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Business trends

No cash? No problem, with India's mobile microcredit

Services let users pay for ordered meals and hailed rides all at once

Lazypay lets users borrow up to about $1,400, depending on how much personal information they supply.

MUMBAI -- Indian consumers are increasingly using smartphone microcredit apps to make small purchases on the fly, leaving the actual payments for later.

Internet services are spreading fast in India, from online shopping to meal deliveries and ride-hailing. Mobile microcredit is yet another example. The apps let users make numerous minor purchases with borrowed funds and repay everything in a batch.

Rayhaan Verma, who works in Mumbai, recently used a service called Lazypay to order a meal online. Though he said he generally avoids loans and debt, including credit cards, he was short of cash that particular day.

When using Lazypay for the first time, users need to register on a PC or smartphone, entering a personal mobile phone number. A maximum available amount will be set. If Lazypay can be used for a mobile purchase, it will typically be displayed among the payment options, alongside credit cards or digital wallets.

Users receive bills on the third and 18th days of each month. If they provide additional personal information, such as a home address and taxpayer identification number, the borrowing limit will be increased to a maximum of 100,000 Indian rupees ($1,417). Penalties are imposed for late payments.

Lazypay is run by South African media company Naspers, but local players provide similar services. A user of Simpl, a homegrown option, said she prefers to pay for meals and rides all at once, rather than fumbling for small amounts of cash each time.

Indians who make heavy use of online services -- say, Uber for commuting, lunch deliveries, movie tickets, and flights or hotel bookings -- are finding the one-stop payments particularly convenient.

Delinquent borrowers do pose a risk for operators. For the services to further take root, analysts say, companies will need to ensure they can bring in steady profits.

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