Simpal Mobile Payments and Information Services, a new fin-tech startup founded by former merchant banker Vineet Toshniwal, is amongst the first off the blocks to take advantage of the ambitious Unified Payments Interface platform, launched last week by the National Payments Corporation of India
The Mumbai-based payments venture is leveraging, both, UPI as well as Unique Identification Authority of India (Aadhaar), and has developed an Android device, branded OctoPOS, that doubles up as an smartphone, as well as a payment device, for both, consumers and merchants.
OctoPOS is expected to be a sub-$100 device, and the startup has tied up with manufacturers in China, to produce the device, which is capable of making Aadhaar-enabled payments through iris scanning.
The game changer that Toshniwal is betting on, is the OctoPOs’ iris recognition engine.
Unlike most other point of sale terminals operating in this country, and which use fingerprints as their primary form of biometric authentication, Simpal’s OctoPOS uses iris recognition, which has been developed by the University of Beijing’s Department of Patter Recognition, thereby significantly cutting down errors.
“The OctoPOS iris scanning engine has been certified by STQC Labs, which certifies all devices that can work on Aadhar. The device also has an integrated Near Field Communications chip that can accept any RFID and contact list cards,” Toshniwal, who was formerly with boutique investment bank Equirus Capital, told ET.
According to the CEO, Simpal will be ready to roll out the device by November later this year, having also tied up with a major private sector bank, and is currently in late-stage discussions with a major telco, which will act as a distributor for the device.
“The Aadhar-enabled payment system is extremely revolutionary for the country. It’s a real time, path-breaking system, operating on all accounts, and where, most importantly, the payment is not at a cost to the merchant,” Toshniwal said.
This follows discussions between the government and various stakeholders, including smartphone manufacturers, such as Samsung, Google and Micromax to make their handsets Aadhaar-enabled.
“This can be a game-changing feature in phones to become the identity of a person and let him do more transactions on the phone in a secure manner. This is perhaps the first time something like this will be attempted in the world,” Ajay Bhushan Pandey, chief executive, UIDAI, told ET in July.
The other significant USP for OctoPOS is UPI, which has been designed to ensure seamless digital payments, in an economy, which has, historically, been cash-heavy.
“UPI requires an authentication, which is in the form of a mobile pin. With this (iris scanning engine) there is no need for that now. because it requires only single click authentication,” Toshniwal said.
The startup has already raised an undisclosed sum from a bevy of well-known investors, including, JM Trivedi, partner at private equity giant Actis India, and Girish Patel, promoter of domestic personal care major Paras Pharma, which was sold to Reckitt Beckinser.
Both, Patel and Trivedi, have invested in their personal capacities.
“Simpal’s OctoPOS device with its Aadhaar compliant iris engine. combines the convenience of iris-based Aadhaar authentication and UPI, to deliver a seamless payment experience,” Trivedi said.
“Penetration in unorganised retail has been a huge challenge in India, and it has failed to take off. Now, with over 98% of all adult Indians having Aadhaar, OctoPOS can be made available to every retail shop for cashless payments,” Patel said.