Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 20 September 2019

Indian business leaders banking on tourism boost as RuPay card lands in the UAE

India's answer to Visa or Mastercard is already up and running in the Emirates following its launch by the country's prime minister, Narendra Modi on Saturday

Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, meets with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi. Rashed Al Mansoori / Ministry of Presidential Affairs 
Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, meets with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi. Rashed Al Mansoori / Ministry of Presidential Affairs 

The introduction to the UAE of a widely used Indian payment card will give retailers a sharp boost and increase tourism, business leaders have said.

They believe that RuPay - an Indian version of Mastercard or Visa - will remove the need for tourists to carry hard currency, make it easier to shop here and streamline the experience of travelling between both countries.

Narendra Modi, the Indian prime minister, launched the hugely popular Indian card during his visit to the UAE on Saturday. About 100,000 point of sale terminals and 5,000 ATMs across the country already accept the card. More will follow. Now the almost three million Indian tourists who visit the UAE every year will be able to take their cards and use them freely in the UAE removing the need to take excess cards or large amounts of notes.

“People from India currently have to bring cash or a traveller’s cheque and it is cumbersome,” said Surender Kandhari, chairman of the Al Dobowi Group, on Sunday.

“This will make it much smoother. It is about the ease of doing business, the ease of shopping and the ease of making payments.”

RuPay was launched in India in 2012 as a homegrown response to international cards. The name comes from a blend of “rupee” and “payment”. But unlike its global peers, it offers much lower transaction fees – up to tenth of the cost of international competitors. More than 500 million cards are in circulation in India.

Firoz Merchant, founder of jewellery business Pure Gold, said the introduction of the card could even increase the numbers of people visiting from India. “Retailers in the UAE will be impacted positively by this move,” said Mr Merchant. “With one of the highest numbers of tourists in the UAE, it can potentially increase tourism from India even more. It eliminates the hassle of carrying physical currency and allows stress-free shopping. It is a great move for retailers.”

Firoz Merchant, founder of Pure Gold Jewellers, believes the roll out of the RuPay card in the UAE will have a positive impact on retail trade. Courtesy Firoz Merchant
Firoz Merchant, founder of Pure Gold Jewellers, believes the roll out of the RuPay card in the UAE will have a positive impact on retail trade. Courtesy Firoz Merchant

RuPay is expanding internationally where there is a large Indian diaspora. Close to three million Indians live in the UAE and it is the first country in the Middle East to accept the card. Three UAE banks - First Abu Dhabi Bank, Emirates NBD and Bank of Baroda – said they will also offer their own cards soon. RuPay chiefly targets Indians but could also be useful to anyone travelling there.

The Lulu supermarket chain accepted RuPay across all of its UAE outlets from Sunday.

“Our IT and finance teams have been working overtime to [be ready] in time for the launch,” said chairman of Lulu, Yusuff Ali.

“It is going to be a great initiative for the millions of travellers and tourists and non resident Indians [because of] the convenience and ease of usage that RuPay will bring.”

Yusuff Ali, chairman and managing director of Lulu Group, pictured here with Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, the UAE's Minister of Tolerance, said his staff have been in 'overdrive' in order to be ready for the launch of the RuPay card in the Emirates. The National
Yusuff Ali, chairman and managing director of Lulu Group, pictured here with Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, the UAE's Minister of Tolerance, said his staff have been in 'overdrive' in order to be ready for the launch of the RuPay card in the Emirates. The National

Aside from Lulu, other companies that accept the card include NMC Healthcare, Emaar - developer of Dubai Mall - and DP World.

Mr Kandhari said that businesses that accept the card here would also give special offers to card-holders. “I’m 100 per cent sure that every facility accepting the card will offer discounts on RuPay so that will be boon for shoppers and residents.”

The launch of RuPay came during Mr Modi’s two-day visit to the UAE where he was bestowed with the Order of Zayed – the UAE’s highest civilian honour.

“It was fantastic,” said Mr Kandhari, of the Indian leader’s visit. “It is big boost for every Indian living in the UAE and will help the relationship between the two countries. I was very awed.”

"I feel immensely proud of conveying that India-UAE relations are at their best ever,” said Mr Modi.

Updated: August 25, 2019 04:49 PM

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