Let me start by telling you an open secret – babus like me don’t like the current government. Not because it makes demands on us (we actually like that), but because of its unpredictability. And unpredictability for people like me, with too much to hide over the years, is only one step away from death. An unexpected raid will ruin our lives – my wife and children will be out on the streets, and I will have nothing to show for the last 26 years of keeping my mouth shut. Unpredictability makes people like me very scared. For example, these days, astrology is all I read.
For the naive reader, I am referring to my Disproportionate Assets (DA) – wealth accumulated through the tradition of taking bribes directly, or taking your fair share of departmental bribes. And there is a lot of this wealth here in India, hidden away in some ‘benami’ flats in Dwarka, or as gold bangles in some lockers in Bahrampur. I honestly believe that ‘videshi’ black money was an important diversion created by some imaginative babu with influence in the last government; black money dwarves in comparison to our money.
Technology, over the years, has generally made things harder for us. For example, AADHAAR, a laughable proposal when it started, had to be fought tooth and nails to be slowed down. If it was made mandatory just in NCR region alone for confirming all old property registrations, a lot of people might have committed suicide. And when you have to hide the bundles in your briefcase in the middle of the night, there is no startup which offers an ‘uber’ service for buying ‘benami’ flats or opening lockers. That is, not until Semi Closed Wallets!
Let me start by telling you three rules of hiding your DA:
- It should not be cash (very bad if there is a raid).
- It should not be linked to you.
- And most importantly, it should be as liquid as cash.
10 years ago, some of us seriously looked at mobile phones to hide away our cash. Mobile phones add ‘scalability’ to the concept of ‘benami’. You can purchase thousands of SIMs at a time with records of people who stupidly hand over photocopies of their IDs to pre-paid SIM sellers. Nobody monitors these numbers, and nobody does any accounting on talktime. But talktime is rubbish. Money goes in, and only voice and SMS comes out. Getting ‘benami’ phones interested only terrorists and other criminal types.
But then came Paytm, Oxigen that are semi-close wallet: open an account at any time, no KYC hassles for upto INR 10000, and instant transfers to any bank account. And the sweet toffee at the end is that you can buy anything online with it, often at a large discount! Let me illustrate how we use semi-closed wallets with an example: