After 5 Cities and 150 Hours of Hackathons, Prasanna Lohar Helps Make DCB Bank 40 Ideas Richer

There is no telling where and who the next idea will come from. Prasanna Lohar, Head – Innovation & Architecture, DCB Bank takes this belief quite seriously. A few months back he brought together the entire ecosystem, including fintech startups, corporates, accelerators/incubators, government, academia, mentors/experts, internal employees to conduct a unique Innovation Carnival. The 30 hours long physical hackathons across five cities (Mumbai, Pune, Gurgaon, Ahmedabad and Bengaluru) have resulted in hundreds of ideas, out of which 40 have been shortlisted to be further worked on and built into potential solutions and products for DCB Bank. Driven by Lohar, the carnival is a first for the bank.


Lohar started the carnival journey in July 2017 with the objective of building the ecosystem, structure and culture for innovation within the bank as well as outside in the industry. “Ideas and innovation happen and thrive when there is a confluence of different ecosystems and communities, which gets them to interact, debate, argue, learn and understand. Through the Innovation Carnival we are trying to create that confluence,” he explains.


On an average, there were around 150 participants in each of the carnival hackathons, spending 30 hours continuously brainstorming and generating ideas, at the end of which winners were awarded after due diligence by the jury. However, as Lohar points out, this is not the end but rather the start of the ideas journey as the 40 odd identified ideas identified by Lohar and his team during the carnival are today in various stages of exploration or PoC.


These 40 ideas span across 18 themes, which include banking themes relating to creating new business models, paperless banking, customer onboarding, payments, enhancing lending process, etc. as well as digital themes like Blockchain, IoT, AI, Biometrics, etc. Though, it is interesting to note that a lot of the banking themes will ultimately be digitally enabled at the backend.


Here’s a look of some of the ideas among the 40 assimilated from the carnival that Lohar and his team is working on and developing further. While most of these are in experimentation stage, a few have reached the PoC and production phase, the ultimate aim being to get these ideas on ground and into business.


-       A payment ring, which is a wearable/IoT device with an open ecosystem like Master and Visa. A payment can be made at any of the NFC compliant merchant POS machines just by tapping the ring.


-       Bluetooth based payment system that allows money to be sent to the beneficiary in the Bluetooth vicinity, just like sending a file.


-       A system that allows two SIMs having two different accounts to be used in a single app, unlike UPI wherein one can operate only one account with one SIM.


-       Creating a combination of Aadhaar with IoT, biometrics and telecom GSM technologies that allows to create a different kind of a password then and there.


-       Bringing a chatbot kind of experience on a mobile app as well as chatbot integration with Google Assistant. The chatbot instance opens automatically with a voice command One can then query the chatbot for account balance, account details, statements, etc. This directly comes from the Google Assistant and one need not install another app.


-       Using data, Machine Learning and Deep Learning algorithms to create a customer profiling for fraud risk management, wherein the system keeps on learning from customer behavior and triggers alerts upon any deviation from the usual learnings.


-       Using Artificial Intelligence in mobile banking for hyper personalization, which means being able to propose customized offerings to the customer then and there itself. For instance, if a salaried customer is passing by a bank branch, then based on his/her transaction learnings the bank can send a loan or Mutual Fund offer on his/her mobile.


-       Using IoT for vehicle tracking that can be tied up with the vehicle loan.


-       Using IoT for branch experience transformation. Beacons placed in the bank branch give alerts on incoming customers and also help understand whether the customer is happy or not from the facial expressions.


-       A conversational chatbot like device, like an Alexa/Siri, to help with the banking operations for high net worth customers.


-       A blockchain framework, wherein irrespective of the fabric – Hyperledger, Etharium or any other – changing there is no impact on the actual use case which could be secure document, identity management, trade finance, P2P lending, syndication loan on the blockchain, etc.


-       An engine that captures the biometrics 10 times, wherein the biometric authentication accuracy increases manifolds because of more images. This can be further enhanced with the help of Iris, voice and facial recognition. This engine can be utilized in mobile banking or any of the apps for authentication or can be used for second factor authentication.


-       A portal that allows customers to create their profile, their products and file GST. It does automatic reconciliation of GST.


-       Enabling a payment experience without internet in a village. Creating a kind of a currency which operates like a crypto-currency within the vicinity of a closed user group without internet. This will help drive digital adoption among villages.


According to Lohar, all these experimentations are ultimately directed towards the four pronged objectives of enhancing customer experience, business process enhancement, operational excellence and creating new business models.


One might expect the whole task of understanding and assimilating so many diverse ideas across varied technology domains to be quite daunting and overwhelming for Lohar as the head of bank’s innovation agenda. Rather, he seems to be enjoying it thoroughly and has taken to it like a fish to water. “Being a technical architect over the last eight years in the industry, I have worked on multiple systems in the banking and payments space – merchant systems, consumer systems, AI, blockchain, IoT, Aadhar, UPI, etc. Having gone through them from scratch really helps me to evaluate those ideas and understand them technically. As I work closely with business and operations it becomes very easy for me to connect those ideas to business and operational excellence. That’s the advantage I’m carrying,” quips Lohar.


Another key task that he has taken upon himself is changing the people culture by building the necessary skillsets required for digital through re-skilling of the internal employees.   

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