Big Idea

Trust but verify

With the help of technology and Aadhaar’s massive data trove, this start-up is making identity verification effortless for its clients

Deepak G Pawar

You’re feeling particularly tired one day and want to get a massage. You look up Housejoy or UrbanClap and call for a masseur, sit back and prepare for some serious de-stressing. But, what’s the guarantee that the person assigned to you is the one coming to your place? What if the masseur switched places with his cousin who has a criminal history? Let’s face it, we don’t always go back to an app to check if the details are correct and the person matches the picture on your phone. So much so that Uber has to warn every rider to “ensure the driver matches the picture on the app.” Those platforms may have done everything right, but there are still chances of fraud during the last leg, when people are involved. 

But with the help of technology and artificial intelligence, Veri5Digital is trying to set things right across several use cases. Essentially, it is the guard at the door for its client companies and the start-up is armed with one of the largest identity databases in the world, UIDAI’s Aadhaar. 

Donning the lab coat

An MCS dropout from San Jose State University, Saru Tumuluri joined Khosla Labs in 2016 to spearhead their identity verification project. Demonetisation hadn’t hit India yet, and ‘digital identity’ as a sector in itself didn’t mean much. “There was a lot of buzz around financial inclusion. Khosla Labs conducted hackathons and, when I spoke with the participants, I realised that everybody was looking at providing a KYC service, which still remains a small vertical when you compare it with payments service,” she says.

But the Cambridge Analytica scandal, featuring Facebook, really shook people up and they realised that their identity is a big deal. That’s when Tumuluri’s team began building Veri5Digital, a software as a service (SaaS) product, piggybacking on Unique Identification Authority of India’s (UIDAI) Aadhaar system. She explains, “There was a central database and all the enrolments are written through biometrics; the irises were scanned, and there were demographic details such as name, address, gender, date of b

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