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Bettering a Billion Lives, India’s Unique ID System
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Bettering a Billion Lives, India’s Unique ID System

The leader of India’s unique identification system has identified four critical changes taking place across India that are the backdrop to his rollout of access to key services for hundreds of millions of people.

Chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India, Nandan Nilekani, said over a third of India’s 1.1 billion consumers had been largely overlooked in areas such as banking and social services.

Speaking to business leaders gathered at The Nielsen Company’s Consumer 360 event in New Delhi, Nilekani said this had come about in part because there had been no effective way of reaching India’s poor.

“The poor remain a difficult to reach market. Their anonymity limits agencies from providing them services that are remotely available, and that could be accessed through a mobile phone. The absence of a universal, easy to verify identity system also prevents agencies from scaling towards national-level, more open systems where the poor can access services seamlessly, wherever they migrate.

“The services the poor can access as a result – the doors through which they can pass – are far fewer. They cannot easily open a bank account, possess insurance, or order services through a mobile phone,” Nilekani told those gathered for his keynote speech at the conference.

“The (unique identification) number will create a much more open marketplace, where hundreds of millions of people who were shut out of services will now be able to access them. “ He said only about a quarter India’s population had a bank account.

“The common man in India has long been a bystander, a spectator to the trends of consumption. With growth however, we’ve seen the Bottom of the Pyramid market take off – a class of the ‘individually poor but the collectively rich’, who now account for over one third of our consumption. “

He went on to outline four key shifts taking place in India with regard to consumers:

  1. A demographic disruption taking place in India with an expected 11 million new people joining the workforce every year for the next five years. “India is a young country in an ageing world.”
  2. Mass migration to cities. The urban population is expected to grow by 31 people every minute on average many years.
  3. Low cost mobile phones mean all social sets have access to the same or similar content.
  4. Indians are increasingly impatient with failing systems. As a consequence, service providers are responding more rapidly than ever.

Nilekani said these four broad trends heralded the rise of a new kind of consumer in India. “The Indian consumer today, no matter their income class, is highly aspirational, mobile, comfortable with technologies such as mobile phones, and eager for choices in faster, more accessible services.”

“This shift in attitudes is creating new urgencies for our services and infrastructure. And we are indeed seeing the emergence of solutions that respond to these forces,” he said.

India’s Unique OpportunityPiyush Mathur, President, Nielsen India Region

The unique identity number for India may ultimately be all about one thing: relevance. Understanding the habits, needs and desires of consumers on a national scale means individuals and their needs are placed front and center.

It means the voice of the consumer is heard with clarity and specificity in boardrooms across India and that secure, speedy transactions can take place in even the most remote parts of the country.

The benefits of the unique identity number are readily apparent when it comes to improving the access of the poor to health care and financial services. However, the benefits also extend to marketers.

The UID (Unique Identity) system will change the way we market to consumers. It will also change the way companies deliver goods and services.

At a basic level, UID will enable businesses to improve their traditional supply chains in support of consumers across the country but the big win comes with being able to identify emerging demand.

It’s a very big deal in terms of satisfying the massive buying demands these new workers will make of retailers.

These changes mean we will use precision in our marketing that is devastatingly accurate. At the same time, we will be enabling dexterity in dealing with marketplace changes.

It’s too early to tell, but at an individual level it is possible that we may gain much deeper insight into the purchase decisions of India’s increasingly affluent and digitally connected consumers.

Demand has driven new products like shampoo sachets and low price vehicles but with more information around consumption habits, those types of products can be identified earlier and brought to market in lockstep with consumer needs.

That means manufacturers and retailers will waste less money on unnecessary product development, hone their distribution capabilities and anticipate consumer needs.

It also means media businesses will be able to deliver content to audiences on relevant platforms. That personalization and level of precision will make advertising more relevant than ever. It will also derive value for consumers in ways they don’t currently enjoy.