Shirki, in the Raigad district of Maharashtra, is a typically prosperous village blessed by rain gods: Houses here are pucca — most have a motorcycle; some even hatchbacks.
About 100 km south of Mumbai, the village is also famous for producing some of the best Ganapati idols in the state, with its artisans in great demand during the festive season. This also led the State Bank of India (SBI), the country’s largest bank, to launch the pilot of its Aadhaar-based payment system from this village.
SBI Deputy Managing Director and Chief Information Officer Mrutyunjay Mahapatra inaugurated the pilot on Saturday. “Generally, technology is conceptualised, designed and generated in large cities. So the common man-centric approach is not always factored in,” he said.
Adding that compared to 3G or 4G connections in Mumbai, Shirki only had basic internet connectivity, Mahapatra said, “We plan to operationalise the system with the lowest common denominator of bandwidth. It must function when the network robustness is not there. This is also to force an ecosystem on the rural masses.”
The Aadhaar Merchant Payment System (AMPS) — that employs technology developed by the Tata Consultancy Services and the National Payments Corporation of India — is aimed helping people go fully cashless.
In this system, customers don’t need to carry even their credit or debit cards or a cellphone to make a transaction. All they need to do is tell the merchant concerned their Aadhaar number and name of their bank.
The merchant would key in the details and take the customer’s thumbprint on an Android phone-based fingerprint scanner. The payment would be executed through the AMPS application, easily downloaded online. The entire process would take 30 seconds. After the money had been debit from their account, the customers would get an alert on their cellphone.
To avail this service, the merchant needs an SBI account; customers can have accounts in any banks, as long as they are linked to their Aadhaar numbers.
SBI would run the pilot for two weeks. If feedback is positive, the system would be scaled up rapidly and introduced in 10 villages.
The plan is to make 100 villages rely less on cash before the system is introduced in urban and metropolitan areas, said SBI officials. In the pilot stage, there would be some restrictions on the maximum value of transactions.
Merchants can get fingerprint scanners from SBI branches. The bank would not charge for services, at least it reaches a level of acceptance, said bank officials at the launch.
The bank gave biometric sets with Android mobiles to the shop owners. SBI’s Vadkhal branch has opened savings accounts for villagers to check the pilot in a closed-loop manner.