Saturday, February 25, 2017

Power of Aadhar - True potential to be unlocked !

Last week, we decided to upgrade my wife's phone connection from a pre-paid to a postpaid plan. After swirling around the town, we landed up in a showroom in Ashok Nagar. The showroom was
very busy and filled with people. All of the representatives were quite engaged in conversations with customers.  In fact, the store had a token system for customers to be serviced in order, by the Airtel representatives. We took a token and patiently waited for our turn. While waiting for our turn, my wife told me "I don't have a passport sized picture. Would that be a problem?". I gave her a stare, not knowing how to react to that.

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I looked around and saw some applications hanging off the shelf in the wall. I pulled a postpaid upgrade application form from the shelf. It was longer than the application form to apply for a H1B visa in US consulate. They had a place to affix photograph. "Oops!" I thought. I made my wife to sit inside the store and walked out to check if there is any instant passport photo shop nearby. I couldn't spot one. I walked back into the Airtel store with disappointment.

Around that time, one of the representatives called our token number. We walked to him and occupied the chairs in front of him. He looked at us and asked for the application form, photograph, address proof and ID proof. I told him with a "sorry" face "Sir! We don't have a passport sized photograph. We just have the Aadhar card. Would that be enough?". He said "No problem sir ! That would be enough". He pulled out a small finger print reader, connected it to his mobile phone... and opened an application from the mobile. He entered the Aadhar number and asked my wife to put her thumb on the finger print reader. The mobile application immediately pulled all of her information from the Aadhar database - picture, address etc., He entered the old pre-paid mobile number, selected the basic postpaid plan and clicked submit. He said "Sir! The transaction is complete. You'll receive an SMS in another 4 hours and the migration to a postpaid plan would be complete".

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"Wow! No application form... no signatures ... no photocopies of proofs "... I was spellbound when I saw that. The experience that I had in the Airtel store was on par with some of the mobile activation experiences that I've had in the US (or even better than that). I was amazed by the power of Aadhar. I'm now quite excited to see other Aadhar integration applications. I'm hoping that we will soon live in a world, where we don't have to remember two dozen usernames and passwords. On one side I'm excited of the simplicity of Aadhar and on the other side, I'm nervous about its security features. In a country like India, it is very hard to protect online services from hackers. Hopefully, Nandan Nilekani had done a thorough job on the security of the Aadhar services, too. I feel that India is very well positioned to enable digital identity verification and digital payments with services like Aadhar based validation and UPI payments. We have the potential to leap frog some developing / developed nations in digital payments / customer identity validation.