[Tech30] This blockchain startup rewards you for sharing your personal data with businesses
While he was working in France, IIT-Delhi graduate Saurav Raaj was amazed by the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). GDPR is a regulation in EU law that gives control of personal data to individuals.
Saurav also encountered several laws in the US that protected the personal data of residents. The Schlumberger employee felt India needed products or guidelines to help individuals protect and control their personal data.
In August 2020, Saurav and his former Schlumberger colleague Smriti Chaudhry launchedin Mumbai. The startup built one of India’s first data collection applications in the public domain using the Account Aggregator (AA) framework.
Saurav says, “Senderment extends the AA framework and provides a digital medium for data transfer from the end-user to the business user. We offer a secure way to collect and share identity, personal and financial data from individuals and businesses via SMS, QR codes, and API.”
The Senderment application uses blockchain technology to simplify collecting data by global businesses from individuals, with their explicit consent. It provides multiple methods for the business user to create a transaction request and the end-user to provide the data.
With use cases in lending, banking, insurance, wealth management, and various non-financial sectors, Senderment claims to be the only application so far to achieve 100 percent digital data transfer.
Senderment is not yet live and is not generating revenue. It is currently working on its first use case with an educational institution that has a base of 50,000 users, to allow users to manage the personal data and credentials shared with the educational institution.
The early days
“I started ideating about the Senderment product while I was working, and a certain stage of development, I quit my job and moved back to Mumbai to start up,” says Saurav.
This coincided with India’s push for digital adoption – a trend Saurav strongly felt would bolster demand for a data collection application like Senderment.
The co-founders bootstrapped the startup and invested their savings in R&D and product building. “The initial research and concept building took us time as the idea was to build a product that is simple and easy-to-use for the end-user. Now we look forwarding to raising funds,” says Saurav, adding:
“We adopted some frameworks of Sahmati, which is a collective of the AA ecosystem. Sahmati addressed people’s financial data, but Senderment would also deal with personal data such as identity, medical data, house ownership data, etc. This way, we look at 100 percent of user data and not just their financial data,” Saurav says.
The co-founders put together a team of developers and built a web application, as well as a mobile app, to cater to business users (who request the data) as well as end-users (who can decide to share their data with business users).
Saurav places more faith in the mobile-friendly web application as it doesn’t require a user to download an app. “The user gets an SMS containing a link for data sharing, and then an OTP. They can view all their personal data that will be shared with their explicit consent,” Saurav says.
How it works and monetisation details
To request the end user’s data, the business user has to pay to get such a request fulfilled, and 24 percent of that amount is credited to the end-user. Another 24 percent goes to the organisation that issued the user data – such as an employer, loan provider or other institutions that gather customer data.
“This is a recurring reward system that incentivises end-users and institutions to store, update and share personal data. Senderment keeps around 50 percent of the total cost of a request for system administration,” Saurav says.
The startup allows end-users to revoke their consent for personal data sharing whenever they deem necessary. Once they do, it ensures that business users don’t have the possession of personal data whose access is revoked.
Behind the hood
The Senderment application uses the Diffie-Hellman Key Exchange and AES-256 Symmetric Key for encryption. It uses AWS and Hyperledger as hosts for the blockchain infrastructure that is required to run the application.
As it uses symmetric encryption, Senderment cannot view the personal data that is shared between end-users and busin
Saurav claims that using blockchain lowers the cost of transactions and makes the process of personal data sharing more efficient. He adds, “Even though Senderment is the gateway, the data ownership is with the end-user. Further, the data stays in India.”
He believes the application is ahead of the market. With the COVID-19 pandemic boosting the adoption of digital products and solutions among individuals and businesses, the demand for data privacy and protection is going to grow.
The next leg of innovation could be around account aggregators building user-friendly solutions at Bharat scale. If Senderment plays its cards right, it could be on track to revolutionise payment tech in India.