Archive for January, 2018

Atlas Etherisc – Another New Kid On The Blockchain

Friday, January 19th, 2018

At the end of my blog post entitled AXA Fizzy – The New Kid On The Blockchain, I’d promised to answer the “Why Blockchain?” question in a follow-on post.

I’m not fulfilling that promise yet.

Frequent readers of this blog would be aware that it’s light on research and heavy on personal experience and anecdotal evidence.

For reasons highlighted in my previous post, I couldn’t – and still can’t – buy an AXA Fizzy insurance policy. Nor could I find anyone else who has bought one. Without personal experience or anecdotal evidence, I found it hard to deep-dive into the “Why Blockchain?” subject. Since writing a post entirely on the basis of desktop research is not my style, I was about to can my follow-on post.

Until I found another Blockchain flight delay insurance product that I could “test drive” a couple of weeks ago.

This is from an unnamed company whose website features a origami bird as its logo but lacks any other branding. According to the fineprint on the homepage, it’s powered by one etherisc.com, whose website says it’s a provider of “decentralized insurance”.

I’d actually stumbled onto this website soon after I heard about AXA Fizzy. At the time, it allowed purchase of flight delay insurance on many sectors, including BOM and DEL airports in India – unlike AXA Fizzy, which offers policies only on flights to and from CDG. However, it accepted only ETH payments.

I went and signed up with a cryptoexchange and set up my cryptowallet. I then returned to this website, only to find that it now offered policies only on flights in and out of SFO. So, once again, I couldn’t buy insurance on a sector originating from BOM or DEL in India.

On this visit to the website, I saw an addition to the fineprint: The website said its policies were issued by one Atlas Insurance PCC Limited, an insurance company based out of Malta. Absent any brand name on the website, I’ll refer to this product / company as “Atlas Etherisc” going forward.

A few days after publishing AXA Fizzy – The New Kid On The Blockchain, I happened to visit Atlas Etherisc’s website again. This time, it offered insurance on BOM / DEL sectors and accepted fiat currency payments in USD / EUR / GBP. I decided to apply for a policy for the BOM-FRA sector on Lufthansa LH757 flight. The premium and payouts are shown in Exhibit 1.

Exhibit 1

When I entered my credit card details to make the US$ 17 payment and hit the “Apply” button, the website went into a tizzy and displayed a message saying “Waiting for transaction to be mined” (see Exhibit 2).

Exhibit 2

I guess that was the process of writing the transaction on the Blockchain.

This message was still there after five hours. (Now I get why system architects recommend centralized database if performance is key.)

I don’t know whether Atlas issued a policy in my name or successfully registered the transaction on the Blockchain.


I now have personal experience on an insurance dApp. I hope to get some anecdotal evidence about dApps in the coming days. In the meanwhile, I also gained some more experience on a conventional insurance website.

Thanks to all this, I feel adequately geared up to deep dive into the “centralized versus decentralized app” subject and finally fulfill my promise to write that elusive follow-on post on the “Why Blockchain?” question. (Spoiler Alert: We’ll see another example of Hiding Your Secret Sauce.)

Stay tuned!

Is There Any Indian App To Store Your Indian Loyalty Cards Digitally?

Friday, January 12th, 2018

I recently read the following question on Quora:

Is there any app that helps to store all your loyalty cards digitally?

I am looking for an app which is India based or atleast caters to the Indian market.

Someone once said that, on Quora, you answer the question that’s asked, the question that’s not asked, and the question that should be asked.

When I read this question, my first reaction was to wax eloquent about an Indian app that stores all loyalty cards in the world digitally. After doing a quick reality check, I felt that was a bit of wishful thinking and decided to restrict myself to the question that was asked.

Given below is a lightly edited version of my answer.


What the OP is asking for is a “mobile loyalty wallet”, an app that lets consumers scan their plastic loyalty cards into their smartphone. By digitizing physical cards, a mobile loyalty wallet saves consumers the trouble of having to carry all their physical cards in their wallets and ensures that they never lose out on rewards when they shop at a store whose loyalty card they’ve forgotten to carry with them. A mobile loyalty wallet shouldn’t be confused with “mobile wallet”, which stores credit and debit cards digitally and is used to make payments with a mobile device.

I’m a happy user of KeyRing app for several years. The maker of this app gives its location as Dallas, TX, in the USA.

Apple Wallet (previously known as Passbook) is another similar app. It’s also Made in USA.

From time to time, I’ve come across a couple of Indian mobile loyalty wallets when their founders reached out to me seeking angel investment. I’ve forgotten their names. All I can remember about them is that, their UX uniformly sucked and I deleted them within a week. When they sought my feedback, I referred their founders to KeyRing and Apple Wallet as a source of inspiration for making their apps more frictionless. Like founders of most Indian startups – barring the ones founded by IITians – they ignored my feedback and tried to teach me how to hold the camera while scanning the card and many other things I now forget. At this point, I don’t have any Indian mobile loyalty wallets to recommend.

But that shouldn’t matter. Because, regardless of its country of origin, a mobile loyalty wallet app lets you digitize your loyalty cards from any country by simply scanning the barcode on the card or, if the card doesn’t have a barcode, by clicking a picture of the front and back of the card.

Like I’ve onboarded the loyalty card of the Indian QSR chain Mast Kalandar on my American KeyRing app.

From there on, whenever you’re shopping, you reach the checkout, fire up the app, select the said retailer’s card and flash your smartphone screen at the retailer’s POS machine (iOS Passport does all this automatically, probably based on LBS technology). If the retailer has the technology to scan the digital card off of your smartphone screen, you’d have extracted the full value from your mobile loyalty wallet. If not, you’d need to read out the card number manually and the checkout clerk would need to enter it manually into their POS system. In this case, you wouldn’t have used the full capability of your mobile loyalty wallet.

In the several years that I’ve been using KeyRing, I haven’t come across a single retailer in India who can scan the card from the smartphone. As a result, I’ve never been able to put my mobile loyalty wallet to full use in India.

This is not only true of KeyRing and Apple Wallet but also of all the Indian mobile loyalty wallets I’ve deleted.


Over time, the very mobile loyalty wallet category has lost its shine in India – thank God I didn’t invest in any of them! That’s because retailers have increasingly started using the customer’s mobile phone number as a proxy for the loyalty program member ID. While many retailers continue to issue plastic loyalty cards, that’s largely for branding purposes.

The way it works at many stores now, customers finish their shopping, reach checkout, and earn points by verbally quoting their mobile phone # to the billing clerk. There’s no need to show the plastic card and hence no need for a mobile loyalty wallet to earn points.

Many retailers also permit customers to redeem their points by speaking out their mobile phone # at checkout. So even redemption does not require the plastic card or mobile loyalty wallet. The few security-conscious retailers that insist on the plastic card for redemption won’t anyway be able to accept a mobile loyalty wallet because they can only scan the magstripe on the physical card.

Therefore, the usage frequency of plastic loyalty cards – and the value proposition of a mobile loyalty wallet – have dropped drastically in recent times in India.


People share their mobile phone numbers freely in India. Since the OP’s question pertained to India, I could conveniently assume that a retailer can get the customer’s mobile phone number and substitute it for loyalty program member ID.

In a global context, this assumption is not valid. Consumers don’t disclose their mobile phone numbers that freely in USA, UK and many other countries. Loyalty membership numbers embossed on plastic loyalty cards are still required to earn and redeem reward points – retailers can’t replace them so easily with mobile phone numbers. Ergo, the value proposition of mobile loyalty wallet is still intact in those markets.

AXA Fizzy – The New Kid On The Blockchain

Friday, January 5th, 2018

I’ve been asked many times to write about my Blockchain experience. That is not strictly true. I’ve been asked only twice, most recently by a man in Mumbai, Maharashtra.

How can I write about the Blockchain experience, I asked myself on the Deccan Queen returning to Pune, when most of the founders of the Blockchain companies are too busy writing white papers and running ICOs to develop their dApps and the few of them that have launched their dApps are too daunted by their UIs to let anyone other than their Blockchain programmers use them?

 

(Fans of Joseph Heller might find a striking resemblance between the above paragraphs and the opening paragraphs of Good As Gold, one of my all time favorite novels. I apologize in advance to the Estate of Heller for taking the liberty of paraphrasing what’s one of the most captivating novel starts that I’ve ever read.)

All that changed when I read about AXA Fizzy on Finextra a couple of months ago.

Fizzy is a blockchain-based “parametric insurance” product that pays out compensation for flights delayed beyond two hours. It’s already live – you can buy a policy right now if you have a valid ticket on a CDG-USA sector (or so it says on the website – as an ex-Frankfurt resident and Lufthansa Miles & More member, I’m more likely to transit to the US via FRA, which will exclude me from the target audience of the product that’s currently available only for flights to and from CDG).

I was stunned when I first first heard of AXA Fizzy.

Let me explain why.

When I lived in Frankfurt, I’d booked a holiday to Paris for my family. Memory serves, it was via Expedia.de. While making the booking, I’d forgotten to uncheck the box next to “Kaufen Reiseversicherung” (buy travel insurance). As a result, I’d unwittingly bought travel insurance. As luck would have it, a day before we were to fly out, one of my family members had a stomach upset. We had to cancel the trip. I thanked my stars for thrusting travel insurance upon me and assumed that, now that Expedia was alerted of my cancellation, it’d process my refund of airfare and hotel charges automatically.

How naive I was.

The process to claim my insured money back was highly cumbersome.

First, there was the question of eligibility. Like any insurance product, Expedia’s travel insurance policy also came with its own list of inclusions (items covered under the policy) and exclusions (items not covered under the policy). It’s hard enough to understand insurance fineprint in English. It was virtually impossible to do it with my then level of proficiency in German. Thankfully, there were many native German-speaking coworkers in my office. I could take their help in combing through the German-language insurance contract and ascertain that the reason for my cancellation was indeed included in the policy – under the “serious illness of one of the travelers” risk.

Then came the claim procedure. I had to write a justification for my cancellation in German and attach a medical certificate from an Expedia-empanelled doctor certifying that my family member was too ill to travel.

When I got past that, I faced a few more hurdles that I don’t recall now, since all of this happened nearly 15 years ago.

Long story short, I had to jump through so many hoops to get my money back that I vowed to myself that I’d never buy travel insurance again. And never did in the following decade and a half.

But I might break my promise because of AXA Fizzy.

The way it works, AXA Fizzy checks flight arrival times published in the public domain (FlightStats.com, if my guess is right). If the flight is delayed by two hours or more, it automatically pays out the predetermined compensation to the credit card used to buy the insurance.

AXA Fizzy doesn’t make claim process frictionless. It eliminates it altogether.

It doesn’t have any exclusions. As its website says, “NO EXCLUSION: We cover you, whatever the cause of your delay : Snow, strike,”… even “alien attack…”!

With these key differentiators, AXA Fizzy raises the appeal of travel insurance to the next level, which could potentially create a manifold increase in the size of the market for travel insurance products. Especially after it expands worldwide this year and adds flight cancellation, lost baggage and other travel-related products to its portfolio of offerings.

Ergo AXA Fizzy is stunning.

Now, that’s the marketer in me talking.

Then the techie in me started wondering what stopped someone from developing a similar flight delay insurance product on a traditional centralized database architecture (as against the decentralized Blockchain architecture used by AXA Fizzy).

I took this up on Finextra by posing the following question:

On a side note, can anyone throw some light on the dependency of such an insurance product on Blockchain. Is there any intrinsic shortcoming with a centralized database architecture that compels one to launch this product only on the distributed database architecture facilitated by Blockchain?

I didn’t get any reply.

I forgot about my question until I read “Blockchains vs Centralized Databases”. In this article, author Gideon Greenspan of MultiChain compares the traditional centralized database architecture with the decentralized database Blockchain architecture and asserts that whatever you can do on a Blockchain you can also do on a centralized database. “In terms of the types of data that can be stored, and the transactions that can be performed on that data, blockchains don’t do anything new.”, he adds.

After reading this, my question started haunting me whenever I read anything about Blockchain and dApps. I couldn’t ignore it anymore and raised it on a few other forums.

I started getting replies from a few Blockchain pioneers, including a detailed one from Gjermund Bjaanes, author of a brilliant article titled Understanding Ethereum Smart Contracts.

The overall takeaway from my interactions with all of them is:

  • If you need Confidentiality and Performance, select Centralized Database.
  • If you need Trustlessness and Robustness, go for Blockchain.

In a follow on post, I’ll share my thoughts on how these general guidelines play out in the specific context of a B2C product like AXA Fizzy. Watch this space!

Meanwhile, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Season’s Greetings!

Monday, January 1st, 2018

Season’s Greetings and Best Wishes for a Joyous New Year 2018.

Welcome back to GTM360 Blog!

We’re happy to inform readers that 2017 was a blockbuster year, with a near doubling of traffic and an all- time high level of engagement via comments and one-on-one feedback.

Here’s the list of Top 10 Most Popular Posts on GTM360 Blog in 2017:

#10. Quantifying The Risk Of Online Payment Failure

#9. Why Branch And Digital Channels Will Coexist Forever

#8. How To Fight Card Payment Surcharge And Take #CashlessIndia To Next Level

#7. Uber Creates Loyalty To The Deal But Not For The Brand

#6. Reliance Jio – All Good Things Don’t Come To An End, They Just Stop Being Free

#5. Why Social Media Has Become My First Port Of Call For Customer Service

#4. How Relevant Is “Crossing The Chasm” After 25 Years?

#3. Mastering Targeted Offers – The Uber Way

#2. Why COD Still Rules Ecommerce In India

And the most popular post of 2017 was:

#1. Five Reasons Why PayTM Is Miles Ahead Of Its Competition

GTM360 Blog stands on the pillars of WordPress, PowerPoint, IrfanView, Pixel Ruler, etc. Our heartfelt gratitude to these applications.

We thank you for your continued interest in GTM360 and look forward to deepening our engagement with you in 2018.