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An SOS for Paytm POS

For Paytm, putting resources behind point-of-sale terminals is a waste of money and precious management bandwidth.

He says it just shy of thirteen minutes into the call.

But it doesn’t come out straight or sudden. First he apologizes for being a bit harsh, maybe, he isn’t sure, and then after an awkward moment, he asks the question: “How much are they selling the machine for?”

We’ve been chatting for that long, jumping from one question to another about the point-of-sale machine, or POS, business in India. And the person at the other end of the phone, a POS veteran of sorts who has been in the business enough number of years to distinguish the bad days from the worse, has been a bit impatient. Reticent, even. Founder of one of the largest POS companies in India, he requested not to be named because there are only a few private, non-banking players in the business, and he doesn’t want to come across as hostile.

After tottering around questions on market size, the payments landscape, his company’s performance and the need for POS machines for small merchants, he’s finally asked me the price at which Paytm has launched its new POS machine.

Launched earlier this month with a lot of hullabaloo, Paytm’s “All-in-One POS” machine can take payments from every payment mode. Debit and credit cards, QR codes, UPI and digital wallets. In its press release, Paytm went further to say that the machine can even take cash. Triumphant as that achievement might sound, Indian merchants and shopkeepers have never had a problem accepting cash as a mode of payment. It is the reason God gave us hands. But more on this later.

On the call, I offer the details:
Device rental of Rs 499 a month
Refundable deposit of Rs 8000
Telecom charges of Rs 99 a month

“This will never sell only,” he says.

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Illustration by Swati Addanki.
Graphics by Pranav S.

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