Reliance Retail on Thursday said it has started accepting in-store retail payments via the Digital Rupee (e₹) at the company's Freshpik food store in Mumbai.

After billing, if a consumer chooses to pay through e₹, a Digital Rupee acceptance QR code is presented to the consumer for scanning, Reliance Retail said in a statement.

India's largest retailer said it plans to progressively extend this mode of payment to all Reliance Retail stores across the country.

Digital Rupee, India's Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), is issued by the Reserve Bank of India as a digital token representing a legal tender. Considered as fiat money, e₹ is issued in the same denominations as that of paper currency and coins currently in use.

The retail arm of Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries has partnered with ICICI Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank and fintech firm Innoviti Technologies to enable digital rupee payments at its stores.

Customers using Digital Rupee app of ICICI Bank or Kotak Mahindra Bank need to simply scan the QR code on the terminal and enter their passcode to authorise payment through e₹-R.

"Cashiers and consumers get instant confirmation of e₹ transfer from consumer to Reliance Retail. The technology enables automatic reconciliation," the statement added.

"This historic initiative of pioneering the digital currency acceptance at our stores is in line with the company's strategic vision of offering the power of choice to Indian consumers. With more Indians willing to transact digitally, this initiative will help us provide yet another efficient and secure alternative payment method to customers at our stores," says V. Subramaniam, director, Reliance Retail.

This comes two months after the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) launched the first pilot of the digital rupee on December 1, 2022. Initially limited to four cities viz, Mumbai, New Delhi, Bengaluru and Bhubaneswar, it was later extended to nine other cities.

"e₹ is a game-changer in the digital revolution unleashed in the country. All customers having e₹-R wallets will now be able to enjoy an effortless, safe and instant way of digital transactions at Reliance Retail stores. Kotak is proud to be associated as a banking partner with Reliance Retail and Innoviti to take part in a digital revolution," says Deepak Sharma, president and chief digital officer at Kotak Mahindra Bank.

Eight banks, including ICICI Bank and Kotak Mahindra Bank, have been identified for phase-wise participation in this pilot. Customers of these banks will be able to transact with e₹ through a digital wallet offered by them. The scope of the pilot will be expanded gradually to include more banks, users and locations.

"India is among the select few countries globally to have its own digital currency. The Digital Rupee, which is a tokenised digital version of the Indian Rupee, is a resilient, safe and additional avenue to users for making payments. Increased acceptance of Digital Rupee would hasten its adoption among customers," says Bijith Bhaskar, head - Digital Channels & Partnerships, ICICI Bank.

The banking regulator had released a concept note on Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) in October 2022. The issuance of CBDC is expected to cut the cost related to physical cash management. India spent ₹4,984.80 crore on printing money in FY22 and ₹4,012.10 crore in FY21.

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