Monday, December 4, 2006

Place thumb here for your money

Interesting article in the Financial Times about Citigroup introducing fingerprint-based ATM's in India. From the article:
"The machines will recognise account holders' thumbprints, eliminating the need for a personal identification number, and will have colour-coded screen instructions and voiceovers to help guide them through transactions."
Seems like an interesting innovation that could be extended to other developing economies as well. How serious is Citigroup about this? The article goes on to say that Citigroup currently has two such ATM's installed (in Mumbai and Hyderabad) and plans to expand to "25-35 machines within 18 months." This seems like an extraordinarily low growth target! If the new systems is not going to be material to their operations in India even in two years, what's the big deal?

C.K. Prahalad first identified the "Fortune at the bottom of the Pyramid." It's far better to treat the world's poor as consumers to be served with specific, unique needs, not with paternalistic earnestness. There's a lot of innovation still to come in the financial sector for the "unbanked" population. Microcredit. Mobile payment systems. Stored-value ("prepaid") cards. What else?