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Small businessmen will soon get loans based on data, not balance sheets: Nandan Nilekani

Nandan Nilekani says under the new system, Account Aggregator, owners will be able to use bank statements, tax returns, home loan repayment records to avail of short-term loans.

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New Delhi: Small businesses could soon get loans based on their data, not on the basis of their assets or balance sheets, according to Nandan Nilekani, co-founder and chairman of Infosys and former chairperson of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI).

Speaking on the first day of Carnegie India’s Global Technology Summit 2019 in Bengaluru, Nilekani said the tech-enabled system, called “Account Aggregator” (AA), is set to hit India in the next few months, before any other country. ThePrint is a digital partner for the event.

Nilekani pointed out that as few as 8 per cent of India’s small businesses manage to get credit from the formal banking system. But with the new system, owners will be able to use their bank statements, tax returns, and home loan repayment records — which are all part of their digital footprint — to avail of short-term loans, he said.

He added that while so far only large companies like Facebook and Google have made money and benefitted from an end-consumer’s data, now common persons will be able to use their own data for their benefit.

Also read: India can offer a radically new way of looking at data: Nandan Nilekani

How the system will work

Nilekani said India has come up with an architecture to enable this system. The individual is at the heart of the architecture, and involves a “new kind of regulated institution called the Account Aggregator”.

Nilekani said an AA is a “licenced entity” and is currently being designed for the financial system, but could be designed for the healthcare system as well.

Describing how the AA works, Nilekani said it will act on behalf of an individual. The individual has to give consent to the AA to retrieve their data (in a digital format) from a source that already has some of their data, such as a bank or insurance provider (called a ‘financial information provider’).

Then, this data is encrypted end-to-end, and safely sent to the ‘financial information user’ the individual desires. Such a ‘financial information user’ can be a personal finance manager or a bank providing loans, along with a “consent artefact” directing how the data may be used.

Nilekani said the system is designed so that the AA will not be able to read or resell an individual’s data.

Seven institutions have already been given “in-principle” approval from the Reserve Bank of India to act as an AA; one institution has been given a licence to act as an AA, he said.

Ten leading banks and non-banking financial companies are set to become ‘financial information providers’ and ‘financial information users’ in the system. Potentially, the GST network will also join the AA system, Nilekani said.

Also read: SC wants artificial intelligence to reform medical education, asks Nandan Nilekani to help

‘People happy with Aadhaar’

Nilekani also touched upon Aadhaar to say “many people are happy with it”, despite sustained concerns that Aadhaar could be used for surveillance, for depriving benefits to residents, or could lead to a data breach of personal information.

The former head of UIDAI, which oversees the Aadhaar database, backed his claim citing a third party survey report which said 92 per cent of people are “somewhat” or “very satisfied” with Aadhaar.

The survey included 1,67,000 participants across 28 states and UTs, Nilekani said, while the advisory committee behind the survey report consisted of both “Aadhaar supporters and sceptics”.

Disclosure: Nandan Nilekani is among the distinguished founder-investors in ThePrint. Please click here for details on investors.

Also read: Aadhaar undergoes ultimate scrutiny, SC judgment landmark: Nandan Nilekani


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