Cash is not the enemy – Stickiness of Cash Part 1

Why is cash so sticky in our society?

Many of us have argued for the need to build convenience, security and ubiquity for digital payments. And then cash would start receding. No debate there.

But we forget that as individuals our brains are wired to go back to cues that are triggered at the sub-conscious level. We are not always the rational individuals economists would have us to be. Our decisions are influenced more by emotions.

CASH IS NOT THE ENEMY

To appeal at the emotional level, we need either a villain or a hero.

While bankers and payment professionals would disagree with me, but for most Indians cash is NOT the enemy. Consider this:

  • The currency carries images of Mahatma Gandhi, of the National Emblem and now of Mangalyaan etc. These are symbols of national pride. We are wired to feel proud to hold a piece of paper with these images on it.
  • We have traditionally celebrated an auspicious occasion with gifting loved ones with money. This association of gifting currency with happy moments is also tough to break anytime soon. Again deeply rooted positive connect.
  • When the Prime Minister announced the ban of old currency notes, the villain being chased was corruption. Not cash. So we never really took the storyline that cash is bad.

I don’t think any country would even want to walk down the path of trying to build a negative connotation with its currency.

Hence a story where cash is the villain may not work. We need something else to pitch Digital Payments at an emotional level.


This is part 1 in a series of posts where I try to understand why Cash is sticky? What are the some of the obvious things, we may have overlooked in our zeal to digitize payments.

Here’s part 2 , wherein I talk about why its a tough journey moving away from cash – too many choices and a hurdle-ridden on-boarding process.