A Novel Practice for Mobile Money Payments: Using Fingerprints to Enable Real-Time Transactions in Nelamangala, India

ideas4action@wharton.upenn.edu IdeaHub, Infrastructure & Economic Development, South-East Asia

In order to improve business environments in developing economies via innovative private/public partnerships, Paysa will establish cashless payment systems using fingerprint authentication in rural India. We will connect people’s fingerprints to their bank accounts and enable transfers from the customer’s bank account to the merchant’s bank account. We believe there is a large potential for growth because roughly only 50 percent of the global adult population holds bank accounts and the majority of this financially unserved adult population live in developing countries.

Our proposed payment process can be accessible to illiterate people because it uses fingerprints as an identification method. Our solution to enable acceptance of mobile money payments is to partner with a local bank to encourage users to switch from cash to cashless cell phone based transactions. We will develop a fingerprint authorization system connected with mobile phones or computers integrated with a biometric database to support cashless transactions between business owners and customers. In order to purchase items, the customer will place his or her finger on the fingerprint scanner, which is connected to a phone or computer. We will provide the scanner to the merchant. Our software will then go through a pre-existing database of fingerprints, Aadhaar, based in India and one of the world’s largest biometric identification systems, to verify the customer’s identity, thereby enabling the transaction.

To narrow our focus for the pilot program, we have chosen the region of Nelamangala, with a population of 37, 232 (Census India 2011). Furthermore, we included the fingerprint concept because it is a creative and secure approach and it is unique to one’s identity and difficult to alter. Using fingerprints as a form of identification meets our goal of ensuring user-friendliness by taking into account varying levels of literacy and cultural values in rural areas. Through our research, we have seen that using fingerprints as a form of signature is a norm in India. With the support of a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, we aim to execute our pilot at the beginning of next year by targeting the unbanked population to reduce poverty and increase financial mobility.

Team Paysa
Christine Yee, Smith College, Class of 2017
Darpan Bohara, Smith College, Class of 2018
Yashna Sureka, Smith College, Class of 2017