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India needs more Earthbenders

SVP – Product, Ezetap Mobile Solutions Pvt. Ltd.

The recent demonetization of Rs.500 and Rs.1000 bills to stem the tide of black money in the country was a remarkable fait accompli by our PM Mr. Narendra Modi. For those of us in Fintech who have come to accept the mild regulatory tail wind nudging the digital economy forward over the past few years as the norm, this comes as a vigorous and welcome gust which has already turned the country on it’s head in just a few days.

If I were to assign an Avatar attribute to our PM, I would pick the title of Earthbender-in-Chief. Air, Fire, Water, have a natural flow, vitality, and energy which can be harnessed and deflected to the benders advantage. Earthbending, however, is about moving the immovable, sculpting the rigid, the unyielding, and the petrified into new form. Petrification also embodies India’s age old relationship to physical currency. From Bollywood to Benares our popular media, rituals, and indeed daily life have glorified “paisa” in the form of notes or bills, the thickness of the stack equated with prosperity, security, and well-being. Those of us in Fintech have battled the impregnable rock of cash for far too long; our collective arsenal of card acceptance devices, mobile wallets, cashbacks, offers, credit, and other weapons only superficially denting this monolith of India’s perception and behaviors towards cash…until now.

In one fell deftly orchestrated swoop, the PM’s assault on cash has brought our nation to the brink of a remarkable leapfrog towards a cashless, digital economy. Yes, there is the open question of why the Rs.2000 bills and other short-term inconveniences, but when your milkman comes knocking at your door early in the AM – not to deliver milk but to seek the delivery of a card acceptance device, you know that the very bottom of our society’s pyramid has already been shaken for the better…forever.

A lot more needs to be done and India’s second remarkable tech revolution after mobile is just beginning. Our PM has set the platform for a leap into the future. We need more Earthbenders to build the path.