UK-based fintech firm Wise launches service that lets Indian users send money abroad

In this photo illustration, the TransferWise logo is seen displayed on an Android mobile phone.
Omar Marques | SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images

Financial technology firm Wise said Tuesday that users in India would now be able to send money abroad to 44 countries around the world.

That includes places like Singapore, the U.K., the United States, the United Arab Emirates as well as countries in the euro zone.

India’s outward remittances in the fiscal year 2019-2020 was around $18.75 billion, with more than 60% of it categorized under travel and paying for studying abroad, according to data from the Reserve Bank of India. Under a liberalized remittance scheme, the central bank allows residents to freely send up to $250,000 abroad to fund personal expenses or education per financial year — which begins in April and ends in March the following year.

Typically, the inward remittance market is comparatively larger as many Indians working abroad send money back to their families in the country. World Bank data for 2019 showed personal remittances received in India exceeded $83 billion.

Kristo Kaarmann, CEO and co-founder of Wise, which was previously called TransferWise, told CNBC that the ability to send money out of India was one of the most heavily requested services the company received from users.

“India specifically, it is very exciting,” Kaarmann said. “Over the last, like almost a decade now, the build up of local payments infrastructure and UPI has been very interesting to observe.”

Unified Payments Interface, or UPI, is one of the most dominant methods of digital payments in India. What makes the framework stand out compared with mobile wallets is its interoperability — which means people can use different platforms that are built on UPI to send money and conduct financial transactions.

The London-headquartered Wise specializes in cross-currency money transfers, which can be done fully online. It claims its service is faster and cheaper compared with other fintech players as well as traditional banks, which tend to take a large cut and offer unfavorable exchange rates.

Banks are the dominant platform for international money transfers in India.

Wise teamed up with Google Pay last month to allow users in the U.S. to send money to India.

Wise also announced Tuesday the opening of a local office in Mumbai. Kaarmann declined to provide details about potential partnerships in the works in India.

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