What cashless? Swipe machines shortage hits Mumbai doctors hard

Updated: Dec 21, 2016, 08:51 IST | Rupsa Chakraborty

With the shortage of the card machines — that are usually brought in from China — not only patients, even the doctors find themselves in dire straits. Waiting period for procuring them has tripled

 

The government wants a digital economy, but its favour remains sequestered to e-wallets. When it comes to supply of card swiping machines to facilitate the call for digital transactions, it is a whole different story. For focus, consider the city doctors who have applied for the swipe machines, but are now playing the waiting game.

Following the November 8 call by the PM to demonetise the economy and instead move to a cashless economy, it has not exactly played to plan.

Doctors cry foul
Now, with the shortage of the card machines — that are usually brought in from China — not only patients, even the doctors find themselves in dire straits.

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Many patients want to pay check up and testing fees via their card, but doctors don’t yet have the machines due to delay on the suppliers’ end.

Dr Prahlaad Prabhu Desai, TB specialist applied for a card machine over a month ago, but hasn’t received it so far.

Dr Prahlaad Prabhu Desai, TB specialist
Dr Prahlaad Prabhu Desai, TB specialist

“The government wants us to go cashless, but if there is no supply of machines, then how will we fulfill the demands of patients? People want to pay by card, but doctors don’t have the machines as the banks are delaying it,” said Desai.

Dr Shashi Kapoor, an eye specialist who has also been waiting over a month already, said, “Banks say that due to high demand, I have to wait another month for the machine to come, but patients don’t understand it.”

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To rub salt on the wound, there is a new diktat that from April, all doctors will have to start using the card machine in their clinics and hospitals to charge patients. In such a scenario, doctors say they aren’t sure if it can succeed at all. “It should not be made compulsory, as we are already facing a shortage of machines. This will make the situation more chaotic,” said Dr Desai.

The fork in distribution
Most of the machines from the two companies — US-owned Verifone and French-owned Ingenico — are imported from China where they are actually manufactured. From there, depending on the need of the customer, either banks, or distributors like PayUMoney and Pine Labs, help in distributing the machines.

Earlier, the dealers used to generally supply the machine within 48 hours, but now it can take upwards of one week to 15 days, as the demand from such dealers has surged by 600 per cent. Darshan, an agent of a Mumbai-based company dealing with distribution of the machines said, “Earlier, we used to get demands of 4,000-5,000 machines yearly, but now since the demonetisation, it has gone up to 10,000 in a single month. All businesses, even the grocery supplier, are asking for the card machine. So the demand is high but the supply is low.”

In cases of banks, it is worse. A senior officer from SBI said that the demand of machines from SBI has gone up by 300 times — not just in urban, but even in rural areas. Because of that, the supply is less and the wait period has extended from 20 days to two months.

“After demonetisation, all big and small businesses have started using the machines. Earlier, it was mainly the private hospitals, as the bills there were much higher, but now, small private hospital and medical shops are also approaching us,” said the SBI officer.

How to get a card swipe machine?
>> Have a current account with a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) of the business. 
>> In case of a saving account, the PAN card number and a cancelled cheque from the same account is needed.
>> Your chosen provider (PayUMoney, Pine Labs, etc) then supplies the machine and links the account.

20 days
Previous wait time for a machine

60 days
Current wait period

5,000
Yearly demand for a machine from a distributor

10,000
Monthly demand since the demonetisation

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