By Gaurav Lakhe :
Abhijeet Daigavane runs the company that will take care of offline mode of NAV-eCash card launched recently on-board the country’s largest naval aircraft carrier
Taking a step forward in the direction of Digital India, State Bank of India, recently, launched NAV-eCash card on-board the Indian Navy’s largest aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, at Karwar, Karnataka. The card is designed to replace cash payments with digital transactions even in areas without real-time internet connectivity like on warships at sea, offshore oil platforms and remote areas. For Nagpurians, there is something to be proud of as a city lad -- Abhijeet Daigavane -- is part of the team that came up with the innovation. Abhijeet Daigavane, who runs the company Atom O’Sphere, is part of this unique initiative. NAV-eCash is a dual chip card that enables payments in offline and online environment. The online part of the card will be handled by State Bank of India and Abhijeet’s team will be taking care of the offline mode of the card.
The card is a unique milestone in banking operations, especially on-board the naval ships and that too, on-board the INS Vikramaditya. The infrastructure at naval ships inhibits traditional payment solutions especially when the ship is in high seas where there is no connectivity. In such conditions, the card will be of immense help to the personnel. The card was unveiled jointly by Vice-Admiral R Hari Kumar, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Naval Command; and C S Setty, Managing Director (Retail and Digital Banking), SBI. A team of officers of the INS Vikramaditya led by Commander Vasu Dheeraj first came up with the concept, which was brought to reality by SBI. The officers were searching for the firm that could take care of the transactions, which would take place in offline mode. The Indian Navy officials learned about Abhijeet’s company and contacted him. “Last year, the officers from INS Vikramaditya called me up over phone after checking out our works in offline payment technology space on our website. After 10 days of constant correspondence, I got an invite to visit the location -- INS Vikramaditya. I thought it was a prank call. But, then my partner Captain Raj and I thought of visiting the vessel at Karwar,” Abhijeet told ‘The Hitavada’.
They visited the vessel in December 2020 and were absolutely amazed. However, while having this surreal experience, Abhijeet received the sad news of his granny’s demise. That moment, Abhijeet could relate to the feelings of the sentinels of the seas who received such saddening news but discharged their duties keeping aside the grief. Sitting right in front of Commander Vasu Dheeraj and Lt Commander Karthik and explaining the concept was another overwhelming experience for Abhijeet. The officers discussed their vision of system to be deployed inside the ship and disclosed their ideas, added Abhijeet. INS Vikramaditya has the staff strength of around 1,800 personnel and can sail for more than 90 days, non-stop. As there is no internet in deep sea, offline mode of payment is the only way.
“While sharing his vision, Commander Vasu Dheeraj was firm on the dual chip card option. The contact chip is now managed by SBI for traditional businesses like cash withdrawal, online transaction, POS terminal transaction. The contactless offline section is completely closed-loop wallet meant to be used inside a closed environment, just like the cards we use in gaming zone, online shopping etc,” Abhijeet said. Abhijeet and his team were tasked to plan connection of main prepaid balance on the contact EMV chip with their autonomous solution. Ultimately, they designed the hardware, its customised operating system to accept the payment, the wallet software to be integrated with SBI card, all the networking software along with offline reconciliation system. The toughest part was the logic to cover all the use cases inside the offline domain because the ship was 285 meters long and all these points of contact devices were spread across the ship with no LANs or wi-fi communications. To everyone’s surprise, Abhijeet and his team achieved the task with aplomb. “Convinced by my inputs, the Indian Navy recommended us to SBI. That’s how we started discussing things with SBI, which had sponsored and took responsibility of the project,” Abhijeet said.
As the pressure was intense from Navy for early deployment, SBI team planned to onboard Abhijeet and his team with their oldest and biggest prepaid vendor FSS. What came out was NAV-eCash. For the first time in the world, a dual chip smart card is being used for doing online and offline transactions. The online part of the card takes care of standard banking system. The contactless card designed by Atom O’Sphere takes care of all offline transactions on-board INS Vikramaditya. It requires pin for every transaction even in offline mode and is highly secured. This is the first-of-its-kind payment solution to be deployed on such a huge aircraft carrier warship in the world. Abhijeet expressed gratitude towards the Indian Navy and SBI that supported his team. Ravindra Yadav, Chief Technical Officer, along with Gaurav Naik, Tech Lead, and team Atom O’Sphere worked tirelessly to make it happen. The team’s London-based partner Rajeev Chakraborty gave proper directions throughout the process. Captain Raj Raney, COO, played an important role in the team management, said Abhijeet.