sulabh swatchh bharat

Tuesday, 17-October-2017

They were way ahead on Aadhaar

Surekha came up with an idea similar to Aadhaar Pay two years ago before anybody had even heard of it

Yashna Surekha, a 22-year-old Bengaluru girl has won a $100,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation along with two of her friends. Microsoft’s co-founder Bill Gates once said, “It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.” Yashna Sureka’s story has a similar ring to it. She and her team of three came up with the idea similar to Aadhaar about two years ago before we even heard about it. It is being used widely today as the Indian Government’s Digital India campaign, which ruined the trio’s plans. 

However, she has been awarded the grant from the Gates Foundation earlier this year.The Bengalurean studied at Mount Carmel College for a year before she decided to change course early on and moved to Smith College, a women’s liberal arts college in Massachusetts, just outside Boston. There she met a few like minded people and formed a team. “We are a trio. Darpan Bohara, who hails from Nepal, Christine Yee who is a Chinese American and I. We had similar interests as I did. Christine and I are Economics majors and Darpan is doing her Computer Science,” Yashna explains.

 “As part of our curriculum, we would identify things on our campus that were a problem and come up with solutions. It could be a slippery slope causing accidents, or an architectural dent. The three of us happened to be put in the same group for these projects, and since two were from an economics backgrounds, finance attracted us. We came up with the idea for something like Aadhaar Pay. We were among  59 picked out of 1,800 applications from across the world. We were awarded $100,000 as a grant. ”

What actually is Aadhaar pay? This project would be working on the lines of “Enabling Merchants’ Acceptance of Mobile Money Payments.We proposed to create a fingerprint authorization system, in partnership with a local bank as well as Aadhaar, in order to ensure scalability, portability, security, and creativity,” she says. The idea was proposed to Axis bank initially, but today the team works with IDFC. When the Indian government’s Digital India initiative, Aadhaar Pay was officially launched, sadly, the trio did not get credit for it. 

“As a result of these developments, we decided to stay committed to our idea by working toward the merchant and customer adoption of Aadhaar Pay by serving as business correspondents specifically targeting small business merchants. Then demonetisation happened, and Axis Bank could no longer partner with us due to their Aadhaar related jam. We then approached IDFC Bank, which is the parent bank of Aadhaar Pay. By the end of June 2017, our groundwork started. We’re starting with Bengaluru first and then will move into the really rural parts like Nelamangala. Our target right now is to identify 100 small scale merchants, educate them about Aadhaar Pay, help them acquire a fingerprint scanner and or a smart phone using our grant, and work towards customer acquisition,” she explains.

For now, though, the stage is set for the trio’s foray into the working side of things, and Yashna realises that finance may not be what she wants to pursue,  even though it is an obvious choice as her major. She would like to get into management consulting.