“Mere Pass QR code hai na”

Arjun Singh Rathore
On the first day of the current leap year while commuting from my place of residence to my office, my Auto Rickshaw stopped at Santacruz red light signal and all of a sudden a beggar with tousled hair appeared and asked.
“Uper waly ky naam khush dy dy baba” and my reply was, “Chuta nahi hai baba” but the instant reply, “Google kar do na, mery pass QR code hai” from that beggar not only astonished me but give me smile with the satisfaction that, “Mera Bharat badal raha hai”. I brought out my iPhone from my pocket and made a google payment of ten rupee by scanning his QR code which was almost of the size of a watch, tied in his neck like a pendent in his necklace. Even to add more to my surprises a couple of days later I saw a transgender with QR Code at another signal asking for money through QR Code.
When Masahiro Hara, the chief engineer of Denso Wave, created the QR code in 1994, he probably didn’t realize how impactful his black-and-white invention would be. Back then, Hara created the two-dimensional matrix barcode to help label automotive parts. Today, many different entities, such as banks, airports, restaurants, magazines, websites, marketers, warehouses, and factories, are using QR codes for various purposes. But the most used feature world-wide as of today is the instant transfer of money from the remitter account to beneficiary account.
Quick Response Codes, popularly known as QR Codes, is a kind of two-dimensional barcode that holds encoded data in a graphical black-and-white pattern that remitter can scan with his/her smartphones. The data that a QR code stores can include URLs, email addresses, network details, WiFi passwords, serial numbers, etc. Once scanned, they’ll redirect remitter to a website, app, or payment portal. And it lives up to its billing. The two-dimensional barcodes can store up to 4,296 alphanumeric or 7,089 numeric characters and can be read up to 10 times faster than a conventional barcode. Businesses, Corporate and Banks create their own custom QR codes and display them at their point of sale to accept fast, easy, and secure payments.
In April 2022, with my posting in Mumbai, I found the frequent use for payments even by street vendors, rehdi-fadi walas, vegetable hawkers, pan-bidi walas. Till then, for me electronic transfers were confined to use of Debit/Credit cards, e-transfer and net banking. In the beginning while dealing in cash made me to realise as if I have just dropped-in from an alien planet.
Since QR codes are track-able, big and corporate businesses use them to collect data about customer behaviors and transaction trends. For example, are more customers making purchases at a certain time of day or day of the week? When customers scan a QR code to visit your website, do they make a purchase right away or start browsing? Also, what’s their bounce rate? You can use QR codes to answer these questions and optimize your strategies going forward.
But while interacting with small vendors I observed different takes, for example I found it more convenient for Auto and Taxi operators. Previously while dealing in cash they found returning of small change was a big problem, although for example against the meter reading of Rs.129 few of the customers paid Rs.130 and didn’t ask for the return of Rs.1 but at the same for Rs.127 to return back three rupees was always a challenge and most of the times these drivers end up with acceptance of only Rs.125, thus sacrificing Rs.2, and by the day end they usually end up with a sacrifice of Rs.50 to Rs.70, but with google pay through QR code they are happy to receive the exact meter readings that too without the burden of carrying them in cash in late business hours especially in isolated places.
Badal Rajbhar, a street vendor who sells vegetables on his rehdi, while interacting expressed his satisfaction and happiness that on google pay with QR Code the bargaining on the final rates have now become a thing of past and he is also getting all his money in his account. One very interesting experience shared by him was that with QR code payments, now he can also attend to his other engagements by handing over the responsibility of his rehdi to his father or brother without worrying about the problem of money getting spinned-off from the daily sales.
But Ritesh Kumar owner of M/s Laxmi Milk Center, dealing in milk and dairy products has a different experience. He is critical to some of the drawbacks which limits its adoption or usage, as it requires a smartphone with a camera and an internet connection, which is usually not available and affordable for everyone especially the lower and lower middle class. He also referred to the dependability on the availability and reliability of the mobile wallet app or the service provider, as usually his customer base belong to higher age individuals, who are less Tech savvy. Moreover he is not satisfied with the exposes to disputes, chargebacks, or frauds, as he feels of less control and visibility over the payment process.
But some of the merchants have very well understood the advantages of QR system. The Stationary Mart owner while explaining the same told me that QR code payment offers some benefits for both users and merchants. For users, it provides a convenient and fast way to pay without carrying cash, cards, or other devices. It also enables them to access discounts, rewards, or loyalty programs through the mobile wallet app or the service provider. For merchants, it reduces the cost and maintenance of payment terminals, as they only need to display a QR code on a sticker, a screen, or a paper receipt. It also allows them to reach more customers, especially in emerging markets where mobile penetration is high but card usage is low.
With QR codes, merchants can easily accept payments without the need for a physical card reader or register. Rather than storing sensitive payment information, a QR code simply links the customer’s payment app to your account. Their payment data is encrypted by the payment app, so customers are able to pay without sharing personal information like account numbers. The fewer steps it takes for customers to check out, the better. That’s where QR codes can help. In the past, customers had to find their register, fumble for their card, scan it, verify their information, and finally checkout. By using QR codes for payments, customers are invited to seamlessly complete their transactions right from their mobile devices in just a few taps. So they can get their products or services, and vendors can get paid.
But how secure is this method compared to other mobile payment options, such as NFC, biometrics, or SMS? QR code payment is a type of mobile payment that uses a two-dimensional barcode, or QR code, to encode information such as the amount, merchant, and transaction ID. The user scans the QR code with their smartphone camera and confirms the payment with a PIN, password, or fingerprint. The payment is then processed through a mobile wallet app, a bank account, or a third-party service provider. QR code payment can be static or dynamic, meaning the QR code can be fixed or generated for each transaction.
QR code payment has some security advantages over other mobile payment methods. For example, it does not require physical contact with the payment terminal, which reduces the risk of skimming, cloning, or tampering. It also does not transmit sensitive data, such as card numbers or personal details, over the air, which reduces the risk of interception, hacking, or spoofing. However, QR code payment also has some security challenges. For example, it relies on the user’s smartphone security, which can be compromised by malware, phishing, or theft. It also depends on the authenticity and integrity of the QR code, which can be manipulated, duplicated, or replaced by fraudsters.
Security is an issue with QR Code payment system as any person with a smartphone can get access to information stored in code. In India, not every person is familiar with the use of a QR Code on billboard or pamphlets. One might need to convey the message further so that it can be of use.
Despite of having some disadvantages QR Code is gaining interest in contactless transactions, as QR Codes are usually very small in size. They will require minimal space on ad banner, pamphlet, product, or any other place we wish to use it, QR Code can be scanned by our mobile camera and does not require any special device to interpret the message, QR Code can store a good amount of information. Commonly, they can store data in the form of image, video, URL, etc; and it is possible that if we print a QR Code on paper or any wrapper, some portion might get damaged a bit. However, QR Code will work even if only 30% of the code is unreadable. Whatever said and done QR Codes remit the money up to maximum of Rs.10000/- per transaction much faster in real time, without any charges levied on remitter or beneficiary, irrespective of how small it is.