KOCHI: It was a move that shook the economy, the repercussions of which still is felt. Two years after demonetisation, the far-reaching effects are still visible in the commercial capital of the state. While Kochi’s small-scale traders, who mostly did cash-based business, felt their livelihood at stake, major sectors like transport and health are limping back to normalcy. But, how has Kochi fared when it comes to cashless transactions? Express explores various sectors:
Opting for cheaper facilities
After the controversial announcement in 2016, the private health sector was badly hit. Two years later, things are looking better. “The turnover had really gone down last year. Conditions are getting slightly better now. It will take some more time to get back on track,” said Dr P K Muhammed Rashid, president of Kerala Private Hospitals Association. According to him, demonetisation also changed people’s attitude about their treatment plans. “Right after demonetisation, people began postponing their treatment saying they did not have the cash with them. Now, even though they go for immediate treatment options, they choose cheaper facilities when it comes to rooms and such, all to save money. But, there is a huge change when it comes to cashless transactions with more people switching to card payments,” he said. However, according to insurance companies, more number of people are opting for health insurance policies. “However, the growth is gradual and may or may not be an aftermath of demonetisation,” said Haridas, DGM, United India Insurance Company Limited.
Rough patch continues
The cooperative sector was one of the severely-hit areas of demonetisation. As it mostly engages with the common public who are averse to cashless transactions and the banks’ inability to comply with several regulations on the internet and mobile banking, the sudden clampdown dearly affected its stability. “We are having a rough patch since demonetisation. As we don’t have the license for internet banking, we are yet to recover from the loss. Customers, especially youth has moved away from the bank. Currently, our customers are availing the ATM card for e-transactions. We are hoping for a turnaround with the formation of Kerala Bank,” says Sanuraj, deputy general manager, District Cooperative Bank, Ernakulam.
KSRTC going digital
Being a highly cash-oriented sector, bus services have been widely affected by the economic reform and has cash in on the opportunity to fast track their presence online. For Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC), it was a transition of gradual growth in online booking. “We have started the online services under the brand name ‘Saradhi’ in 2014 with a transaction around 700 tickets per day. Now, it has increased to 7000 online ticket booking which amounts to 30 lakhs per day. In addition, we have installed POS machines at all our booking counters. But the issues with GPRS connectivity preventing us from using them in buses,” says a top KSRTC official.
A blessing for realty sector
Right after demonetisation two years ago, it was predicted that the move would help the realty sector in the long run. True to this, things seem to be looking good for the sector. “After the note ban, banks and financial institutions donned a proactive role to excite the buyers. Decreased rates for loans have actually improved the market in the two years,” said J Paul Raj, president of CREDAI Kochi chapter. In the sector that was already on the path of cashless transactions pre-demonetisation, the payment of wages to labourers was affected initially. “There was a limit on all cash withdrawals and cash transactions. So, we decided to go cashless. We ensured all contractors and labourers had bank accounts for transactions,” he said. Furthermore, according to a joint report by CREDAI-JLL, the housing sector’s contribution to the country’s GDP is expected to almost double to 11.2 per cent by 2020.
An app revolution
The Kerala State Electricity Board had a similar story like KSRTC which narrates a slight difference in online transactions of the post-demonetisation period. By introducing own app and partnering with various payment firms, the public sector institution has taken the mission to masses. “We have a gradual increase in online transactions. In October 2017, we had 6.48% online payments out of total transactions whereas, in Septemeber 2018, it has increased to 11.25% transactions. Though it doesn’t reach the expected levels, the figures are encouraging. IT-based areas which have more youth population like Thirupunithura has seen a number of payments that notch up to 45-50% transactions,” Mohan Kumar, Deputy Chief Engineer, KSEB. “Though we have introduced the online transaction long back, the change in public’s attitude towards online transactions after demonetisation has fuelled the transition. Mobile app which enables to see the automatic billing and facilities like National Automated Clearing House (NACH) has also been offered. Still, a lion share of transactions are happening in cash through our section offices,” said another officer.