Saturday, February 25, 2017

Power of Aadhar - True potential to be unlocked !

Last week, we decided to upgrade my wife's phone connection from a pre-paid to a postpaid plan. After swirling around the town, we landed up in a showroom in Ashok Nagar. The showroom was
very busy and filled with people. All of the representatives were quite engaged in conversations with customers.  In fact, the store had a token system for customers to be serviced in order, by the Airtel representatives. We took a token and patiently waited for our turn. While waiting for our turn, my wife told me "I don't have a passport sized picture. Would that be a problem?". I gave her a stare, not knowing how to react to that.

Also read: Coimbatore Airport - Lost & Found

I looked around and saw some applications hanging off the shelf in the wall. I pulled a postpaid upgrade application form from the shelf. It was longer than the application form to apply for a H1B visa in US consulate. They had a place to affix photograph. "Oops!" I thought. I made my wife to sit inside the store and walked out to check if there is any instant passport photo shop nearby. I couldn't spot one. I walked back into the Airtel store with disappointment.

Around that time, one of the representatives called our token number. We walked to him and occupied the chairs in front of him. He looked at us and asked for the application form, photograph, address proof and ID proof. I told him with a "sorry" face "Sir! We don't have a passport sized photograph. We just have the Aadhar card. Would that be enough?". He said "No problem sir ! That would be enough". He pulled out a small finger print reader, connected it to his mobile phone... and opened an application from the mobile. He entered the Aadhar number and asked my wife to put her thumb on the finger print reader. The mobile application immediately pulled all of her information from the Aadhar database - picture, address etc., He entered the old pre-paid mobile number, selected the basic postpaid plan and clicked submit. He said "Sir! The transaction is complete. You'll receive an SMS in another 4 hours and the migration to a postpaid plan would be complete".

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"Wow! No application form... no signatures ... no photocopies of proofs "... I was spellbound when I saw that. The experience that I had in the Airtel store was on par with some of the mobile activation experiences that I've had in the US (or even better than that). I was amazed by the power of Aadhar. I'm now quite excited to see other Aadhar integration applications. I'm hoping that we will soon live in a world, where we don't have to remember two dozen usernames and passwords. On one side I'm excited of the simplicity of Aadhar and on the other side, I'm nervous about its security features. In a country like India, it is very hard to protect online services from hackers. Hopefully, Nandan Nilekani had done a thorough job on the security of the Aadhar services, too. I feel that India is very well positioned to enable digital identity verification and digital payments with services like Aadhar based validation and UPI payments. We have the potential to leap frog some developing / developed nations in digital payments / customer identity validation.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Coimbatore Airport - Lost & Found

Last week, I had been to Pollachi to attend a Industry Institute Conclave in Dr. Mahalingam College of Engineering and Technology (MCET). It was almost a full day event and there were participants from many industries, all over South India. After the event was over, I returned back to Coimbatore
Airport to catch my Spicejet flight at 9.15 pm. I reached airport by 6 pm and the checkin counter wasn't open at that time. I spent an hour in the lobby catching up with emails and phone calls.

At 7 pm, I checked-in at the Airline counter and stood in the queue for security checks. The security personnel asked everyone to keep their laptop and iPad in a tray. Normally, I keep all of my electronic gadgets in one tray, including laptop, iPad and mobile phone. On that day, I had carried with me my iPad and mobile phone. I kept just the iPad on the tray and kept the mobile phone in my bag. After clearing the security checks, I picked up my bag and moved to the seating area. I didn't realize that I had forgot to pick up my iPad from the tray.

(Also read: Chennai Metro Rail - Simply the BEST)

I was at the Coimbatore airport till 9.15 pm and boarded the Spicejet flight. The flight started on time (These days, Spicejet maintains on time departure ! :)). I landed in Chennai and reached home in a Ola cab. By the time I reached home, I was too tired and crashed into the bed.

The next day morning when I got up and wanted to catch up with my emails, I couldn't find my iPad in the bag. I was shocked. When I rewound the sequence of events the previous day, I realized that I didn't pick my iPad from the security. I didn't know what to do. I googled to find out Coimbatore Airport's website. There was a phone number and email id published in the website for "Enquiry". I sent an email to them and called the phone number (thinking that no one will pick up the phone at 7 am in the morning). To my surprise, a lady picked up the phone on the other side. I asked her "Mme! I was traveling from Coimbatore airport yesterday night and I missed to pick up my iPad during the security checks. Can you please check if the security officers have secured it?" She turned around and asked someone "Did you find an iPad yesterday night from the security line?" I could hear the conversation... and the other person responded back positively to her. She turned to me and said "Sir! Your iPad is safe, you can come and collect it from us showing your ID proof and copy of the boarding pass". I told her that I'm in Chennai and I can request my friend to pick it up. She said "Your friend has to come up with their ID proof and a requisition letter from you". I requested one of my friends in Coimbatore for help. I sent the documents through my friend and she was able to pick it up for me. The next I received a response to my email checking if I have received my iPad.

(Also read: Night stay in Bangalore airport - rethink)

I am positively surprised by the responsiveness of the Coimbatore Airport staff and their outstanding support. It is very rare to see such committed / sincere staff in Government institutions. Our country is still going strong, because of officials like the one in Coimbatore Airport. I'm very thankful to them. If you are flying via Coimbatore, you don't have to worry.. you are in "safe hands".

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