A digital twist to banking & financial services for Indians

Contributed by team Aapna Seva – Top 10 Innovator

One of the main facets of the Digital India initiative involves financial inclusion at the bottom of the pyramid. Studies have shown that access to and participation in the financial system helps poor people manage risk and absorb financial shocks.

We at Srishti are completely aligned to this goal. Our product, AAPNA-SEVA, aims to solve the banking problem in semi-urban & rural areas by introducing AADHAAR-enabled payments. Furthermore, we also aim to provide a convenient platform for people to conduct transactions relevant to their life. This also corroborates with Digital India’s vision of making more people at the bottom of the pyramid digitally literate.

AAPNA-SEVA stands for Aadhaar Authentication and Payment Network Access – Srishti Enhanced Value Add. Through AAPNA-SEVA devices installed at various points of convenience, citizens will be able to conduct financial and other activities in a “pay per use model” for shared services. These include banking, bill payment, mobile payments, e-governance, e-ticketing, and rural job portal access, to name a few. Various cashless payment modes will be available: credit/debit card, IMPS/NEFT, mobile wallet, and the Aadhaar enabled payment system (AEPS) that we will be piloting.

Also, we aim to provide our customers an opportunity to automate their business while obtaining an extra source of income. Our founder and CEO, Mr. BN Pal, was involved in designing the STD-ISD booth during his stint at Aplab. We at Srishti see AAPNA-SEVA as a 21st century update on that revolutionary model. It wouldn’t be erroneous to state that AAPNA-SEVA and Digital India’s interests are aligned.

As part of the Innovate For Digital India Challenge, the Accelerator Phase in Pune gave us countless important insights regarding our product and business model. The exhaustive customer interviews we conducted during our time there gave us essential feedback on how we can make our product and User Interface more easy-to-use for our target markets.

Our product is one that combines various facets, and these interviews gave us hard evidence on which facets to concentrate on. The one-on-one sessions with Elephant and Globant Design also helped us rationalize our product components and make the device as compact as possible.

The Accelerator Phase also gave us crucial pointers on making a business strategy. The mentoring by UC Berkeley’s Lester Center of Entrepreneurship and CIIE was invaluable to us growing as a startup. Ever since, we have incorporated their methods and teachings. Meetings with VCs and investors have become much easier to navigate because we have a 360 degree point of view on every facet of our business.

One of the impressive things in the Accelerator was that we had to conduct a video conference with either Mr. André Marquis, Executive Director, Lester Center for Entrepreneurship UC, Berkeley or Mr. Mark Searle, Senior Fellow at UC, Berkeley; every second week, with clear requirements for every meeting, whether it was conducting customer interviews or completing another facet of our business plan. This ensured that not a moment was wasted during our 3 months in Pune.

The whole journey has been peppered with very monumental and eye-opening events. Our interaction with Elephant Design opened up another dimension to our product design that we had not even considered before joining the program. Interacting with them just for less than two hours probably saved us months of brainstorming.

Basing our innovation on Intel® Architecture (iA) helped us make a key design changes. Our product now has different user interfaces (UI) depending on who is using the product. For fast development across platforms and architectures, we used the Intel® XDK development tool and the Intel® INDE productivity suite. For the tablet version of AAPNA-SEVA, we use Intel-powered tablets.

Additionally, the first time we met Pradeep Lokhande, founder of Rural Relations, was also revelatory. He had in-depth insights on rural trends and had hard data collected by his organization to back it up. Finally, the trip to Renu Electronics gave us an inspirational example on what hardships we have to endure to successfully scale-up our product.

Before we came to Pune for the Accelerator Phase, we had no idea on how to construct an effective business plan. At Srishti, we are predominantly flooded with technocrats. Since our inception, we were concentrating all our efforts on making a full-fledged product and did not give much importance towards focusing on the business side. As we moved closer to product completion, we realized that it is imperative to build a sustainable go-to-market strategy. Since we are a startup, it is essential that we make a plan that is sustainable as well as easy to scale up.

One of the high points of this program was the ability to convey and validate our ideas with visionary minds. Being able to interact with people like Debjani Ghosh - Vice President, Sales and Marketing Group, Managing Director, South Asia, Intel; Gaurav Dwivedi - CEO, MyGov; Aruna Jayanthi – CEO Capgemini India; Vikas Jain - Co-founder Micromax Informatics, and obtaining positive feedback from them has given us a lot of confidence in our capabilities as a startup. To have their well-wishes on our quest to succeed is extremely humbling and motivating. Participating in this program has enhanced our hunger to helping rural India and make financial services for them more convenient and digital.

After a whirlwind few months partaking in the Innovate For Digital India Challenge, we finally went to the Rashtrapati Bhavan and presented our solutions to our Honorable President, Shri Pranab Mukherjee on 19th of November. It was the perfect culmination to an immensely successful few months for our company, and our association with the Intel-DST Innovate for Digital India Challenge.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are solely of the participants and do not represent the views of Intel, the Department of Science & Technology and CIIE in any form or matter.