Former Tata Group Chairman, Ratan Tata, has invested in Silicon Valley startup Abra, a payments app that allows users to transfer money across currencies. Underlying Abra’s technology is so-called ‘crypto currency,’ that is a digital or virtual currency which uses cryptography for security. One of the first crypto-currencies to catch the world’s attention was Bitcoin, which was launched in 2009, and functioned more like an underground hush-hush geek currency. While it pricked the FBI’s attentions and was touted as a V-for-Vendettaish alternative to money as we understand it, it got discredited. However like several ideas ahead of its time, the principles of Bitcoin are now being utilized by technology startups to provide viable solutions to online payments. The involvement of Ratan Tata, who after his Tata days is now a mentor and investor in a range of companies from Ola Cabs, Snapdeal, Bluestone and some Silicon-Valley firms probably indicates the respectability that is now slowly beginning to be associated with crypto-currency.
Founded in 2014 by serial entrepreneur Bill Barhydt, the Abra app, provides for storing digital cash, sending that money to any smartphone and using a new network of human ATMs, called Abra Tellers, who are individuals or businesses earning money by buying and selling digital cash to and from any consumer via the app. Â The firm has already been signing up merchants for this new solution. Abra expects to begin the global launch of the Merchant API service later this quarter, said a press statement.
The growth of India’s telecom sector and the low call costs mean that India’s cash-based economy could see mobile operators offer payments in virtual currency, that can also be converted into cold cash, akin to using prepaid mobile phone vouchers. Several tech companies offer facilities to transfer money but the challenges arise in ensuring the security of transactions as well being able to instantaneously receive money across currency. India currently doesn’t allow its rupee to be fully convertible.