and efficient service delivery model.
Starting in 2009, India began to create
digital infrastructure to move from
people and paper-intensive inefficient
service delivery, to an efficient, direct,
digital service delivery.
This was not just the need of the
State, the Indian markets felt the
same way. Despite its large size, and
consistently high growth rates, the
Indian markets have not turned out
to be stellar for many players. The
high cost of customer acquisition,
KYC (Know-Your-Customer) pro-
cess, various claims verification, and
overall cost of business meant market
players could not provide affordable
and accessible products or services.
A large population was not in the
formal economy. This is the context
that—beginning in 2009—over the
next 10 years led to the creation of the
Leapfrogs. There have been various
technologies that have played the role
of infrastructure. While the technolo-
gies themselves are commendable,
their real “disruptive” power has been
what applications they enable. For
example, the Internet may have been
born of a specific need, but its success
is because of its design. It was a mass-
scale, open, and interoperable pro-
tocol. The use cases for the Internet
were not restricted by the imagination
of its founders.
The India Stack is a name given to
a family of APIs, open standards, and
infrastructure components that allow
a user in India to demand services
digitally. As of 2019, the services the
India Stack offers are proving identity,
completing KYC, making digital payments, signing documents digitally
and sharing of data. While the list
of APIs is growing, the APIs listed in
Table 1 are now mature, well understood, and enable efficient delivery of
services in India.
Why India Stack? Just like the
modern Web, the India Stack did not
come out of one place, but through
multiple efforts by multiple teams.
Each API or standard may have an
owner and their own licensing nu-
ances. It is a set of loosely coupled
technologies and protocols, and
there is no master directive. Each
technology tries to do one thing and
do it well. The innovation comes
from the combinatorial use of these
technologies by entrepreneurs and
What they do have in common is
that each lowers the cost of doing
transactions. The reason for cost
savings is multifold—it eliminates
paper, but also eliminates the need
for physical presence during a transaction. Digital payments eliminate
cash and the cost of cash handling.
It can also simplify compliance, such
as in the case of KYC compliance for
financial or telecom institutions. It
could reduce “leakages” through the
verification of identity and elimination of duplicates.
The breadth of India Stack and its
potential use cases are too wide to
A young woman applies for an Aarhaar card, the world’s largest biometrics ID system.