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Exploring Rickshaw Drivers' Reluctance to Accept Digital Payment from Customers

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Digital payments have been increasingly omnipresent in India ever since the demonetization in 2016. People and smartphones have become by and large inseparable. Hara’s discovery of the QR code ahead of today’s smart phone and every smart phone having inbuilt QR scanner and Government's drive for every citizen of the country to have a bank account has set the stage for digital payments, however small it may be. The individual entrepreneurs have more to gain than lose. However, there are still a good number of people from low resource populations who have a reluctance to accept digital payments due to multiple reasons.

One such group of population consists of independent (not being employed by any ride hailing company like Ola, Uber, etc.) auto rickshaw drivers. Their lifestyles are still run in such a way that they require hard cash more than digital cash. It is not our job as researchers to question them or persuade them to use digital payment, but to possibly look at some of the reasons why they reject digital payments from their customers and try to design sustainable solutions to address these concerns.

In this project, I tried to explore the reluctance towards digital payment applications by independent auto rickshaw drivers in Bengaluru, India. This was done as part of the course - Advanced Topics in Human Computer Interaction - and I tried to apply my learnings from the course in conducting the research study. 

Project Timeline

6 AUG 2021


17 SEP 2021



30 AUG 2021

Design Strategy Blueprint

Before the start of the research phase for this project, I developed a design strategy blueprint having understanding that it is quite useful to set up a more clear way about defining a concept and going about tackling it. The blueprint below shows the challenges, aspirations, focus areas, guiding principles, activities and outcomes which I proposed alongside my concept proposal at the beginning of this project. 

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Field research study was conducted in four busy locations inside the city of Bengaluru - Shantinagar, Indiranagar, Banashankari and JP Nagar. I chose these areas since there are a lot of auto stands there being readily available for last mile connectivity from metro stations or bus stands. I approached these auto stands to conduct both one-on-one interviews and focus group discussions. I am proficient in communicating only in Hindi and Tamil and since I felt like there could be a language barrier if the participant didn’t know any language other than the local language (Kannada), I requested a friend to accompany me as a translator. 

I visited each field location once and conducted semi-structured qualitative interviews by picking participants from auto stands at random. I ended up taking eight individual interviews and three focus groups interviews. Due to the short availability time of the participants (who are sparing a few minutes during their tight schedule), most of the interviews did not last more than 15 minutes.


The demographic spread between the participants wasn’t a lot. All of the drivers have been in Bengaluru for at least five years now. The entire bunch of participants were male, averaging about 42 years. There was an objective to recruit at least one female participant in the study, but unfortunately, none of the stands had one. Out of the 11 interviews (8 individual, 3 focus groups), four were conducted in Shantinagar, three each were conducted in Jaya Prakash Nagar and Banashankari, and one was conducted in Indiranagar.

Along with their basic demographic information, the participants were asked about their usage experience of digital payment applications, and what issues they have while using them. The participants’ personal methods and preferences of both paying cash and receiving cash were asked. A think aloud was done towards the end with our device to observe the flow of the participants while using these applications. Field notes were taken during the interviews and observations with the consent of the participants.

Personas and Scenarios

After the completion of the research study, interview transcripts were made and a data set was developed out of that. From the data set, patterns of experiences between the participants were identified and analysed. The major usability issues of the participants and my understanding towards some of the reasons why the participants were so reluctant towards using digital payment applications were classified. The two broad categories of findings I identified were - trust issues of participants towards the applications and their personal requirements for hard cash.


From the study, it was found that due to trust issues with digital payment applications the participants had, they were reluctant towards accepting anything but cash. The reason for this was not only the fact that the drivers have more faith with the cash on their hands, but also that they have experiences of being tricked by the customers. 

“A customer got inside my auto and the ride fare was 100 rupees. He insisted on paying through google pay, and he paid and went away. I later checked and saw that I received only 10 rupees. I got fooled”, said Raju, a middle aged auto driver in the Shantinagar auto stand.

The payment screen in Google pay very often shows only a tick upon the completion of the payment and this is the screen shown to the auto rickshaw drivers. The driver cannot even see the amount paid and the customer might be away by the time the driver looks at how much he got paid. PhonePe’s payment screen shows the amount paid on a very small text which could not be visible to many of the drivers. The payment screens for Google Pay and PhonePe is shown below:


I assumed that this could be one of the reasons why it becomes easy for the customers to trick the drivers and give them room to be dishonest about their payments. With little knowledge about technology and how it works, the drivers could easily lose their trust towards it not finding any other way to keep their cash safe and thus, towards accepting only cash.

Another reason, especially with Google Pay (as shown in the figure below) is that the user interface has too many features that could confuse the user and take them time to navigate what they exactly want. In case the payment receiver wants to check their transaction history, they need to scroll down to the third screen and then enter their password, etc. The drivers are so preoccupied with finding their next ride that they hardly check their phones unless they are free and sitting without any customers. Two of the individual participants, and one focus group from JP Nagar had raised this concern that they take time to check all the necessary information, and it is not even easy for them.


If a person uses google pay often for their expenditures, it is reasonable to assume that they will be accepting digital payment. But for someone who uses hard cash for their daily expenditures, accepting cash rather than digital payment will be a priority. As it is imperative for them to have cash with them while making their purchases (which is either at the end of the day or early the next morning), they will prefer hard cash over digital payments.

Except for the one focus group, the rest of the participants in the study only use cash for their payments and there are multiple reasons for this, some even we as researchers and designers cannot do much about. But all these drivers have the same opinion and that is, demanding the customer to pay cash by hand as much as possible. Five of the individual participants had mentioned the fact that they need at least 500- 600 rupees at the end of the day in their hands in order to buy their household requirements for the following day. But with more and more customers preferring digital payments, it is interesting to see how these drivers continue to remain adamant to accept only cash payments. The study does try to understand what makes the auto drivers avoid digital payments, rather than whether they should move to using it more constantly or not.

Final Prototype

Based on the findings from the research, the primary design solution was to develop a separate user interface for paying money and receiving money for the users. In this way, the user interface needn’t be cramped up and it becomes more user friendly for users who use their application either to only pay or only receive money. 

Most of the participants in the study fall into the latter category as they don’t use digital payment for their personal expenditures. The below prototypes are from a proposed new version of Google Pay and PhonePe which includes a new user interface for payment receivers.




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