Biometric Banking Bridges India’s Financial Gap

What's Next In Payments®
3:32 PM EDT February 1st, 2013

As a country with a massive population spread throughout urban and rural populations, India houses an enormous population of the financially underserved. As the government, banks and others attempt to reduce the number of unbanked and underbanked, innovative solutions that offer education, security and convenience to a group of people who’ve rarely ever had access to traditional financial services before.

TSYS is one such company looking to provide financial services to India’s unbanked, partnering with Visa and the Indian government to create the Saral Money program: a system that relies on advanced technology but a simple concept to make financial transactions easier for the underserved. PYMNTS.com spoke with Amit Sethi, managing director, India and Southeast Asia for TSYS about India’s unique financial situation, Saral Money’s potential and how TSYS’s technology can make a difference for the financially underserved in several markets. 

“[Saral Money] will use Visa technology to authenticate account holders by transporting the biometric information, such as fingerprints, from the point of sale to the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI),” Sethi said. “Once the account holder is authenticated using biometric information, the transaction information, such as the amount of the purchase and the merchant type is then submitted to Visa’s network for processing. “

While the concept behind the idea may seem simple, Sethi believes it can dramatically improve the financial lives of hundreds of millions of Indian consumers. The Indian National Identity system issues each cardholder a unique 12-digit identification code, which is used by the UIDAI to authenticate the transaction. For those who generally have to provide multiple documents to open an account, it eliminates a big barrier to adoption, while also making the service easy to use and secure.

According to Sethi, the UIDAI plans to link Saral Money accounts to around 600 million people by 2014. If the program does turn out to be successful, other countries could soon follow suit with similar solutions.

“The UIDAI initiative is being closely watched by several countries, and is likely to be followed by developing countries where financial and social inclusion is an identified national priority.  The impact of this technology in emerging markets could be significant, particularly in countries which have large unbanked or underbanked populations,” Sethi theorized.

“The TSYS technology enables unbanked and underbanked individuals to use their national ID and personal biometrics like fingerprints to authenticate themselves to a financial services provider, and provides the consumers with the ability to open accounts, deposit money, pay bills, check account balances, etc. in a secured manner.”

To hear more from Sethi on Saral Money, India’s unbanked and underbanked population, and much more, listen to the full podcast below.

   

*If you have trouble with the audio player above, click here.

To read a transcript of the audio conversation, click here.


Amit Sethi

Managing Director of India and South Asia at TSYS

Amit Sethi is a veteran of the global payments industry. During his 25-year career, Sethi has been actively involved in the financial services, technology and outsourcing industries through a series of executive positions with companies such as Bank of America, HSBC, Visa International, KPMG, Oracle Corporation and iGate. Sethi served as Global Sales Head of Financial Services and Service Industries for Sutherland Global Services prior to joining TSYS, one of the world’s largest companies for licensed and outsourced payment services, where he is the Managing Director of India and South Asia.

Sethi has a wealth of experience in retail payments, international business models and in building and scaling businesses. He is also co-chairman of the Prepaid Information Forum (PIF) India.

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