(Abhijeet Mukhekar is a junior undergraduate student of Engineering Physics at IIT Bombay. Apart from being the Institute Secretary for Hostel Affairs, he is the overall coordinator for the Cashless Campus project. This is his account of the idea, purpose,and vision behind this pioneering initiative.)
Imagine living a life without ever needing to carry a wallet loaded with cash. Cards allow us some freedom but there are many places where you are forced to cough up loose change. How many times have we heard that oft repeated refrain of “ Chutta nahi hai kya ?” followed by the futile scrounging around in pockets and purses. Then there is the sudden need to rush to the nearest ATM machine. Now imagine a scenario where all those everyday aggravations are gone. This should be possible with some state of the art technology, right?
Well, the students at IIT Bombay are all set to experience this radical new innovation in most shops across their campus. CashlessCampus, as this pioneering project is being called, is an initiative that is being coordinated by IIT Bombay students in association with RuPay, Canara Bank and ItzCash. A team under the able guidance of Prof. Ashish Das, led by Poorna Chandra and myself, have been working their socks off to implement this scheme.
The technology used for contact-less payments will be NFC (Near Field Communication), where a tag stuck to a mobile or any other commonly used personal belonging can be used for instant payments with just a tap. This tag contains the user’s data, and will serve as a re-loadable prepaid e-purse, and must be tapped against a designated terminal for the transaction to occur. These terminals will be installed in various hostel shops and cafeterias in the campus, and will thus provide a perfect low-volume but realistic environment for testing the effectiveness of this new concept. Lessons learnt here would be valuable if we want to implement this for mass usage across our country in everyday life.
This system will not only increase the market awareness for the technology, but will also be cost-effective and time-efficient. Students and employees will be spared long queues and the chore of keeping loose change in person, whereas merchants can also save on cashhandling and operational costs. The system is easy to use and payment and authentication is in real time.
NFC may still be in its infancy in India, but has immense potential, especially for micro-payments. According to information divulged by the RBI, printing notes of smaller denominations is very costly, with the government spending nearly one rupee to print a Rs 10 currency note. If implemented on a nationwide scale, an offline micro payments setup could potentially save the country amounts in the tune of Rs 3000 crores that is now spent in printing small denominations.
With worldwide annual NFC shipments expected to surpass 1.2 billion by 2015, even RBI’s working group recognized contact-lesspayments as one of the most promising innovations of recent times. Interactions with major banks have painted a bright future for NFC, with a lot of potential in low value daily payments, transit and toll fares. NFC technology is not only restricted to payments but also for secondary applications like identification, access and data transfer.
One of the main motives of the Cashless Campus project is to create an entire network where quick and easy payments can be made throughout India, and although this may take a few years, this pilot project is one of the most important stepping stones on the path to this goal. As far as IIT Bombay goes, this is yet another example of an enabling environment that encourages innovations.