in India, according to Reuters. Mastercard has grumbled as well. Meanwhile, Discover Financial Services’ Diners Club as well as Mastercard and American Express have gotten into regulatory trouble with the Reserve Bank of India over data localization rules.
The decision by global card firms to boycott Russia over its invasion of Ukraine may amplify nationalist sentiments. But will RuPay ever become a serious alternative? It may take more than patriotism to take on the entrenched payment institutions.
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