The Jaipur Lit Fest tried to be completely cashless and failed. Here's what happened.

The Jaipur
Lit Fest tried to be completely cashless and failed. Here's what happened.

The Jaipur Literature Fest (JLF), unarguably one of the biggest of literature festivals of the world, ended today. Authors, Readers, writers, journalists and book enthusiasts from India and the world attended the festival.

JLF is not just about great conversations but great books, food and merchandise and If you thought demonetization was in any way going to dampen the enthusiasm surrounding JLF, you're wrong.

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This year to get on the cashless bandwagon, Kyazoonga and Freecharge tied up with JLF, to give an option out of cash transactions.


The plan sounded brilliant in theory as all you had to do was:

Your Registration Badge was your wallet.

Each badge has a unique ‘Bar Code’, which was supposed to act as a payment gateway at the Festival.

There were simple steps to load your badge:

1) The E-Badges could be loaded with CASH in Indian rupees (INR) or via Indian and/or international CREDIT/DEBIT CARDS. The minimum value for recharges INR 50.

2) The badges may be used for the following purchases across the Festival Hub of Diggi Palace:

Food Beverages: prices for food and beverages varied from INR 10 – 2,500.
Books at the Festival Bookstore.

3) CREDIT / DEBIT CARD recharges had a bank transaction fee of 1% of the transaction amount.

4) You were to receive an SMS on your registered mobile number informing you of the total amount spent.

5) You could also pay directly through an e-wallet (operated By Freecharge) at all purchase points in addition to your badge.

6) You were also eligible for Rs. 50 cash back for up to 6 transactions with Freecharge.

All that sounded well and good until it didn't work.

After the first day of the festival, the stalls that were put for festival pass recharges were redeeming the money that people had put in and hardly any stall that I visited for food, books and merchandise agreed to use the Freecharge mobile wallet except once when I used PayTM.

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Some of the card machines weren't also working.

The festival, which was otherwise impeccably organized, failed at the 'cashless economy' part which seemed like an apt metaphor for what's happening in most of the Indian subcontinent.

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Great idea, mediocre implementation.