Traditionally, both in India and elsewhere, the reigning systems have always stood in staunch and collective opposition against the march of technological innovation. In fact, it’s only recently, with the advent of powerful organizations buoyed by the free market, that the powers-that-be have begun to embrace innovation on terms that aren’t their own. New-age start-ups such as SignDesk that are using technology to fundamentally alter the landscape.
A tame but insightful illustration of this rather grand statement is the humble case of the process of stamping in India. For those unfamiliar with this process – Stamping, also referred to as Franking, is the process of making certain documents official or legal. It usually involves the affixing of a physical stamp on a document, the stamp paper used for this purpose is procured from an authorized vendor, and a small fee called a “stamp duty” is usually levied for this, which is a source of revenue for the government.
This entire process was once completely physical in nature, to disastrous results. In fact, in hindsight, it’s quite obvious that such a process could be grossly abused and turned into something almost painfully impractical. What follows is a brief account of some of the ill-effects of the Indian franking process, that were all directly caused by the nature of this process.
The World Bank reported recently, in a document titled “Stamp Duties in the Indian States: A Case for Reform”, that – “Fraudulent production and use of stamp paper has been recognized as a significant problem in the administration of stamp taxes and duties.” In fact, the very same report states that stamp-related fraud cost various Indian states about Rs. 78,000 crore from 1993 – 2003. A significant portion of this fraud concerned the now-famous case of Abdul Karim Telgi, an Indian counterfeiter.
Further, the same report states that the forgery of stamp papers cost State Governments up to Rs. 10,000 crore in lost revenues in a single year. In fact, experts have said that the money lost roughly equals the revenue collected from the stamp papers.
Additionally, a CAG report in 2011 indicated that stamp duty scams continue to rock several state administrations, for example in Uttar Pradesh, where stamp duty evasion in the sale of sugar mills cost the government Rs. 1,200 crore.
Clearly, this system is unsustainable and cannibalistic, and it stands to reason that the fraud and illicit activities revolving around stamp papers have not abated and continued to hold steady since then. Therefore, the need for an overhaul is as urgent now as it was then.
A less obvious and quantifiable outcome of the physical franking process has to do with the inconveniences that it causes to the people that are burdened with it.
Obviously, this is an untenable and almost cruel process, and the bureaucracy that it encourages only contributes to corruption and fraud.
Even the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) admitted as much in a survey conducted as part of a Report of the Working Group on Discounting of Bills by Banks, in which 42% of the responders to their questionnaire called the stamping of documents, “cumbersome”.
Finally, a couple of the other myriad problems with this system have to do with the inordinate amount of time that it takes for a document to be stamped and the losses incurred due to this, and the depletion of resources due to the mass production of stamp papers, which are all grave issues.
However, it isn’t all doom and gloom. Innovation and technology arrive to the rescue once again, in the form of e-stamping. This is a process that quite resembles e-signing but for stamps instead of signs, and as one might expect, this digitizing of the physical process of stamping does away with most of its problems.
Due to the digital and secure nature of e-stamps, it is quite impossible to forge them. Additionally, committing fraud with the duty levied on these stamps is equally difficult due to the security afforded by the digital nature of the stamps.
Bureaucracy and the consequent corruption and inconvenience are also done away with, as people can complete the majority of the e-stamping process online, thus severing the need to jump through hoops and grease palms.
But it isn’t enough to simply be aware of technology; sometimes the situation requires a Prometheus of sorts, to bring this technology down to the mortals. In this case, in particular, there’s a proverbial beacon of light that, incidentally, has been shining in solitude for a long time against the pervasive darkness of bureaucracy and wastefulness.
SignDesk.com, a product launched by Desk Nine Pvt. Ltd., who also operates LegalDesk.com, a Do-It-Yourself platform for legal documentation, has been “the” pioneer in this regard since its inception and subsequent launch in the year of 2016.
Their product – SignDesk stamp.it, which provides digital stamping, was one of the first to ever address this issue that the country faced, and to some extent, continues to face, in a way that embraces innovation.
Krupesh Bhat, the founder of SignDesk states – “ Stamping is so ubiquitous in activities such as taking loans, ratifying legal documents, and executing contracts that people take for granted how inconvenient the physical stamping process is. I’m glad to say that digital stamping has actually helped people in this respect. “
Krupesh further adds – “ We’re in the business of making processes smoother and easier for everyone involved and stamp.it is a good representation of what our mission is. However, we’re not done with stamping yet. We’ve got some exciting things in the pipeline that will make big waves in the arena of digital stamping as well as eSign and eKYC “
States in India however, do not currently have a homogenous system that governs the stamping process. The disparate nature of this system is a far cry from the cohesion and uniformity that a large country like India requires.
In order to remedy this, SignDesk.com will offer an API-based E-stamping solution that covers 24 states in India, with many more soon to follow. This product is set to revolutionize the way stamping is done throughout the country.
We’re seeing a turn in the tide now, as numerous Indian states, including Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Gujarat, have implemented the e-stamping process to great success.
In light of this, states such as Tripura are looking to follow suit, and the future now looks to be bright, thanks in no small part to the spirit of innovation, and its manifestation in the form of SignDesk and the people responsible for it.