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January 2020

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This project was conducted as part of a five-week studio of our second semester, to probe into service, systems and infrastructures. Our team of four human-centred designers were asked to formulate a design intent for a context that lies in the intersection of digital payments and informal economy. After an exploratory research on the informal economy of our country, we converged to do this study for small home-based businesses in and around the town where our college is located.


To probe into the possible opportunities and ​​risks of using Digital Payment Services by  small home-based businesses in Yelahanka New Town, Bangalore and identify whether or not any design interventions are required to aid this community.






Subramanya T N

Venkat Chilukuri


Probing into Service, System, & Infrastructures


The exchange of cash has helped to structure the community of informal economy in the country by creating durable social bonds that function like contracts. However, the ubiquity and low set-up costs of the QR code based transfers, along with the Government's vision of a cashless economy, forced them to adapt for survival. Even after the mass adoption of digital payments by small merchants, problems like vulnerabilities of digital illiteracy, intangibility of transactions, and lack of access to internet and infrastructure raise the feeling of insecurity among many. Hence the project was aimed at exploring the possibilities and concerns that digital payments open up for this section of the society, to bring new levels of convenience, efficiency, security,  transparency, access and growth to business opportunities for them.


After a considerable amount of secondary research, we decided to do primary research in the field. Google Pay, PayTM and PhonePe were the primary apps under our consideration. BharatPe was later added to the list based on feedback from the research. We prepared the necessary artefacts - consent form, user recruitment form, discussion guides, app rating and evaluation sheets, and printed cards for UI screens from the payment apps (to protect privacy). Instead of directly starting out with interviews, we spent enough time visually sketching the various home-based businesses in the area, sampling them to avoid repetition of trades, and linking  and identifying patterns of practices incorporated within each business. In addition to the  discussion on digital payment apps and their usage, the primary research also focused on the below areas.


A user recruitment form was used initially to gather basic details regarding the payment methods in use, type and scale of business, self-identification of entrepreneur as a home-based business, etc. The details were analysed and only sampled users were selected for subsequent semi-structured interviews after obtaining informed consent. We wanted to tap into their prior knowledge without educating them on application usage. Detailed qualitative interviews were conducted for an average duration of 30 minutes and the usage of printed cards of app screens helped the participants recollect various incidents and anecdotes that enriched our research with even minute details. The steps for primary research could be summarised as below.

Visual Tracking  >  User Recruitment  >  Sampling  >  Informed Consent  >  Contextual Inquiry through the use of artefacts


We took turns to conduct the interview, observe, transcribe and digitally document  the process through audio recordings and photography.


Geographical Mapping of Participants in Yelahanka New Town area


Sample of selected home-based businesses after

name board tracking


Sample of printed cards showing user interfaces of Google Pay app, used for qualitative interviews


Given below are some of the points that keep recurring during the interviews.


Even though Google Pay was rated to be the most used UPI app, our research showed that PhonePe had more users in the informal sector. This was primarily due to the ease of setting up account in PhonePe as opposed to GPay, and also extensive marketing.  The hassle of completing KYC in PayTM has caused previous PayTM users to switch to other easier apps. e-wallet users rely mostly on PayTM for their transactions as a bank account linkage is not mandatory for it. Most entrepreneurs cannot afford frequent outages in digital payments that they are willing to transfer their bank accounts to other banks that ensures least disruptive online services.


- A radical change in policy level without apt impact analysis, like enforced dependence on digital payments affects a vast majority of the informal economy rather adversely. 

- Small home-based businesses primarily run on personal relations and ‘udhaar’ system, which is not explicitly supported by current digital payments system.

- A major section of the informal sector do not have the basic infrastructure or digital literacy necessary to use the potential of digital payments securely.

In short, other than catching up with the digital economy to sustain their businesses, switching to digital payments have not helped this sector specifically in promoting or expanding their businesses. We identified this as an unexplored gap in the payment services and decided to pursue it further. 


The following personas were created to summarily represent all the primary research participants.

Based on the personas, all the possible interventions in the digital payments systems, as observed during our primary research, were identified and classified as below.

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The ideas that were beneficial for home-based businesses in particular were taken forward.

Business Promo


- Adding Photos

-Setting Offers


-Customised Gift Cards




-Receive notification on multiple mobile phones

Walk-in ATMs


-Walk into a local store, transfer money digitally and get cash in return

Business Features

-Payment Ledgers


-Bulk Payments

-Collaborations with other local businesses

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Proposed Interventions in Existing PhonePe for Business app:

- Offers/vouchers created by existing business owners

- Custom-made gift cards for home businesses

- Referrals to collaborate with other local businesses

- Membership options to avail discounts for regular customers 

Process of User Validation:

We  went back to selected users from primary research for refining and testing out our ideas. We made physical prototypes for customised coupons, offers, gift cards and credit ledger for the selected users and asked them if they would like to use them for business promotions. The response was positive for collaborations with other local businesses by sharing their coupons with customers and also for customised offers for selected customers. Most businesses disclosed that they do give discounts for selected customers already, but it is mostly just mentioned during conversations and is not carried out formally. The idea of rolling this out in virtual platforms was exciting to all, but at least some were apprehensive of the extend to which this would help in their business growth.


We switched to business versions of each of the digital payments apps for analysis. After detailed comparison of the features available in each app,  'PhonePe for Business'  was selected because it already has the footprint required to implement these solutions


An additional option of 'Business Promotion' was added in the profile section of 'PhonePe for Business' application and wireframes were created to show how these ideas would translate into the the digital payments system.

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Geethu, Anuja, Riya and Simran explored the usage of digital payments in home based business. They walked around some of streets in Yelahanka to identify home based businesses and they picked twelve of these while ensuring diverse types of businesses. As the unit progressed, they improved in terms of becoming more focussed on their context. The team was receptive to feedback and have incorporated into their work. They have come up with innovative ideas for home based business promotions, we would encourage them to take these ideas and test it in the real world.

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