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4 hot online start-ups

India can take inspiration from these global ventures that make financial lives simpler.

Sushmita Choudhury | Print Edition: April 2, 2009

When was the last time you visited your bank branch? Given that our financial lives have shrunk to our 15-inch computer screens, many an entrepreneur has tried to make desktop banking safer, faster and more convenient. MONEY TODAY looks at four such global start-ups. While India boasts similar portals, they have a long way to go to match their cutting-edge innovations.

Rate surfer
In a world where people flaunt anywhere from three to 15 credit cards, trying to maximise card savings is no mean feat. This is where ratesurfer.com comes in. The unique desktop software application downloads your card data, then a bot trawls various bank Websites to get the relevant details on comparable products and collects it in one dashboard for easy analysis. Subject to your approval, your credit card balance is automatically transferred to the plastic boasting the lowest interest rate. In addition, all the sensitive personal data is stored in your own computer, not on a Web server, which offers privacy and minimises the chances of fraud.

In India, there are sites likeapnaloan.com and ecompare.co.in that facilitate easy comparison, but continue to be information-based.

Safecentral

Do you crave the convenience of e-banking, e-shopping or e-tax filing but are wary of online fraud? This armoured browser is the only service that prevents Net threats, past and future, without constant updates, file scanning or slow real-time monitoring.

Safecentral.com
assumes that the user’s computer is already infected, so it ‘locks it down’ and connects to a secure browser every time one goes online.

India does not boast this quality of Net security yet, but the payment gateways powered by the likes of Citibank and HDFC Bank are close approximations.

Credit karma
Credit scores are becoming increasingly important in these shaky times. This service offers a new and easy way for consumers to understand their credit scores and monitor their profiles. Not only is it free, creditkarma.com also protects your privacy. You don’t have to a supply a credit card number to register and you get your free score within minutes. Based on the score,creditkarma.com also provides offers from the financial service providers advertising on the site. The result? Users are more informed and better able to leverage their scores.

The Credit Information Bureau of India (CIBIL) is the country’s first credit history repository. So far, only banks have had access to CIBIL’s data, but by 2010-11, a customer will be able to approach the body directly for his/her credit profile.

Vaultstreet
This application makes it easy for consumers to automate the collection, management and online storage of financial documents from a variety of sources. Vaultstreet.com does what no online financial management application has attempted: make it easy for customers to make the move to paperless, secure online record-keeping. Its services include authentication of document originality and sharing them with a network of advisers.

In India, secure document storing and sharing systems are more common. For instance, Intellicoll (log on tointellial.com/solutions.htm ), allows businesses to upload/download files up to 2 GB in size.

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