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Identity Project

The future is here: A private company claims it can use Aadhaar to profile people

Even before the Aadhaar Bill becomes law, corporate ambition to use the massive database has spilled out in the open.

In recent days, radio listeners may have heard advertisements for a company called TrustID offering “India’s 1st Aadhaar based mobile app to verify your maid, driver, electrician, tutor, tenant and everyone else instantly”. The app boasts it can do this in "less than a minute". Its punchline: “Shakal pe mat jaao, TrustID pe jaao.” Don't go by the face, use TrustID.

Think about what this means. A private company is advertising that it can use Aadhaar to collate information about citizens at a price. It says this openly, even as a case about the privacy of the information collected for the biometrics-linked government database is still pending in the Supreme Court. Already, the court has told the government that it has to limit the uses of the Aadhaar number. Even the Bill that is to govern the project has still not yet been signed into law and will come up for discussion in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.

This should not surprise anyone who has been watching how the project has been unfolding.

Thus far, the Aadhaar project, which seeks to database the whole population, has been marketed as a means of removing leakage and corruption and ghosts and duplicates in the welfare and subsidy system. The title of the law that was passed last week by the Lok Sabha – the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies and Services) Bill 2016 – is intended to evoke the idea that this is about the state gaining control over the welfare system.

Very little was heard about the interest private companies would have in this information data base. It is not until the 2016 Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha that we were told, expressly, that just about any person or company may draw on the Aadhaar system for its purposes. There are no qualifications or limits on who may use it and why. It depends on the willingness of the Unique Identification Author of India, which is undertaking the project, to let them become a part of the Aadhaar system.

During the debate in Lok Sabha, Congress MP Rajeev Satav, raised a question on clause 57 of the Aadhaar Bill which permits private entities – airlines, telecom, insurance, real estate companies – to use the Aadhaar number. Finance minister Jaitley did not respond to the question. The ruling MPs passed the Bill within three hours, rejecting all proposed amendments.

This is part of the imagination that has spurred the project.

Nandan Nilekani, the former UIDAI head who has been the chief spokesperson for the project, called it, not an identity, but an "identity platform" on which apps may be built by any entrepreneur. In 2011, the Economics Times reported what Nilekani said in his address to dozens of software developers in Bangalore who were there for a "UID conference":

"It's really up to the imagination and innovation of the people … In some sense we believe it will be game changing...we don't see this project just as giving someone an ID card. This will create a national-level online identity management platform."

In 2012, in an interview to McKinsey & Company, Nilekani said:

"But what’s equally important is that we expect to see a lot more innovation because of the platform’s open API. That’s the best way to do this: the government builds the platform but makes it open so that individual creativity and entrepreneurship can build more solutions. Ultimately, what we’d like to accomplish in this role is to create a thriving application ecosystem around the platform. Over the next few years, we’d like to see more apps developed by both the public and private sectors…“

At an event held in New Delhi in 2013, he said:

“So that creates platforms…. Now, you have used government benefits to jumpstart this thing. But, once you create the link between the ID and the bank account, you can then start using it for commercial payments. .. that would then be a business to person thing. The next step would be person to person …”

These are just a few illustrations. In fact, several people working with the UIDAI in the initial years left to start ventures that will find ways of leveraging the Aadhaar platform. One instance is Srikanth Nadamuni who joined Khosla Labs, a Bay Area entrepreneurial venture, to expand the uses of Aadhaar.

In June 2015, there was an "Aadhaar application hackathon" mentored by “experts from UIDAI, Khosla Labs, AngelPrime and Morpho” to create apps based on the system.

This corporate ambition to exploit the business opportunities of this massive population database is now a part of the law that the government seems in a hurry to pass.

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45% consumers purchase financial products online according to our survey. Here’s why

How one of the last bastions of offline transactions is rapidly moving online.

With flight bookings, shopping and buying movie tickets all moving online, it was only a matter of time before purchasing financial products followed suit. In fact, with greater safety, better user interfaces, simpler processes and of course, busier lives, many Indians are opting to buy financial products like insurance and bank deposits online and on-the-go rather than at a bank branch.

We conducted a survey among 150 consumers in 4 metro cities (Mumbai, New Delhi, Bangalore and Ahmedabad) and 2 tier-II cities (Indore and Bhopal) to understand the financial products Indians are buying online and their needs.

The market for financial products still has huge potential for growth with 29% respondents reporting that they owned no financial instruments. Insurance is without a doubt the most widely owned financial instrument for Indians. Nearly half the sample—45% of the respondents—reported investing in insurance. Apart from that, around 27% invested in bank deposits like Fixed and Recurring Deposits and only 13% opted for mutual funds, 13% bought stocks, and just 10% took home loans. While many people still consume financial products only at their bank branches, a large number have started seeking financial information and buying financial instruments online.

The shifting tide

We found that 45% of the survey respondents bought financial products online, indicating that a large chunk of Indians is trusting the internet to manage something as sensitive as their financial investments. It is clear that Indians value the distinct advantages of transacting online. Convenience is an integral part of the experience—60% of those who bought financial products online felt that convenience played an important role in choosing to purchase online. Multiple aspects of convenience resonate with buyers—over 40% felt that the availability of 24/7 services and the ease of comparing different products from drove them to buy online.

However, findings also reveal some concerns that even tech-savvy Indians have with the online medium.

Security is king

Understandably, security is a key factor for buyers of financial products. Even among the 45% who purchased financial products online, almost half felt that the lack of security prevented them from buying more financial products online. Tellingly, the most commonly bought financial product online is general insurance. It has to be bought (in the case of travel) or renewed (in the case of car insurance) regularly and quickly, which is easier done online. It also doesn’t require the submission of too many personal documents—another­ factor reported by many as a barrier to online purchase of financial products.

To overcome these security concerns, many companies are taking concrete steps to improve the online security of their portals. They are setting up SSL security systems that encrypt and protect the user’s data and payments and are educating customers on how to recognize online payment scams. Thus, people are slowly moving towards buying high involvement financial items like life insurance as well online.

The human factor

Research is a crucial part of the buying process, and most buyers seek information from multiple sources. While research for several consumer products like electronics and furniture has moved online even if purchase is offline, financial products have been slower to move, especially due to the need for expertise. From the sample, 55% rated talking to financial consultants and advisors as very important. Similarly, 55% rated advice from friends and family as very important.

As is evident, while the world is going online, there is something to be said for the familiarity and comfort of human interaction. Even online buyers value non-digital channels of communication. Of those who bought financial products online, 25% felt that visiting bank branches was important, 30% felt that recommendations from friends and family was important, and 33% felt that discussing it with financial advisors was important.

However, we find that online forums and aggregators are also gaining in terms of people using them to research products. According to a BCG report, search queries on life and health insurance have grown 4.5 times from 2008 to 2013, showing that digital is certainly influencing the research part of the buying cycle. Many life insurance companies and banks have caught on to this trend and are finding ways of making customer service executives available online through chat facilities on their portals. Additionally, companies are also investing in a better online user experience by designing their websites to be simple, attractive and easy-to-understand, so that the process of purchase becomes easier for customers.

When it comes to buying insurance, finding an appropriate plan is not an easy process. Life insurance companies are using technology and algorithms to overcome these human biases with innovative products like life insurance calculators. An example of this is the HDFC Life insurance profiler which simplifies the process of choosing an insurance plan. A person can enter five to six parameters and get an objective opinion on the best insurance plan suited to his or her time and status in life.

HDFC Life Insurance has also taken detailed note of its customers’ requirements as they move towards the digital age. Its product website has been designed to ensure consumers feel secure and well attended to when transacting online. All payment gateways have SSL security and are ISO 27001 certified to ensure optimum security. Additionally, to facilitate easy query resolution, it offers an online chat function along with co-browsing where a user can give control of her or her system to the chat executive so that details can be filled in for them. To solve for the barrier of document submission, HDFC Life even allows users to submit documents through e-mail or upload files on Google drive in place of hard copies. Easy e-KYC facilities allow for the Aadhar card and address proof to be uploaded online to quickly verify identity. To find the right insurance plan for yourself and experience the innovative services that the organization has to proffer head to their insurance profiler to start your journey towards buying a life insurance plan.


This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of HDFC Life and not by the Scroll editorial team.

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