India's Reliance Retail, Other Merchants Now Accepting Digital Rupee

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One of India's biggest retailers said it will allow customers to use a digital rupee to pay for purchases.

Reliance Retail, the nation's largest retail chain, will be among several merchants accepting the central bank digital currency (CBDC) during its pilot phase.

A senior official working on the pilot told CoinDesk that "from Reliance, Indian Oil, Cafe Coffee Day to roadside fruit sellers and tea vendors," several partners are now set to use the digital rupee.

Reliance Retail, a unit of the Mukesh Ambani-led Indian conglomerate Reliance, is working with Innoviti Technologies and payment partners Kotak Mahindra Bank and ICICI Bank for its participation in the pilot.

"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 consumer," said V. Subramaniam, Reliance Retail's managing director.

Indian Oil and Cafe Coffee Day did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

India's plan for CBDC adoption was first announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in February 2022. After laying out a vision for the CBDC in a 50-page concept note, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) launched pilots for both wholesale and retail before the end of the 2022. The nation wants to launch its retail CBDC by the end of 2023, as CoinDesk has reported.

India's position on crypto remains harsh, with a crypto bill in cold storage and stiff taxes that would lead to jail if not paid, based on the latest changes in the nation's 2023 budget.

Meanwhile, India's CBDC appears to have picked up speed. The retail CBDC pilot, which started in December in four cities (Mumbai, New Delhi, Bengaluru and Bhubaneswar), has "now been extended to 15 cities with Chandigarh as the newest addition," the senior official told CoinDesk. "More than 50,000 customers and 10,000 small and big merchants have been onboarded now."

The RBI, the issuing authority of the digital rupee, also conducted a CBDC awareness seminar with college students from the Punjab Engineering College on Jan. 25.

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