PhonePe Overtakes Google Pay, Becomes India’s Top UPI App

Google Pay’s run at the top of the UPI sweepstakes in India has come to an end.

PhonePe has displaced Google Pay to become the top UPI app in India. In November 2020, Google Pay was ahead of PhonePe in terms of transactions — Google Pay had seen 960 million transactions that month, while PhonePe had seen 868 million. But things flipped around in December 2020, with Google Pay accounting for 854 million transactions, and PhonePe accounting for 902 million. PhonePe registered a 3.92% increase, while Google Pay’s transactions fell 11%.

Paytm, meanwhile, was the third most popular UPI app with 256 million transactions, and Amazon Pay was fourth with 40 million transactions. WhatsApp, which has received approval from the RBI for a wider rollout, registered as a mere blip with 0.81 million transactions, which was nevertheless a 160% increase over the previous month.

Google Pay had become India’s top UPI app in May 2019, when it had displaced PhonePe from the top spot. Google had quickly garnered users by splurging on cashbacks which prompted many users to switch from other apps, including the government-owned BHIM. Over the next 18 months, Google maintained a narrow lead over both PhonePe and Paytm.

But things have changed since then — NPCI has now mandated that by 2023, no single UPI app can command more than 30% of marketshare. Google and PhonePe both currently account for more than 30% each — in fact, the two apps contributed to nearly 80% of the overall transactions on the UPI ecosystem. As such, it’s likely that Google’s drastic 11% fall in transactions is thanks to it cutting back on offers and promotions as it tries to go below the 30% market-share required for compliance.

NPCI’s move was motivated by not allowing any single player to have too much control over the UPI ecosystem, but it also opens up 40% of the UPI market up for grabs. If Google Pay and PhonePe maintain their top positions, they’ll likely keep accounting for 30% marketshare each. Paytm, for its part, would want to consolidate its third spot and look to pick up as many users as it can, but can face stiff competition from WhatsApp — WhatsApp hasn’t been promoting its UPI option too much, but given how WhatsApp is on nearly every phone in India, it could quickly garner new users when it puts its mind to it. WhatsApp, though, is currently hobbled by the backlash over its privacy policy update, and some users could be reluctant to give it their payments information. It opens up a fascinating battle for UPI firms in the coming years, and the stakes are high — UPI now accounts for more payments than debit and credit cards in India, and dominating this space could prove invaluable for all these companies in the years to come.