India Stack is a set of open APIs and digital public goods that aim to unlock the economic primitives of data, payments and identity at population scale.
Identity is managed by the Aadhaar program that seeds the population with secure, versatile digital IDs that can be used to quickly authenticate a user’s identity.
Payments are managed by UPI with a goal of enabling every citizen to take part in the digital economy by enabling interoperability between money custodians, payment rails and front end payment applications.
Data is managed by DEPA that aims to restore the ownership and control over user data to its rightful owners through a standardised and programmable digital template for capturing user consent to share their personal data with third parties.
The utilities offered by the India Stack today, can help a developer build a full-fledged consumer engagement platform, where the Aadhaar protocol performs eKYC, UPI deployed to enable commerce and DEPA ensures that the consumer’s data is used only with their consent. For a country of billion people, safe, secure and compliant infrastructure cannot belong to few entities; it needs to be democratised, so that enterprises can build innovative solutions in the marketplace.
Unlocking data, payments and identity related challenges are not confined to financial inclusion. It is desperately relevant to advertising and marketing as well. After all, it is advertising that fuels most of the big tech companies today. Last week AdAge carried a feature from the studies conducted by Truthset, which evaluates consumer databases, studied 15 data brokers and found that email and postal address matches that underpin ad targeting and audience measurement are only right 51% of the time. The feature claims that Truthset has not publicly identified those trusted or verified sources, but leading industry bodies like Advertising Research Foundation and Coalition For Innovative Media Measurement increasingly uses these studies for improvements. Philadelphia retailer John Wanamaker popularly said “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half” way back in 1922. Despite having abundant data, after nearly 100 accountability in advertising is still an unfinished business.
During my recent interaction with one leading publisher, their head of revenue lamented that the prevailing AdTech systems simply does not provide a consistent and transparent approach to calculating on-target reach (OTR) and more often than not, they end up on the wrong side of the reality. Advertisers, representing the demand side are equally concerned that the targeting systems built on look-alike algorithms are once again shooting in the dark using old or incorrect data sets. It is quite popular to hear, “what is your match rate?” amongst ad industry circles; but the sad reality it is often garbage in, so one can expect poor match rates that is garbaged out. India Stack has much to offer to fix the AdTech problem. It has all the ingredients to reimagine the AdTech stack, without reinventing the wheel.
Here are three provocative ideas:
Every other industry across finance, education and health care now use Aadhaar number for verifying consumer credentials. DigiLocker linked to Aadhaar number now provides all the key documents from educational qualifications to driving license. Why can’t advertising leverage this? Imagine if all the digital platforms use Aadhaar number as a part of their log in credentials for their entertainment opportunities. Ad industry is struggling to implement virtual IDs that de-duplicates consumers to measure reach. Aadhar number and the back end infrastructure that comes with it offers this instantaneously.
Retail media networks are emerging as the next big opportunity for brands to leverage their first party data with that of the commerce platforms. This creates a unique audience marketplace where brands, platforms and consumers engage in a consented value exchange that is relevant to all of them. This increases customer loyalty for the retail platforms, while the brands get better reach for the consumers even as the consumer enjoys superior value exchange. Payments are enabled by UPI for all these retail media networks. Can advertisers leverage this by creating interoperable consumer wallets that can connect multiple retail media networks in offering a scaled up marketplace?
DEPA framework recognises account aggregators as “consent managers”, a trusted environment through which multiple enterprises can safely share their customer data for the purpose of cross selling and upselling their products and services. Currently this is being imagined from the perspective of financial inclusion across insurance and banking. What is advertising agencies can play the role of “consent managers” in creating a trusted environment for brands and platforms to share their customer data for a safe and secure collaboration for the purposes of targeted advertising. Managing the transmission of consent across the digital advertising supply chain is the most important requirement in the industry today and advertising agencies can key role in performing this role.
Essentially the India Stack across Identity (Aadhar) – Payment (UPI) – Data (DEPA) offers a readymade stack for the advertising industry to solve three very big challenges in front of them. De-duplication and verification of identities in measuring real reach; building an interoperable marketplace to run scaled up loyalty programs and last but not the least, a readymade consent management protocol that is successfully running in an even more important industry like banking and finance to cover advertising and marketing as well.
India Stack for the Indian Advertising Technology Stack is an opportunity waiting to happen. Nobody can stop an idea, whose time has come. Are we ready to embrace it?
Gowthaman Ragothaman is a 30-year media, advertising and marketing professional and CEO of Aqilliz, a blockchain solutions company for the marketing industry.