Biometrics : The Next Big Growth Market in India?

Is Biometrics coming of age to provide a security layer to enterprises and Government organizations?

Aritra Sarkhel Mar 29th 2012





Biometrics as a concept has been around for quite some time now but hasn’t escalated as a mainstream technology for organizations across the globe. But things are changing, and the technology in India, too, is witnessing a large interest in Biometrics thanks to Government projects. The initiatives pertaining to the identity of citizens — e-passports, national ID projects, UIDAI projects, employee benefit schemes — are pushing the envelope for Biometrics.

“The most prominent Biometric implementation in India, both in volume and value terms, is the UIDAI project, worth US$3.33 Billion,” says Deepa Doraiswamy, Industry manager, Electronic & Security practice, Frost & Sullivan, South Asia & Middle East. This colossal project has created a pool of favorable circumstances for many IT players to invest into the Biometrics market.

“We see huge focus of the Government in the recently initiated smart safe city projects that require the deployment of advanced systems and management solutions across different layers of a city’s infrastructure. Biometric technology will be of critical importance in this project,” comments Rajan Verma, Head — Public Safety and Identity Solutions Business, NEC India.

The Driving Factors

According to Frost & Sullivan, the size of the Biometric readers market was US$50 million in 2011, and is further expected to grow at 48 percent CAGR to touch US$359 million by 2016. “Technology acceptance and ease of usage is favoring the market adoption for Biometrics,” says Doraiswamy at Frost & Sullivan. Another analyst firm, TechNavio, is optimistic of Biometric on Indian shores. “We expect the market to grow at a rate of 38 to 48 percent year on year,” informs Navin Rajendra, Lead analyst, TechNavio.

Government and businesses are increasingly adopting biometric technologies to realize safety framework. With the recent spate of terrorist attacks in India, security is a major concern for Indian Government. “The impetus on part of the Government in secure identity inflicted a domino effect on the corporate commercial and enterprise space. Many solution providers are coming into Biometrics,” says Ranjit Nambiar, Director, Sales — South Asia, Identity and Access Management, HID Global.

According to Varun Sachdev, Director, Warden Security Systems, there is an inherent need for enhanced security management in India with its billion plus population. It is grooming to be a profitable market venture market for security solution providers, he says.

Another factor slowly but surely fuelling the market growth is the reduced cost of Biometrics devices and equipments. “The cost has come down drastically. Earlier devices like Iris scan camera cost a few Lakhs of rupees but are now available around Rs 25,000,” says Nirmal Prakash, MD, Smart identity Devices, a Nodia-based solution provider.

The greater awareness about Biometrics among the enterprise class will lead to mass distribution and implementation, which in turn, will further lower costs of implementation projects.

Across the Verticals

India is a strong services economy with BFSI and IT/ITES being early adopters of secure identity. The secure identity and access control have not been restricted to a particular vertical as other verticals like home automation, corporate space and key public sector verticals like energy, transport and metros are realizing the benefits of Biometrics.

Biometrics has become popular in the manufacturing sector primarily driven by the requirement in time and attendance. “Manufacturing has always been a large manpower-intensive organization in terms of managing access control at a door-level or facility-level. We have implemented many solutions at the manufacturing level,” confirms Nambiar. Moreover, automation has taken place in the manufacturing sector with the use of RFID solutions for supply chain and tracking of assembly lines.

Many financial institutions have brought Biometrics to the rural sector. “One of the biggest problems of rural India has been duplication where one individual has more than one ration card. Institutions like SBI are looking to bring Biometrics into the rural sector,” says Rajendra at TechNavio. Biometrics in conjunction with smart cards could reduce the discrepancies in the distribution of the funds to the rural people.

Many organizations have implemented Biometrics for verification and identification. “This technology can easily be used for business purposes like time and attendance. An organizational head would want to know more about productive levels of employees in terms of shift timings,” says Nambiar of HID Global.

Scope for Partners

Enterprise partners constantly look beyond their routine IT projects involving servers, networks, and services. The growing demand for Biometrics across enterprises provides ample opportunities for partners today. “There is plenty of market opportunity for Channel Partners to be included in the value chain, especially across large-scale projects,” says Sachdev of Warden Security Systems.

Smart Identity Devices is in the process of implementing a project that covers 20 million students and half a million teachers from Government schools in Bihar. “We are utilizing fingerprint scanning technology to create this master database so that benefits of government schemes are rightfully distributed,” proclaims Prakash.

4G identity solutions implemented corporate identity management solution for plants of Reliance Industries at Jamnagar and Baroda. Earlier, these plants could not have an exact number of workers moving in and out of these factories. The solution provider with focus on Biometrics as a core business direction then created a centralized database of all the workers irrespective of their place of working by using Iris scanning technology for 380,000 workers.

Doraiswamy at Frost & Sullivan says, “Biometrics is one of the fastest growing industries as the ease of usage is favoring market adoption.” We are targeting large verticals which have been traditionally been laggards in adopting Biometrics, says an optimistic Nambiar of HID Global.

With a large Government project such as UIDAI under way, and enterprises exploring the new technology, solution providers can seriously explore business opportunities with Biometrics in 2012.

Roadblocks Affecting Biometrics Market

Research Analysts, vendor companies, and channel partners are upbeat about the future of Biometrics as a niche field in Indian market. Inherently, there are few glitches in the way acting as a deterrent to this growing market.

Availability of Cheaper Alternatives: The advent of Biometric products from Korea and China has devalued many Biometric products available from major vendors. “The products available at a lesser price from the Chinese alternatives are of inferior quality. Providing better quality products is a challenge,” says Varun Sachdev, Director, Warden Security Systems.

Lack of Standards: The absence of a central regulatory body and standard norms for Biometrics industry makes support and services availability an issue as unorganized sector also sells products into the market place. “Lack of standards and service support along with inadequate trained manpower slows the pace of the development,” says Deepa Doraiswamy, Industry manager, Electronic & Security practice, Frost & Sullivan, South Asia & Middle East

Overcoming Social inhibitions: Biometrics is penetrating rural areas for government-related projects in India. But convincing people about importance of these solutions is a challenge for many solution providers. “Certain part of the Indian population still resides in far off rural areas and are still illiterate. Making them understand say the efficacy of iris scanning and other process becomes tenuous at times,” says Nirmal Prakash, MD, Smart identity Devices.

Higher Import costs: According to Frost & Sullivan, the cost of deployment of the technology is still high in India due to the lack of domestic development of the technology. This becomes a deterrent for most SMBs as they look for alternate and cheaper options. “The absence of a vivid product manufacturing environment defines as to why substantial numbers of devices are imported,” comments Doraiswamy.