Indian startups leverage Aadhaar as a springboard for growth

eGovernance, eGovWatch, UIDAI, Aadhaar numbers, Aadhaar, Unique Identification Authority of India

Think about this! Reliance Jio signed up 1 million customers a day by leveraging eKYC. With just an Aadhaar number, a customer could cut through the maze of signing up and producing multiple documents and get his Reliance Jio connection activated within a few minutes. What Reliance Jio could achieve was just a glimpse of the potential of Aadhaar – a platform that has already crossed 1 billion registrations.

The promise of instant authentication is extremely useful for startups. Consider a process where customers have to provide identity proof and address proof in the form of physical documents. By using Aadhaar for authentication, the KYC norms can be fulfilled instantly. Using an API request, a startup can query the Aaadhar database to check the identity of a person. This opens up immense possibilities. For example, a startup called TrustId uses Aadhaar to help enterprises do a quick KYC for hiring employees and also for hiring service professionals such as drivers, plumbers or security guards.

The mammoth reach of Aadhaar enables startups to tap into a readily-available infrastructure, and allows them to compete at a level playing field with large established enterprises. Aadhaar, hence, gives startups a quick jumpstart over established firms, as they do not have the necessary infrastructure or the resources to sign up customers. A case in point is Digio, a Bangalore-based startup, which has built a digital signature gateway platform built atop Aadhaar. This is a SaaS based platform and integrates with existing business applications to enable users to sign online.

Says Sanket Nayak, Co-Founder, Digio, “With Aadhaar, the cost of operations can be easily cut down by Sanket Nayak Digioa factor of 70%, while the time taken for completing a process can be cut down to minutes from days.” To explain his point, Sanket Nayak gives the example of a demat account opening process, where a person has to typically sign on more than 25 different places on paper documents. With eKYC, this entire process can be done in a single click. Hence, Aadhaar can be used effectively for any process (such as on boarding of customers), where there is extensive documentation involved.

Another startup, Tapits Technologies, has developed Fingpay, a solution that allows customers to shop by just using their finger. With Fingpay, customers can pay for products, services and utilities at POS from any of their bank accounts and wallets with just a scan of a finger.

Explaining the importance of Aadhaar, Pratyush Halen, CEO, Tapits Technologies, says, “Aadhaar is a Pratyush Halen Fingpayvery open network which allows everybody to connect and leverage its services. Earlier, authentication and eKYC, was difficult and had lot of cost and time implications, chances of fraud and possibility of human errors. Aadhaar made this easy, simple and secure. As Aadhaar is open for everyone, startups like us are able to quickly connect with it and innovate by understanding the pain points in existing services and infrastructure, and build a solution over it. The speed with which the startups like us could develop over it helps us to quickly deploy our solutions.”

The promise of scale with trust

For sectors like financial services, where trust is everything, Aadhaar can prove to be a significant differentiator. States Rohan Angrish, CTO, Capital Float, “Aadhaar has given you ‘Trust as a Service’. If someone comes to you for a financial service or for a transaction, Aadhaar will tell you that they are indeed who they say they are. Now you can trust this person and you can go about conducting your business. Trust as a service has huge implications, and the sky is the limit”

The possibilities are immense, and examples can be seen in multiple sectors. Take for instance, startup Ashok Kadsurfirm, LegalDesk.com, which has created a unique service using Aadhaar. LegalDesk.com’s customers can authenticate their legal documents such as affidavits using Aadhaar. Explains Ashok Kadsur, Co-Founder LegalDesk.com, “At LegalDesk.com, our customers draft legal documents on their own, using our drafting software. We started using Aadhaar based eSignatures, so that the documents can be signed electronically in a matter of minutes. We used to print the documents on stamp paper and deliver, but now we have enabled eSign so that people can complete the paperwork completely online.”

LegalDesk.com’s Aadhaar based eSign service eSignDesk.com was launched by Nandan Nilekani, the key architect of the Aadhaar platform. By using Aadhaar, the startup has speeded up the legal documentation process.

Now organizations can digitize their documentation process by using Aadhaar based eSign. For example, LegalDesk.com is helping organizations such as Akshaya Patra use Aadhaar based eSign so that organization representatives can electronically sign documents with their donors and vendors, using its eSign product.

The future of Aadhaar

Pramod Varma AadhaarConsidering Aadhaar’s immense potential, the future is bright as the possibilities are limited only by imagination. Pramod Varma, Chief Architect, Aadhaar shares the impact that can be made by Aadhaar when he says, “The Aadhaar Payment Bridge (APB) built by NPCI through which money can be sent to an Aadhaar holder is extremely innovative. The entire subsidy system can be re-imagined on outcome based direct payment just using Aadhaar and APB. APB is so simple that it allows DBT (Direct Benefits Transfer) at scale and for Aadhaar holders true Bank account portability! Another innovation that is yet to fully take shape is the Iris enabled smartphones and other devices. With less than 5 USD bill of material cost along with high accuracy, it can change the way users authenticate in future.”

The biggest advantage of Aadhaar is its promise of interoperability, and the same platform can be used, even if the person moves across the country. This is of tremendous advantage to professionals who do not have to submit different sets of documents when they move across the country. The other big impact area could be healthcare, as patients can share their information with insurance providers or doctors, by just using their Aadhaar number.

Tamaal_RoySays Tamaal Roy, CEO, Biomatiques Identification Solutions, “In the healthcare sector, a patient’s medical history and personal information is very critical and confidential which should be accessible only when the patient or doctor is available. Biometric technologies will help patients to avoid carrying any physical documents while visiting medical practitioners and allowing the practitioner to retrieve medical history of the patients without any gaps and resulting into right diagnosis.”

Talking about the possibilities of using Aadhaar, Pramod Varma, says, “In my opinion, the financial sector itself has not fully taken advantage of Aadhaar, eSign, etc for instant paperless services. I am sure we will see more of that in the coming year. In addition, I would like to see it being used for providing universal healthcare that everyone can self-enroll and take advantage. Of course, identity is core to most systems and Aadhaar and India Stack (Aadhaar, eSign, Digital Locker, UPI, and Electronic Consent Framework) will surely play a key role in many other domains in the coming years.”

With the scale and simplicity of design, Aadhaar may become the sole identity card in the future. Says Varma, “Aadhaar is already a virtual identity with no need for a paper printout. Aadhaar holders can assert their identity anytime anywhere just using their fingerprint/iris without having any paper. But, our systems and thinking are still in a paper world and this will take some time to adopt newer methods. We just have to be patient and they will change as they see value in adopting paperless and fully digital processes. “

Many government offices too have introduced Aadhaar enabled biometric systems to mark attendance. Even at fair price shops, the verification of the individual is done based on Aadhaar, which ensures that the right person is getting the right benefits. This has led to a rise in demand for biometric and Iris recognition systems.

Says Roy of Biomatiques Identification Solutions, “We have successfully supplied 33,310 scanners to the government of Andhra Pradesh which are being implemented for pension and ration distribution.” Roy believes that Aadhar will soon be a reality in all walks of life, from digital transactions to government dealings to even SIM card purchases.

Aadhaar’s open architecture allows startup firms to develop innovative solutions on top of the platform. For example, firms such as OnGrid and TrustId use Aadhhar for verifying the credentials of candidates and doing background verification, while other firms such as Truce are using Aadhaar to verify the identity of farmers.

With large scale adoption, India is one of the few countries in the world to have such a large biometric database available. The possibilities for startups to leverage Aadhaar are huge, as trust is the bedrock of every transaction, and Aadhaar can be used to authenticate any transaction or service quickly and cost effectively.

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