RBI’s Digital Rupee (CBDC-R) Pilot Surpasses 100,000 Users in Four Months, Private Goal Set at 500,000 by July

India’s Reserve Bank is aiming to scale the user base of its retail central bank digital currency (CBDC-R) to one million users, with plans to prioritize creating an offline version, according to two individuals familiar with the matter who spoke to CoinDesk. Although the bank publicly announced it was aiming for 500,000 users by July, it is privately looking to double that amount.

India’s population, the world’s largest, is expected to make reaching one million users relatively easy. The bank is currently running both retail and wholesale CBDC pilots, with the retail CBDC pilot active in at least 15 cities and more than 13 banks participating. The pilot began on December 1, 2022, and has seen more than 100,000 customers participate in the four months since.

The RBI’s digital rupee was the subject of great interest at a recent meeting of the G-20 hosted by India in Bengaluru. RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das stated in a media conference that “an eminent person from the international financial sector went to the extent of complementing the design of our CBDC, adding that the only thing he missed in the CBDC was the smell of new currency.”

The RBI initiated a Hackathon in 2023 to find solutions to some of the challenges around a retail CBDC, including improving scalability, increasing transactions per second, and solutions for enabling offline transactions. The bank is hoping to conduct offline transactions by testing the use of wearables, cards (including debit and credit), Bluetooth technology, and smartphones.

The RBI has received more than 50 proposals to solve the problem of offline transactions. The bank is also interacting with private companies to consider solutions to improve scalability, although no partnership has yet been initiated with any prominent blockchain-related entities.

The RBI has not announced a timeline for rolling out a full-scale retail CBDC, but it has previously indicated it was aiming for the end of the year. A digital currency system that can facilitate offline transactions is seen as a way to improve financial inclusion in emerging economies such as India.

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