How A Former Banker Is Trying To Solve India’s Document Fraud Menace

Bangalore-based startup Element42 has a solution to India’s document fraud menace.

Pruthvi Rao, co-founder at Element42 (Photographer: Vijay Sartape/BloombergQuint)
Pruthvi Rao, co-founder at Element42 (Photographer: Vijay Sartape/BloombergQuint)

It’s often the case that some technologies exist for many years before they are utilised effectively. Take the instance of Near Field Communication (NFC). The technology has existed for more than two decades, but we are only seeing its widespread deployment for smartphones over the last few years.

NFC, blockchain and artificial intelligence are the technologies being used by Bangalore-based startup Element42, to solve the document fraud menace in the country.

Pruthvi Rao, who worked with Citibank for nearly 10 years, uses classic banking technologies and applies them to documents. He set up Element42 with a fellow IITian in 2013.

And all he needs to pitch his product to investors and clients are two documents and an Android phone. The documents are made with the company’s flagship product, ‘ePaper’, which is a proprietary document that comes with a nanochip embedded within. When the smartphone is placed on the chip, using NFC, the phone instantly tells you if the document is verified and authentic or a counterfeit.

The nanochip or hardware-enabled document uses the same technology as credit cards or passports.

For now, the company is focusing its efforts on documents where there is a significant risk of misuse. For example, a property document or a university certificate.

“It is more expensive than regular paper,” Rao says. “But, we need to understand that these are documents that hold a lot of value. Let’s say you bought a property worth one crore and you had to secure it. How much would you be willing to pay?”

The startup says it has issued 6,00,000 documents across 30 clients in sectors like education and government, as of June 2017, and plans to take its solution abroad in future.