Saturday, February 13, 2010

Paypal in India

Do you think India, the largest exporter of service industry in the world deserve such a pathetic treatment from PayPal (America’s oldest online payment processing company)? They suddenly stopped working in India, the payment reversals to buyers without notifying 10000’s of Indian account holders created an strange situation where they lost every single penny they earned as well as in dark if they can do business in near future. It will not be too much if I say anyone who has spent or earned even 1 dollar on the Internet knows what PayPal is. PayPal is not an online bank, but a payment gateway, and a payment processing company. It helps people buy and sell their products and services while leaving the financial worries for PayPal to handle. PayPal is also greatly used by freelancers, professional service providers, and small to medium-sized company to accept payments from international clients. It is a main force behind the rise of such a strong army of able-bodied (well, at least metaphorically) freelance service providers. PayPal provides the juice (read means to transfer money to India without any hiccups) that keeps freelancers in India healthy, wise and in some cases wealthy as well.

But, everything changed in February 2010. Things started falling apart. The great Paypal India debacle begins, PayPal first stopped the personal payment/ Payments against services/ Goods to and from India, and next came stoppage of withdrawing to Indian bank in Rupees. The stoppage was so sudden and so unexpected that lots of money got stuck in the system. People went awry. Work stopped. And future appeared uncertain. And all the while, PayPal, the Goliath, kept mum. PayPal condescended to inform public about the issues the company is facing. The news was broke on PayPal’s official blog by someone by the name of Anuj from communication team.

This disclosure came quite late and panic had already taken over the best of everyone involved. I personally spent more than an hour (divided among 6 calls) on phone to get some update from PayPal personnel, and they offered nothing but sorry.

People have littered forums, blogs, and blog-comments with confused questions and sometimes with angry questions and verbal attacks. I know this will not solve the problem, but I am equally not sure if the smiling face of Anuj—it seems PayPal has strategically placed a picture of Anuj besides the announcement where he has worn a nice, wide smile—is enough to take away the worry of people suffering at the hands of PayPal’s wiggly moves.

Wasn’t it PayPal’s responsibility of inform people about the so-called technical issues it is facing the moment it all started? Isn’t the company accountable and liable for the financial hardship lots of people are facing because of the delayed payments (if at all it comes) and confusion?

This is high time for us to look for some alternative to PayPal. I think if RBI and banks of India are behind all this then why do not RBI or banks of India or anyone else erect an Indian institution akin to PayPal?

I bet if SBI (State Bank of India) started a service similar to Paypal will be world’s top notch service provider as India still control the world’s highest share of services export (outsourcing) but who cares, the banking norms will remain stone age even if we are in 21’st century.

The damage done by PayPal is not only hurting individuals, but it will come to haunt the whole society when the freelance workers get unemployed and forced to search for regular jobs. I do not think India is ready for it, or it could ever be to offers well-paying or even just so-so paying jobs to hundreds of thousands of individuals working on the web.

Who will be accountable for so much of financial loss to Indian economy due to the almost-death of an Industry: RBI or PayPal?

Regulation is good, but too much regulation will kill the web and service industry. At present, we are a big exporter of services and web-based products to the world, but once the payments stops coming in, we will stop exporting services to the world, and we will remain nothing but mere importer.

I do not think we need to fool ourselves in believing that it is just Wipro, HLCs and Infosyses of the world that are doing good to our economy. What about the silent army of freelance coders, writers, designers, management professional, account professionals, office supports, marketers, etc. The list of services offered is very, very long, if not endless.