A grouping on behalf of Visa and MasterCard, among others, has written a strongly worded letter to finance minister Arun Jaitley, lashing out at the presence of iSPIRT at the meeting. The US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF) said iSPIRT (Indian Software Products Industry Round Table), a thinktank that represents the interests of homegrown tech firms such as Paytm, PhonePe, Ola and others, shouldn’t have been present.
Apart from Visa and MasterCard, senior representatives from American Express, Amazon, Western Union, Discover and MoneyGram, among others, attended the RBI meeting.
Overseas Cos Seek 12 Months
“The presence of such a party in the meeting may constitute as a conflict of interest, especially when they were asked by the RBI during the course of the meeting to provide technical expertise to companies on compliance to this directive,” read the October 13 letter from Mukesh Aghi, CEO of USISPF, which ET has seen. “iSPIRT is a private association which is not a stakeholder in this consultation process. It must be noted that it is neither empaneled by the RBI, nor an official technical adviser to the government or the regulator.”
RBI wants all payments data on domestic transactions in India to be stored inside the country by October 15. The overseas companies have lobbied the finance minister for another year to comply.
USISPF is a trade body like USIBC representing US corporates in India with senior CEOs from both countries on its board of directors.
“The RBI, in the course of the meeting, placed great reliance on technical inputs provided by iSPIRT, which was represented by four officials rather than the one or two persons mandated for all other companies present,” the letter said.
This came just a day after two US senators wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking him to soften India’s stance on data localisation, warning that measures requiring this represent “key trade barriers” between the two nations, underscoring the pressure on New Delhi to relax this measure.
John Cornyn and Mark Warner — co-chairmen of the Senate’s India Caucus — urged India to instead adopt a “light-touch” regulatory framework that would allow data to flow freely across borders in their October 12 letter, which ET has also reviewed.
Aghi told ET that iSPIRT’s presence indicated the regulator’s bias. “iSPIRT has long advocated for digital protectionism and their presence at the meeting makes it apparent that the regulator’s rationale behind data localisation is aligned to iSPIRT’s stand,” he said.